Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

To Avoid a Revamp Backlash, Hipstamatic Clones Itself Into an Entirely New App, Oggl

Photography app Hipstamatic pioneered the square-shaped-and-evocatively-filtered mobile photo craze three years ago. And though Instagram’s free and social approach to the same form has been massively successful, Hipstamatic still has four million monthly active users who take 60 million photos per month, plus other projects like the iOS art magazine “Snap” and photostrip app IncrediBooth.

Scenes from my not-very-artistic Oggl feed: Hipstamatic CEO Lucas Buick and animal heads on display at the office

Scenes from my not-very-artistic Oggl feed: Hipstamatic CEO Lucas Buick on the office roofdeck and animal heads on display

So, what next? Rather than evolve the core Hipstamatic experience — you know, one of those overhauls that results in pissed-off users who liked your old product just fine, so please change it back — Hipstamatic is launching an entirely new app called Oggl. And, surprisingly, it has all the same functionality as regular Hipstamatic, but with a new interface and business model.

Most importantly, Oggl is also meant to be more of an artistic community than a photo-editing tool.

“We’ve never really cared where you post your photos,” said Hipstamatic CEO Lucas Buick on Tuesday at Hipstamatic’s fancy-dancy San Francisco office. He noted that splintered communities of people who use Hipstamatic to take pictures have naturally emerged on services like Flickr.

But creating an entirely new app for a Hipstamatic community is kind of a drastic move — and one that reflects the ongoing trade-off between change and users’ resistance to change.

Spurned after so many “pivots” by app makers that get rid of their favorite functionality in favor of spammy new features, we users now wield our #fail hashtags readily.

Companies — which need to evolve and change, even if they are succeeding, and especially when they are not — are trying to figure out how to deal. So Hipstamatic’s approach with Oggl is to relinquish its core brand and audience, built with years of work, in order to reshape what it already built into something new.

Buick noted that the changing lineup will give stability to existing users. “Hipstamatic Classic is still awesome,” he said.

(Still, the fresh paint and the swank office don’t erase earlier Hipstamatic hiccups, like staff layoffs made last year in an attempt to regain focus.)

01_oggl_captureLaunching for iPhone later this week, Oggl is a free invitation-only app that will cost 99 cents per month or $9.99 per year to access the full library of Hipstamatic lenses and films. Oggl will feature a curated selection of photos, and users will be encouraged to share only their best work.

People who have been frustrated with Hipstamatic’s inflexible editing may be pleased to learn that Oggl allows users to capture first and edit later. Oggl also has a sparse navigation around various icons that looks neat but seems like it might take a while to learn.

Buick described mobile photography as a balance between making art and capturing life. So Oggl is perhaps not the place to post your daily breakfast, but if you happen to eat at one of the world’s great restaurants, go right ahead and make a pretty photo.

“This isn’t a place for duck lips, it’s not a place for your cereal. But we do want your French Laundry shots,” Buick said.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik