Friday, June 10, 2011

Snapbucket Quietly Enters the Photo App Pool

I don’t really want to share my photos with anyone. I take a crapload of photos but I rarely take one that I think is worth making anyone else look at. This is awkward for me, working for a tech company, having a degree in social journalism, and living during the War of the Photo-Sharing Apps.

When I was getting my degree, I had to set up an account with a photo-sharing website to post my stupid photo essays that I produced for my digital media and photojournalism classes. This was 2008, and smart phones barely existed. There was no Hipstagram, no Twitterypic, no ColorPath. If we took pictures with our phones, they were at 1.5 MP, they might get posted to Facebook, but in general we’d just forget about them and move on.

Anyway, I held my hand over my eyes and pointed to a random photo site on the Internet. My finger landed on Photobucket, so up the photos went. In later classes, I posted these photos there as well. Then I promptly forgot about it.

Enter the era of mobile photography, where phrases like “Shot entirely on an iPhone” and “tilt shift” became signals of the smartphone elite. Retro photography made another comeback, but instead of having to spend a bunch of time and money buying and developing film, photo apps shot up all over the place that would filter your crisp 3.0+ MP photo to look stylized, classic, and/or old. Of course, lots of people liked it. I appreciate the anachronism to a certain degree, but the market has become over-saturated, unfortunately.

We’re living in a time in which a thousand photo apps are fighting for staying power, a battle which will weed out the weak or unusable, leaving behind a few strong competitors. To be eligible in this game, you need to have an app that’s been around for a long time, or, failing that, is unique in some way or has a really strong marketing campaign. This battle has been going on for over a year now. Suddenly, I get this semi-broken email from Photobucket:

Aw snap! It’s here! My one and only photo editing app. Snapbucket allows me to snap a picture, edit it, and share with friends. But here’s the kicker: You can do all of this—wait for it—from your mobile phone! Hey, it’s the easiest way to style a picture YOUR way and share it with Photobucket. But guess what? You can also post to Facebook and Twitter too.

All my problems have been solved. I’ve never seen anything like this before! You’re saying that I can take a picture with my mobile phone, style it right there on my phone, and then share it—directly from my phone? Why, this is a revolution!

It’s an easy three-step process, really. First, snap a picture of your dog in excellent lighting with accurate colors and crisp clarity. Now, choose a filter, such as this one that makes it look like a nuclear blast is right behind you. Now, share it! Everyone can see your excellent picture balanced improperly with way too much red hue. Photobucket for life!

So let’s see if this new app satisfies any of my proposed requirements for having a fighting chance in the photo app war.
  • Early in the game: Nope, it’s June 2011. There’s already a thousand photo apps out there, so this one’s officially a latecomer.
  • Unique: Well, it allows you to apply a preset filter and share it via social networks. This is more of a base requirement than a groundbreaking feature. Snapbucket’s going to need to do stand out in some way if it wants to stick around.
  • Strong marketing campaign: Well, this is the first time I’ve heard of it, so maybe there’s more coming. However, this email is a pretty significant failure. First of all, this spam relies heavily on images to sell the product, which is a problem for me and Gmail, since images aren’t displayed by default. As a result, this is what their email looked like when I first opened it:

I don’t even know what’s happening there! Normally I would skip this altogether as clearly spam, but I’m interested in the progress of the photo app war, so I chose to display the images, getting the email shown earlier. As you can see, the image is broken into chunks, exaggerated by the borders around each clickable section of the email since they forgot to remove link borders. Here’s a sample of the code from this email—specifically, the code to show the top image with the “Snapbucket” logo:

<img style="display: block;" src="" alt="Snapbucket">

Fixing this issue would have just involved placing the line “border: 0;” after “block;” which they would have realized if they had tested the email before sending it. So far, the marketing campaign is off to a rocky start! Here’s what the same email looks like after I fixed all the image link borders:

My guess is that Photobucket’s not trying to make a big splash in the photo app market. This is more of an obligatory app they whipped together so they won’t fall behind in the social media market. They’re hoping you’ll use their app to post your photos to their website instead of sending it somewhere else. The filters are just a way to appear to fit in with the current photo app scene. And if you choose to share to Facebook or Twitter, it’ll append “Snapbucket” onto your message, which translates into free advertising for the company.

It’s a smart move for a company that doesn’t want to become obsolete, but it’s not going to be the one that sticks around. They’ll need to make Super Snapbucket if they really want to be taken seriously.

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