Disney Joins The Private Social Networking Craze With New Photo & Video Sharing App Called “Story”

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The latest to join the cadre of startups offering tools for more private sharing outside of Facebook’s massive footprint is not, in fact, another startup, but rather another media giant: Disney. Citing its “rich heritage in storytelling,” Disney’s Interactive division, best known for games, sites, and virtual worlds like “Where’s My Water?,” “Temple Run: Brave,” “Club Penguin,” Disney.com, and more, today launched a personal, mobile memory maker simply called “Story.”

The new app, which debuts first on iPhone, takes the photos and videos saved on your device, then automatically organizes them into sharable, but by default, private albums that can also be personalized with captions, text and various themes and layouts. The albums’ content is also saved in iCloud, so it can be backed up and synced to other Apple devices.

Separating a collection of photos into albums isn’t exactly a new trick. Practically every photo-management application today, including Apple’s own Photos app, allows for some level of organization. What makes Disney’s app a bit more cutting edge is the way it automatically organizes the content for you based on the time and location of the photos and videos it finds.

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Though our saved digital memories have long since included time, date and location information, only more recently have we begun to see a steady stream of newer mobile applications that use that data for grouping photos or creating shared albums with friends. Color was the big example standing out in everyone’s mind of how not to handle location-based photo albums, but others that followed, including Flock, Cluster, Tracks, Flayvr, Moment.me, Everpix, and many more, have been experimenting to varying degrees in this space.

But because of Story’s scrapbooking-esque annotation and customization features, it also shares a similarity to mobile photo-book makers like Mosaic, SimplePrints and KeepShot, for example. Unfortunately, Story stops short of actually allowing you to order a printed book at the finish of your creation. However, Scott Gerlach, Senior Director of Engineering at Disney Interactive, says that’s something that’s “definitely” being considered for the future.

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“In our extensive usability testing of Story, we heard clearly from our users that they’d like to purchase high-quality printed materials for themselves and others,” he tells us, adding that the company is “absolutely looking at different options to help users share their stories.” Those options may even include other photo-based gifts, too.

These extra options would likely be added to Story as in-app purchases alongside other premium features the company has in the works, such as upgraded themes, for example. But for now, the app itself is entirely free, with no ads.

Story itself is simple to use. To further edit any of Story’s automatically created albums, you can tap a button to add more content, including photos, videos or text, or change the theme. You can also tap on any individual item to caption it, remove it, or change the size. You can also drag and drop items around to swap their positions in a way that’s reminiscent to what the Kleiner Perkins-backed startup Erly once offered years ago on the web, before it sold to Airtime in March 2012.

Once you’ve created your “story,” you can then email it to your family or friends, or choose to share it a bit more broadly by posting to Facebook. Stories can also be embedded on your own website, if you choose.

If there’s any complaint with the app, it’s that it has launched only half-done, despite having the resources of a larger corporation at its disposal. Story would make the most sense on iPad, but support for both that and Android isn’t yet available, nor is the option for printed books or other trendy features like photo filters or stickers.

That being said, from the sounds of it, Story will slowly morph into a micro social network for families and/or other close friends over time, as Gerlach hints at plans for “more social and collaborative” features in time. That speaks to things like commenting, liking or shared albums, perhaps, and could put Story up against other family-first mobile apps like Famil.ioFamiliar, or Tweekaboo, for instance.

But for now, Story sits somewhere in middle of all these competitors, not quite finished on any front. If you’re leaning towards photo-book creation or private, family-focused social networking, there are other apps that still lead this space for now.

Story is available here in iTunes.