ImageShack founder Jack Levin has certainly experienced the short end of the stick when it comes to building a company that works with the API of a larger social network.
In February 2009, ImageShack launched the Yfrog photo-sharing service, which quickly became one of the most popular ways to share photos on Twitter — back in the day, you may remember, the only way you could share photos on Twitter was through third-party applications such as Yfrog and TwitPic. But in mid-2011, Twitter decided to get into the photo-sharing game after all and in August it rolled out its own internal photo-sharing service through a partnership with Photobucket — which, of course, immediately caused significant damage to the Yfrogs and TwitPics of the world.
You’d think that being burned by a giant like Twitter in such a way might make Levin back away from the social networking space altogether. But it turns out, it really had the opposite effect: Now, he’s going after the space in an even more directly-competitive way.
Today ImageShack is rolling out Yfrog Social, a full-service social networking platform for the web and the iPhone. You can watch Levin talk about the launch and give a demo of the product in the video embedded above.
In short, Yfrog Social looks like a mix of Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn, with the high-resolution photo-sharing qualities of an ImageShack or a Flickr. The core differentiators of the product, however, are its ad-free freemium paid business model and completely open API. These two things together, Levin says, mean that developers will be able to make apps that depend on Yfrog social, with no fear of being quashed.
It’s a hugely ambitious launch — crazy, almost. But hey, it could attract a following: In my experience using it, it’s a really beautiful and snappy site, with very thoughtful features for sharing and sorting your contacts. Also, you’ve got to hand it to Levin for not being cowed by the big players who are currently dominating the space. It’s very similar to what Dalton Caldwell is aiming to do with his new direction for App.net. Whether these efforts will be successful remains to be seen, but it’s pretty cool to see people try.
If you want to test out Yfrog Social, you can bypass the waitlist by following this link: http://yfrog.com/invite/techcrunch