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Ex-Apple executive takes on Facebook with photo app

SMH | March 25, 2011
The free app figures out if other users are close to you by using a secret blend of GPS data, ambient noise and even light.

The app, available initially on iPhones and Android-based smartphones, was created by a group of technologists led by CEO Bill Nguyen, the serial entrepreneur who sold digital music locker site to Apple for an estimated $US85 million back in December 2009.

Nguyen said the app will help people break out of the mold of their current group of friends and give them more information about the people around them – namely co-workers and neighbours.

"I talk about identity: where I work and where I live. That's a big chunk of who I am," said Nguyen, 40, who demonstrated the app to The Associated Press. "But oddly, these people aren't on my Facebook."

While your first name appears on your posts, there is no password and no friending. So unlike Facebook, the notion of limiting private content to a friend network doesn't exist.

In the future, the app will be able to intuit relationships based on whom its users spend time with regularly because it collects data constantly. You could bump into an acquaintance's co-worker and immediately know that, simply because the two were in the same place during daylight hours on weekdays.

"The days of having to say anything are done," Nguyen said. "There's no more profiles, there's no more friending, there's no more electronic dog fence created by Facebook. It's all over. This is the post-PC world. It's a brand new way of sharing."

Along with people within 50 feet, Color keeps sending feeds of people you recently were in contact with, although those contacts fade over time if you don't engage with their streams. And if you're at a concert, the app knows to string the entire group into one massive stream.

Color, with 30 employees in Palo Alto, California, was seeded with $US41 million in capital – $US25 million from Sequoia Capital, $US9 million from Bain Capital, and $US7 million from Silicon Valley Bank.

Mike Krupka, managing director of Bain Capital Ventures, said the site would seek to generate revenue from advertising by the end of the year. One possible way to help businesses advertise would be to enable restaurants to post photos of their specials to recent guests. Users might also be enticed by seeing pictures of what their acquaintances had ordered the last time they ate there.

"We believe that if you create a product that the consumer truly values to enhance their life experience, you'll find a way to monetise that," he said.


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