Waldo brings its ad-free, private photo-sharing service direct to consumers

Waldo, a photo-sharing platform that has historically targeted businesses, schools, camps, sports leagues and other organizations, is capitalizing on the growing anti-Facebook sentiment to promote its newly launched consumer product. The company today is introducing a service aimed at private photo-sharing among family and friends, which it’s promoting as an “ad-free, non-toxic” and private alternative to mainstream social sites, like Facebook and Instagram.

Of course, that’s just Waldo’s marketing. Consumers, arguably, already have private, ad-free photo-sharing alternatives outside social media. They can create invite-only photo albums on platforms like Google Photos or share privately via Apple’s iCloud. They can send photos through encrypted mobile messaging apps. Still, Waldo believes there’s room for a standalone app that’s available cross-platform and offers a differentiated feature set.

The Waldo app is available on iOS, Android and the web and includes a wireless DSLR uploading feature aimed at photo enthusiasts. Consumers who want to use the service for private sharing can create galleries for their events and then invite people they want to share those photos with. As others join the shared galleries, they can opt in to have Waldo send alerts about any photos they’re in through push notifications or text alerts.

The app also offers closed-loop commenting and reactions that allow the photo owner and the commenter to have a private interaction not seen by anyone else in the album.

The new consumer plans are offered as either a Plus or Premium subscription at $4.99/mo or $9.99/mo, respectively. The former supports up to five family members and the latter up to 10, with unlimited invites and contributors. Plus also includes 100 GB of storage while Premium offers 200 GB.

These are more expensive plans than offered by Big Tech rivals, however. For comparison, a Google One Basic storage plan of 100 GB, which includes photos and files, is $1.99/mo, and 200 GB is $2.99/mo. iCloud+ is $0.99/mo for 50 GB in the U.S. or $2.99/mo for 200 GB. So Waldo will really need to sell consumers on its feature set of facial recognition-powered smart notifications, private reactions and custom print options.

Waldo plans to build on its existing partnerships with professional industries, like camps, schools and churches that use Waldo as a tool to share photos privately with parents and others.

Over the past five years, Waldo has slowly grown its footprint outside of the consumer space. Today, it has “hundreds of thousands” of customers, including a combination of families and employees of the K-12 institutions and businesses its app serves. Its business customers can use the app’s facial recognition features (with parents’ permission) to automatically identify and tag their students, campers, event-goers and other attendees. That way, parents don’t have to look through the hundreds of photos the organization may snap in order to find just those that feature their own child or children.

This paid subscription-based service has been adopted by groups across the U.S. and Canada, but Waldo doesn’t disclose its revenue.

Waldo tells us the plan is not to pivot from its existing B2B offering, but instead expand to a new group of users.

Because parents and others may already have Waldo installed on their phones, the company sees the potential in shifting them over to its consumer photo-sharing service. And the recipients of the shared photos don’t necessarily have to download the app to join in — the service can be used without an app installed from the web browser on any device.

As a user of Waldo through my own child’s camp, this transition makes sense. Instead of downloading Waldo’s shared photos to my phone only to then turn around and re-share them with grandparents through another platform, I could see how it may be easier to just join Waldo’s consumer subscription plan and push a “camp photos” albums to a few family members.

“We will continue to provide our communities with our Waldo Pro solution as it is an important value-add for our families who seek to have all of their family’s photos, irrespective of who took them, in a single cloud-based, mobile-friendly location, and a huge benefit to our communities who benefit from a safer photo-sharing platform,” Waldo CEO Rodney Rice told TechCrunch.

“The launch of Waldo Plus and Premium represents our opening up the platform from only being accessible as a member of one of our ‘Waldo-fied’ communities to every consumer being able to use the platform for everyday sharing and all the events in their lives,” he says.