UPDATE: As of approximately one month ago, Color is now Color for Facebook — an integrated app that one-ups status updates by allowing you to stream events live to your friends over 3G. Live-streams can be viewed from the news feed or on mobile devices through notifications. Color is still only available for Android and iOS. Let’s see if it takes-off in this iteration!
A few months ago a new app called Color was released and it promised to be the next Twitter, only better. It had scores of millions in funding, cost $41MM to build (according to most sources) and was developed by some of the most forward-thinking leaders in the tech space. Everyone in the industry expected greatness from it and I can think of a dozen articles that were published in some of the industry’s most read publications which surrounded its release. But today, a few months after Color’s initial release, where does it stand and why aren’t people talking about it anymore? To grasp where it is today, we first need to understand what it is, does, and why it was expected to be so great. Color’s creation and development was headed by a prominent Silicon Valley entrepreneur, co-founder Bill Nguyen, who famously sold Lala to Apple in late 2009, and included seven other high-profile co-founders like, Peter Pham (previously the CEO of BillShrink), and DJ Patil (previously LinkedIn’s chief scientist). Before developing Color, Nguyen and his cohorts raised some capital; a lot of capital. In fact, so much that Color’s creators were able to develop the app (without cutting any corners, including purchasing the www.color.com & www.colour.com domains — trust me, those weren’t cheap, especially for a privately-funded pre-launch startup…think $400K which is more than the amount typically used to develop and launch most digital products!), and still have plenty left over for day-to-day operations (including some hefty salaries!). Furthermore, Color had astronomical potential and promised to create a real paradigm-shift, revolutionizing our physical and digital social experiences and the way we record, perceive and communicate with the world around us. To elaborate, Color is a very simple app designed to allow for you to capture the world around you as as well as view the way others perceive it. Think about how Facebook allows for you to carefully curate albums about your social life, and now imagine being able to see albums from places you were, that includes pictures from others that were there at the same time, without them having to tag you. It’s kind of like when you attend a wedding and find disposable cameras on each table. Attendees are being asked to participate in capturing the event from their eyes, effectively croudsourcing wedding pictures, but with Color the disposable cameras are everyone’s cell phones! Think that’s a novel concept? How about applying this tool to a situation like the one that occurred in Tahrir Square. People (including many journalists) used Twitter to provide a play-by-play and offered images to support their tweets. They also included hash-tags like #Jan25 or #Egypt so that people (who were not there) could easily aggregate all relevant tweets about the event. Enter Color — everyone who was taking pictures with their phones (mobile phones were the primary source of images) using Color could snap shots, append comments, and by doing so, would be creating a geographically relevant, publicly viewable timeline of the events that transpired. Sounds powerful, right? To make things better, Color doesn’t even have the barrier of requiring you to create a new login like Twitter does. You download it (only available for iOS and Android devices at the time of launch), add your name, and start using it. So why did such a powerful and innovative app that has every reason to succeed, fail (in the short-term, at least)? Well, there’s a widely accepted theory in the technology and especially in the app-space: you have one chance with a new product — one chance to get people to download it, start using it and recommend it to others. Anyone who downloads a new app and isn’t able to use it immediately (or doesn’t benefit from it immediately) will either delete the app or ignore it forever (well not really forever — once our phones ask us to update an app we don’t use a few times, we usually delete it ;-) ). Twitter (dislaimer: I recognize that Twitter is a communication medium and was a platform way before it had any clients/apps, but it is being used here as an analogy because of its similarities with Color, as a platform) had the benefit of little media attention when it first came around. Then, as celebrities started using it, people wanted to communicate with them (and were empowered to do exactly that through Twitter), and celebrities were literally promoting the product to the general public (inadvertently, of course) without being asked to do so. In the case of Color, there was so much publicity about it (before there were really any solid uses for it), that when people like me downloaded Color and tried to use it, we expected everything and found no value. Let’s take this one step further; as a technologist and professional in the mobile marketing and social media space, I downloaded Color and recognized I needed other Color users to realize any benefit. As a result, I reserved judgement until my first experience of using Color at a crowded event in a place like Santa Monica, CA (which includes a high concentration of iPhones and technoratis, much like San Francisco, CA). The peculiar outcome — I found nobody using it and, once again, realized no value. A major disappointment, especially because my expectations were so high. So, is Color doomed? No necessarily. Although it appears the launch was a failure, Color’s future may be bright (loving the pun!). Color has not been pulled from the marketplace and may just need to wait for the perfect opportunity where it, as a tool, is ideally suited for a task. The bigger question is, how long will it take for that to happen, and will Color be around, in its current form, long enough to realize its potential. Have you ever used Color? Did you have the same experience as I did, or were you actually able to use Color the way it was intended to be used? Is there another app/product that similarly failed initially and took-off when the time was right? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.