Radar Turns Mobile Pictures Into Conversation Starters

radar-logo.png radariphone2.pngThere are plenty of mobile apps that let you snap a picture and share it with your friends or the world—Zannel, Umundo, Mocospace, Pikki, MobyPicture, Yahoo Go—but one that does an especially good job at just sharing pictures among your friends is Radar. The service is run by Tiny Pictures, a San Francisco startup that has raised $4 million from Mohr Davidow Ventures. Whenever you snap a picture you want to share, you send it via e-mail to your Radar account. It appears immediately, and everyone you’ve invited as a friend can see the pictures and comment on them—either online or on their phones. The best way to use Radar is to download the application to your phone (it just added a custom iPhone app today). Whenever you log in, you see a stream of thumbnails of every picture you and your friends have posted. The commenting interface is pretty slick (you can plug it into AIM for instant notifcations of when a new comment has been posted to one of your pics). It the key to Radar because it turns each picture into a conversation starter.

This only works, of course if you A) have friends on Radar, and B) they post pictures on a regular basis. Radar, which launched more than a year ago in the summer of 2006, has only 600,000 users worldwide. But that number has been doubling every month for the past three months. So we might be at an inflection point here, especially as more capable phones come onto the market that can take advantage of its Web-like features. Radar serves 250,000 pictures and videos a day. Eighty percent of its traffic comes from mobile devices (it also has a regular Website), and 70 percent of its users are outside the U.S.

radargallery.jpgWhile most of the conversations and photos on Radar are private, you can choose to make them public. And today the company is also launching a public gallery, where advertisers can try to entice Radar members to subscribe to their photo streams. Right now, there are photo streams for the upcoming movie Hitman, pictures of frivolous but funny merchandise from iWoot, top video picks from Vimeo, and CEO John Poisson’s own Radar stream. There will soon be Radar channels from Hendrick’s Gin, iTunes, and the stealth Web video series Nowhere Men (which will focus on a group people “missing” since 2002 and the audience has to help unravel the mystery). This sort of advertising will only work in so far as people don’t see it as advertising, which is why I like it.

Here is a page from Poisson’s Radar channel. Taking picture of food seems to be popular on the site:


And here is what Radar looks like on a regular Sony Ericson phone: