How Foursquare’s Improved Photo Sharing Does Color One Better

Popular check-in service Foursquare announced that it will add easy photo-sharing between friends, all tagged to check-ins. This service addresses the relevancy issues that crop up with Color, which shows you photos from random strangers all around you.


Much-hyped and criticized startup Color is the high-school prom service of photo-sharing apps. Color lets partygoers kick the disposable camera habit–all photos can be shared in real-time, without having to get photos developed or wait for digital pics to be uploaded and tagged on Facebook.


Now, popular check-in service Foursquare announced in a blog post today that it will add easy photo-sharing between friends, all tagged to check-ins. As described, this service will fill in the gaps where Color–which shows you photos from everyone around you, not just your friends–falls short.

“[It’s] a way of seeing all the pictures your friends took, right on your check-in detail page,” wrote Foursquare engineer Kushal Dave. “Until now we’d never combined the ‘what you were doing’ and ‘who you were with’; it was hard to get back to all of the photos your friends took at an event.”

Before, photos on Foursquare were all but irrelevant. Check in to Yankee Stadium, for example, and you’d see loads and loads of random photographs: various angles of the field, pics of different games at different times, and images of strangers enjoying themselves with other strangers. Who would ever care to look at that? This latest upgrade solves the problem, narrowing photos down to the ones taken by friends–that is, the relevant photographs.

Color has taken the exact opposite approach. There are no friends on Color–photos are shared with anyone in your immediate vicinity. Photographs are also not tied to venues, but proximity, meaning photos will appear in the app for users as far as 150 feet away, regardless of whether they’re in the same location or not. What’s more, Color also features something called an “elastic network” that’s constantly updating–you won’t forever see the photograph history of friends because, well, again, there are no friends on Color–only nearby users. So back at Yankee Stadium, you’re likely to see images not only of random strangers in a foreign part of the ballpark, but random strangers across the street at McDonald’s.

Foursquare photographs are now categorized by friends. All photographs are tied to specific check-ins and, thus, venues. And users will be able to hang onto a history of pics from their friends, meaning you’re not only able to check out the pics your friends took together at the Yankees game, but the images your other friends took when they were there last week.

In other words, Foursquare has sidestepped Color’s relevancy problems.


“It works wonderfully for parties, elaborate brunches, and things like concerts,” wrote Dave, in a description that sounded exactly like what Color was designed to capture. However, unlike Color, Foursquare now provides “more context and photos for your memories.”

But don’t count out Color just yet. Bill Nguyen’s eighth startup has already raised $41 million in funding, roughly double what Foursquare has raised. It’s still got time, and money.

[Image from Flickr user Trevor H; homepage thumbnail from dpstyles]

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.