The Evergreen Nature of the Photo App Category

Photo sharing is one of those evergreen categories of app innovation that I continue to find fascinating. Every time photo capture, photo sharing, or photo editing feels “solved” something else comes along and changes the way I think about photos.

Photo sharing is also one of those categories that has become something of a punch line in startup and VC jokes – there is a lot of fun poked at people working on photo sharing. Many suggest it’s a category that isn’t worthy of the time and financial investment that entrepreneurs and investors put into it. I think it’s unfair to malign the category because there are interesting things that are driving photo growth and make it one of the few evergreen areas in consumer Internet:

Photos (and user-captured videos) are the most important things on my phone that I can’t easily replace if I lose my phone in between backups. Almost everything else I care about, particularly in terms of media or content, lives in the cloud. If I lose my phone, I can easily recover my music (Spotify, 8tracks, Pandora), news (NY Times, Pocket), and videos (iTunes, YouTube). If I lose my phone and haven’t backed up the photos on it, they’re gone forever.

New devices will continue to change the way we capture and share photos. Getting a smartphone many years ago changed the way I and many others take pictures. I’ve been using Google Glass for the past few months and that has changed the way and frequency with which I take photos. I take a lot more photos and videos wearing Glass and I take more in-the-moment and spontaneous photos because I don’t have to take my phone out of my pocket to snap a picture.

I want to do different things with different photos – there is no universal use case for every photo. Some photos are designed for social media sharing. Some are really more for temporal communication. Others are just taken to record something and are not for sharing. And some are meant to be organized into albums. That’s just a handful of the use cases I can imagine. And that’s why I think there continues to be room for new photo companies and ideas and we’ll continue to see them evolve.

Comments are open and welcome as always – you can also send feedback on Twitter @chudson.

  • Charles, full agreement here. It’s easy to make fun of photo services and sharing, but your point that images are the most important data item on the phone rings true. In that sense, it’s almost like mobile phones with cameras are like new Gutenberg’s for images. You may be interested in this piece from a few months back: http://techcrunch.com/2012/12/30/earlyinnings/

  • I agree, photos are the most important thing in my phone. That’s why I have autosync of photos with Dropbox and Google Drive.

  • The changing use cases for photos + the changing devices we use to create them are key points. The first wave of photo apps treated photos as art, the next wave of apps (and usage) treated photos as communication. I think we’ll see a lot more apps focusing on structuring photo overload.

    Related, you might like this http://taylordavidson.com/photo-industry I created about tech innovation and the photography industry.

  • Wow you built the equivalent of the LUMA chart for photo – very cool graphic organization of the space. Thanks for your comment.