Cut Through the Facebook Clutter With Facebook Camera
Two weeks ago when I was down visiting with the photos team at Facebook one of the things that Dirk Stoop (pictured above) showed me was this awesome new camera app that Facebook was launching for the iPhone. I couldn’t talk about it until they released it, but today they released it and I have to say that Facebook is seriously uping the ante with photography on the web with this awesome new app.
The app is bound to invite comparisons with Instagram, who Facebook is in the process of acquiring, but there is one huge difference. With Instragram your photos really only reside in one place, on mobile in the Instagram app. With Facebook Camera your photos exist in three places. In the Facebook Camera app, in the Facebook mobile app, and on Facebook on the web. In this way Facebook’s new camera app is more of a complement to your existing Facebook experience than it is a standalone photo experience like Instagram.
The end result though is that your photos on Facebook are going to start getting alot more attention.
I’m increasingly coming to the opinion that far away the most important part of a social networking experience are photos. Photos dominate our social experiences. Everybody has a camera now with the proliferation of camera phones.
Put more succinctly, photographs are becoming the new language of the social web. A picture paints a thousand words. Old text posts are getting lost and buried and what is replacing that is our short-attention span preference for photos.
We want photos from our friends and we want them fast and furious. We don’t want our new photo communication experience to be bogged down and cluttered up with dumb non-photo things like status updates, or lunch updates, or check ins, or rants, or dumb jokes, or any of that other stuff. Give us the pure stuff. Give us the photostream and nothing but the photostream.
Take a look at the most popular +1′d posts on Google+ from the last week. With a couple notable exceptions, what do all of the popular posts have in common? They all have an image. Photo, photo, photo, photo. If you publish anything on the web anymore without a photo it had better be damn interesting, important or insightful or some sort of immediate breaking news. Everything else, MUST have a photo. Publish text without a photo and you fail. Publish text with a kick ass photo and you succeed. Photographers of course are welcoming this new trend. Those of us with mad photo skills end up getting the most attention. And we’re just about to get a whole lot more with Facebook Camera.
What Facebook Camera is going to do is pull lots of attention away from other ways that we consume mobile. The message to social networks is clear. If you want people to use your social network, give us the tools to remove the clutter of the non-photo world. I don’t want to read a long passage of text. I’ve only got 20 minutes on my BART trip home. Rather than read some long boring post, instead I can favorite/like/+1 200 of my favorite photos by my friends instead.
Facebook Camera is tipping the scales even more between photographers and non-photographers. A great number of people on Facebook will choose to use this new photo app instead of the Facebook mobile app, effectively burying any non-photo post on Facebook. Those that post non-photo clutter will soon learn that they will need to post a photo with their future clutter if they have any hope of their post being seen. Facebook will become a more visual interesting place.
Another thing this is going to do is it’s going to increase the number of likes everyones photos are going to get on Facebook. You’ll be able to consume and like photos far more efficiently with the photo app than the Facebook mobile app and these likes will be directly reflected on all versions (standalone app, Facebook mobile app, Facebook web). People will feel more love on Facebook for their photos and this will want to make them spend more time on Facebook and upload higher quality photos that are more likely to get more attention.
Google, of course, is also keenly aware of the importance of photos in their own network Google+. Today they launched an important Android app update (the same new interface that they launched a few weeks back for iOS). What does Google’s new G+ app emphasize? Photos of course. Photos dominate the new app — but Facebook’s app is smarter in a way than Google’s, because Facebook now gives you *two* ways to consume Facebook.
If you are a photo centric individual (and if you’re not you’d better quickly adapt and become one or get left behind) you’ve got a pure photo experience. If you are not a photo centric individual there still is the traditional app that shows you everything.
As far as the app itself, I haven’t played with it yet. Dirk showed it to me down at Facebook though and the most important thing is that it has one touch liking. It also is very smart in how it shows you albums. You see the hint of the edge of a photo and slide horizontally. You slide vertically (just like Instagram) down the screen to see new photos by your contacts.
Along with a superior way to browse photos on Facebook, the new app also has a camera that lets you apply a number of effects to your photos. The effects are more traditional than the artsy faux-film effects of Instagram, but they are a welcome opportunity for those who want to use the camera part of the new app. Of course you can still use whatever your favorite camera app is (Camera Awesome is still #1 in my book) and upload these finished photos on your phone directly to Facebook and have them consumed through this new app.
Today’s move shows how serious Facebook is about competing for quality photographers. Quality photographers will thrive on Facebook like never before. Facebook has seen Google’s success with photographers on Google+. They are going to compete for the serious social photographers and in the process push all Facebook users more towards communicating in our new language of photography. What an exciting time for photographers on the web. Between this new app and the pending Instagram purchase, Facebook is clearly now leading in mobile photography. This new app should put pressure on Google to also create a standalone photo application for Google+ and it should put even more pressure on Flickr to invest serious resources into redoing their mobile apps which are sorely lacking compared to Facebook Camera.
It should also be noted that although inevitably folks will compare this standalone photo app to Instagram, the app really doesn’t have anything to do with Instagram. The Instagram deal has not been completed yet and the Facebook Photos team had been working on this completely independently from Instagram. The new Facebook is iOS only for now, but I’m sure they’ll be out with an Android version too at some point in the future.