Tumblr is a company that has built a platform that seemingly morphs into something new every single time I visit it. One of the most popular features of the service is its ability to share photos, in sets, and then of course watch them spread throughout the network quickly.
Today, Tumblr announced a new standalone photo-sharing app called “Photoset“, which allows you to group some pictures together, share them on a web page and spread to your friends on social networks…including Tumblr. Yes, Tumblr is definitely also a social network.
The power of a platform is that it can be many things to many people, and the folks at Tumblr are drawn to telling stories with pictures. What better way than grouping them together and sharing them? For this new app, it's important to point out that there's no Tumblr branding and it has a killer app and domain name with Photoset.com and Photoset respectively.
I spoke to Tumblr VP of Product, Derek Gottfrid and Justin Ouellette, Director of Special Projects about why the company decided to break out a new app and what went into its creation. I've also had a chance to play around with it, with zero direction, which is always a plus.
The premise of Photoset is extremely simple, access the photos on your iOS Camera Roll, or take new ones, and group them together in a “set” which you can add a caption or description to. Once you decide to share it, a web page is published with a unique URL. You don't have to sign up or sign in with your Tumblr account, which is a nice low-friction approach.
You can move the photos around, choosing which ones become the larger focus of the set, telling a bit of a story…more of a story than one photo could tell.
Gottfrid told me that this second mobile app, aside from the main one, for Tumblr is “completely for creating and uploading photos.” He continues, “Photosets have been an incredibly popular feature, and it's now enhanced with a standalone website with connections back to Tumblr.”
The app is clearly more feature-rich than Tumblr's website, when it comes to creating sets of photos. You're no longer stuck with a couple of fixed layouts when using this app. Having a single focus for secondary apps has worked for Facebook, which has spun out Camera, Messenger and Pages, with much success.
Do we really need another photo app?
We have Instagram, Facebook Photos, Google+, Twitter Pics, Flock by Bump, Flickr and plenty of other social photo services that I enjoy. I'm a phone-photography nut, and I have 14,000 iPhone photos on Snapjoy. I'm constantly looking for new things to do with those photos to share them in a different way and tell a different story about them, so I was keen to give Photoset a try.
When I asked Tumblr why it decided to build a secondary app rather than beef up its current app with more photo features, Ouellette told me: “It was really organic, we're all about building cool things at Tumblr and it felt like a very natural thing to break out. One of our favorite features on Tumblr is photos, so we just decided to go for it.”
They definitely went for it, as the app is gorgeous and easy to use. It's very easy to participate in this “visual storytelling” using Photoset, so I think Ouellette and team did something pretty special here.
By not forcing you to log into your Tumblr account, the company could attract a brand new set of users who just want to pull photos together without the hassle of creating a page, tagging things or worrying about how to share them. The Photoset page that gets created is easy to spread around to friends, and displays the photos beautifully.
More Tumblr apps?
As I mentioned, the secondary app approach has worked for Facebook, and I imagine that other feature-rich services will start following the trend. I asked Ouellette if Tumblr would be working on its own video app ala Viddy or Socialcam, but he wasn't ready to give up any secrets. Shoot, I'd even enjoy a dedicated animated GIF app.
What he did tell me was this photo experience was perfect for the iPad and iPhone (no plans for Android yet, sorry!), and he's pretty proud of it:
I've been developing this for a long time, the iPhone and the iPad are the perfect thing for doing a photo layout. For the website it's a bit trickier, on the phone you get the sense that you're in a creative process. On your mobile device, a lot of times, you'll see things in your photos that you never saw otherwise.
A picture is worth a thousand words, but a group of pictures can speak volumes.
[Photo credits: Flickr and Me]