Cooliris, if anything, knows how to adapt and keep moving forward. Founded in 2006, the company is best known for its 3D browser add-on which created an immersive photo-viewing experience on the web. But maybe that technology was just a little ahead of its time. Because, out of all the products the company has launched since -3D mobile ads, an Android Gallery app, a social media sharing service called LiveShare, a Wikipedia browser called Discover, the catalog platform called Decks – it’s today’s launch of the new Cooliris iOS application where the company finally feels right at home.
No, let me correct that, it’s the iPad application that really works here.
With the new app, live now in the iTunes App Store, Cooliris has introduced a tool that aggregates photos from various online services and local photos, and allows you to view them all within one interface. This is not a new idea, to be clear. There are startups that do this today – Pixable, comes to mind for example, as one of the more notable names in this space. Newer startups like Everpix and Woven are doing the same, each with their own unique take on aggregation. (Pixable focuses on hashtags, Everpix on creating “Moments,” e.g.). But what all of them are lacking is that gee-whiz factor that Cooliris knows how to deliver from years of work in building 3D-like* applications.
If you remember the 3D wall from the browser days, then the new iOS application will seem very familiar. Like the plugin, the core feature in the new app is a 3D wall that tilts and flies by as you browse through it – the only difference now is that you’re manipulating the wall using swipes, taps and pinches, not clicks. This feels far more natural. (Note that in Cooliris’s earlier iOS creations, a “wall of photos” existed, but this one is optimized for touch. It’s also the first one that’s been build for the iPad).
The app isn’t designed only for browsing – it’s for sharing photos, too. Unlike in the iOS Camera Roll, there’s no limit to the number of photos which you can share via email after selecting the pictures with a tap. However, in Cooliris, sharing isn’t done via email attachments (which is why there’s a limit in iOS’s Photos app). Instead, the same ideas that powered LiveShare seem to have re-emerged here. You share photos via “Conversations,” or to Facebook, if you’d rather.
Conversation recipients receive an email that prompts them to click a link that takes them to a web version of the service. I wish that the email Cooliris sent was a little less plain, maybe offering thumbnail previews or a teaser of the set, which, when tapped, would launch the browser. The thing is, some old folks think “photos via email” means they’re expecting to see actual photos in their email. Not a “click here” button.
And I still wish Cooliris would work as a Facebook photos client where likes and comments could flow both back and forth between the services, but the company is set on building their own standalone social service, for better or worse.
At launch, the iOS app supports Facebook, the iOS Camera Roll, iCloud’s Photo Stream, Facebook and Instagram. It also supports Google Images, which seems odd. I think Cooliris added this because they could and they’ve done so in the past, not because there’s huge consumer demand. (Hey grandma! Want to see 200 photos of the Eiffel Tower on my iPad? Nope, no she doesn’t.)
The iPad app shows potential, but it would really work better if it could serve as home to all your photo collections including from places like Flickr, Twitter (and Twitter photo-sharing clients), Picasa, 500px, SmugMug, Google+ and more. But for now at least, it sure is fun to browse like this.
Cooliris says that browser plugin support will be phased out, and LiveShare, which has a million users, will continue. But the iPad app is a very, very big deal for them. “This is not just a new app launch for us. It really is a significant investment in a direction that we feel pretty proud of,” says CEO Soujanya Bhumkar. However, he adds, “it’s not really a new direction for us [as a company], so much as it’s leveraging every single strength – and understanding some of the weakness – we’ve had,” he says. “There aren’t really good experiential apps on the iPad, even today – we wanted to be one of the first ones to bring a really great experience to the iPad.”
The new app will be available for download this morning. Head over to Cooliris.com to check it out.
* 3D, in this case, isn’t pop out of the screen/wear glasses 3D. Not “true” 3D, but a feeling of depth.