06/20/2011 08:27 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Want! Is Your Facebook Like Button In The Real World

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Walking down the street each day, you are bombarded with desires. You see a fried egg on a piece of bread that you want to eat, an outfit on some particularly dapper young man you'd like to wear. You daydream and think of the nap that you want to take, or the apartment you want one day to own.

A new app, want!, is a way to catalog these cravings as you experience them.

What it is: Want! is an app that lets users photograph and record the things they want out in the real world, from physical objects like food and clothes, to less material things, like a swim in the lake, or a pat on the back.

"You're windowshopping the unstructured world around you and using photoposting with geolocation as a way to express it," said want! CEO Gene DeRose.

How it works: You can sign up for want! either through the app itself, or by using Facebook Connect. Once you're there, you can follow friends, places and things that interest you. For example, if there's a restaurant in your neighborhood you love, you might follow that restaurant to see if items from the menu have appeared on other people's want! list. But you can want! the tangible and the intangible--from a small fries at McDonalds to a quiet moment to think. In fact, the top want! among beta testers for the app was actually "Obama 2012."

Users photograph the things they see and like, attach a 35-character description, then confirm the neighborhood they're in. From there, a want! can be pushed through to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare or Tumblr. Users can click "Also want" when they see something they like that another want! user has posted.

You can also see items that others have want!ed near wherever you are. So, if you're looking for a drink after work, a place to buy some shoes, or perhaps even a patch of shady grass to sit on, a quick look at nearby want!s might help you get what you need--or make you crave something you didn't know you were looking for.

"The idea that distinguishes us is that we're asking people to vote on all these wants, so that slowly, over time, each want starts to accumulate hierarchical value," said DeRose. "At any given time you can see what are the most wanted items in a particular category."

Unlike some apps, want! does not let you scan barcodes for items, nor does it have any features that lets users want! things that are purely online.

"We're intentionally not making this a web-based thing," said DeRose. "For a friend's birthday, you might say, 'Oh, she liked all these things in a Nolita boutique, I'll go there."

Why you'd use it: By opening up the range of want!s past purely commercial products, want! has the potential to become a storage unit for the enormous list of longings people form, not only for necklaces, iced coffees or leather boots, but for the ephemeral and the esoteric. Such a list could be useful for the lister or the lister's friends, as well as for businesses trying to decipher the wants and moods of a local crowd.

"It brings it back to the relationship with [Facebook's] 'like.' We don't want to be so generic," said DeRose. "But we do think that, within this area of personal or collective desire, things that are aspirational--in addition to acquisitive--all made sense together."

And DeRose believes that much of this collective desire is already present on the web.

"One of the neat tests that we did [involved] some scraping of Twitter," said DeRose. "There are a million and a half tweets a day that have the words, 'I want,' in them. We're just trying to tap into existing behavior."

Part of what want! is trying to do is to provide a user experience that's as helpful for those who are less prone to active posting as it is for those who regularly upload want!s to the stream. DeRose, who says that the app is focusing currently on downtown New York City as the service kicks off, envisions the possibility of an iPad app that creates a photo catalog of the items and aspirations that characterize entire neighborhoods and even cities.

"With Foursquare, everyone who participates posts. There are only a few people who lurk and observe," said DeRose. "Here, it will be appealing in the way of just looking at media. Someone who's traveling from out of town could walk around and find out what's most wanted in the East Village."

How to get it: Just visit want!'s website or go to the iTunes App Store.

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