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Color: A Social Network For The Post-PC--And Post-Privacy--World

Color Social Network App

First Posted: 03/23/11 10:47 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:40 PM ET

Color, a new smartphone application, allows you to be virtually all-seeing, putting eyes in the back of your head, into your coworker's living room, and into that hotel bar your cousin visited just moments ago in Miami.

It offers a social networking experience that combines a unique everything-is-public-to-everyone privacy policy with Twitter's real-time information stream and the photo-and-video-based voyeurism of Facebook.

Color CEO Bill Nguyen, who co-founded Lala, a music service acquired by Apple in 2009, calls the app a social network for the "post-PC world." Whereas existing social services link our online identities to usernames and URLs, Color ties them to our phones. Users are only asked to submit their first names and phone numbers when they register for the app. Color profiles then follow users wherever they go with their phones, connecting them to other Color users based on proximity.

The app is also a social network for a post-privacy world: anything shared to Color is instantly visible to anyone in any place at any time.

"As tech causes cultural changes, we're going to live so much more of our lives in public," Nguyen told the Huffington Post. "There's private stuff and there's public stuff. Decide which kind of information you want to share and then launch the appropriate app for that."

The power of Color's all-seeing eye is best experienced first hand. Imagine yourself at a wedding where friends, relatives, and strangers are snapping photos of the newlyweds and posting them on Color. Any pictures or videos uploaded with the app will immediately be shared with all of the surrounding phones--as will any pictures or videos the guests have ever added to the app, whether from a bachelor party binge or a baby's birthday.

Via this access, immediacy, and proximity-based interaction, Color aims to deliver a social network that ties engagement to a shared, physical experience and in so doing, facilitates connections between strangers.

Though users can choose to follow specific people's feeds, there is no "friending" or "following" on Color. Instead, the app's software uses the GPS and Bluetooth capabilities on phones to automatically surface people who are in close proximity to a user or with whom that user interacts with frequently. Frequent interaction involves viewing, "liking," or commenting on other users' posts. The app also taps into phones' light sensors and microphones to distinguish photos taken by individuals in a shared environment (such as a party where multiple Color users are taking photos) from the snapshots of people who merely happen to be nearby (such as a separate event in close proximity).

Color has raised $41 million in funding from investors including Bain Capital Ventures, Sequoia Capital, and Sillicon Valley Bank.

"Just as the iPhone changed everything about mobile phones, Color will transform the way people communicate with each other," Doug Leone, a partner at Sequoia Capital, said in a statement. "Once or twice a decade a company emerges from Silicon Valley that can change everything. Color is one of those companies."

One thing Color seeks to change is what its creators see as a flaw with existing social media services: the increasing difficulty of befriending new people online, which the company said in a statement had become "almost impossible."

"Social networks are doing pretty amazing things, but to me, social networks still [feel] solitary, like advanced email, where you write something, post something, and someone responds. That's not like real life at all," Nguyen said.

In addition to giving users yet another avenue through which to peer into others' lives, the app also provides users one more way to ensure nothing is forgotten about their own.

"This is like TIVO-ing life. There's no forgetting," Nguyen said. "I think it's the best, most complete way of having a record of your life. It's your life crowdsourced."

How much users will choose to share--and whether an all-public app appeals to them--has yet to be seen. Would you try Color? Why or why not? Weigh in below.

Color, available for free, is launching Wednesday on Android and iPhone. Blackberry and Windows Phone 7 apps will be coming soon.


WATCH:

Color Demo from Color Labs, Inc. on Vimeo.


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