Why Color.com is overrated

These last month, everybody has been chatting about Color.com, the brand new startup lead by Bill Nguyen.

The Color Logo

As you can see in their presentation movie, they have a pretty nifty idea: using a mobile app (available for iPhone and Android) you can share pictures from various locations. The catch is that everyone in that location can see what everybody else shared there, regardless of their being friends or not. Moreover, the service lets you start conversations (including text) around locations rather than around social rings and trending topics. Sound pretty cool, right ?

However, this startup didn’t get everyone’s attention by building a cool user experience. They did so by raising $41 million. Before launch. Yes, you read that right.

And at first glance – it seems to be worth it. It’s about mobile and locations. It’s about sharing and social behavior. It’s about pictures. It’s got an awesome team (only the team is worth the investment) – mostly ex-Apple or ex-Google.

All in all, it’s got a lot of things.

But it’s also got a problem: privacy.

Or rather: lack thereof.

Take this for example:

I and some friends go to a bar. We have a couple of drinks. We’re all having fun. And we’re taking pictures to immortalize the moment. We even publish them using Color. We’re having fun. The owners of the bar get free publicity.

But there’s someone who gets screwed. Really bad. And he doesn’t even know it yet.

At this table, behind us, there’s this guy with this kinda trampy chick. Let’s call him James. The chick’s name doesn’t matter. You see, James is also looking to have some fun with little miss sunshine over there. Some drinks, some music, some sweet talking and a hotel room.

James has two problems though:

  1. He’s happily married and he is Β at this very important conference/business dinner. At least that’s what his wife knows.
  2. He has no idea his picture is accidentally being taken by my friends. He has no idea that the pictures will be timestamped and location-bound. He has no idea they’re gonna become public domain. He has no idea about Color. At least not yet.

From there to Mrs. James finding out there are only a few steps. A few less steps if the above mentioned scenario happens in the same city James lives in.

You might say “Oh but this is unlikely. It’s a one in a million chance” and you would be right.

But in order for Color to be worth $41 million, millions of pictures should be uploaded. Every day.

One in a million, a few million pictures everyday. This means a bunch of guys like James will be served divorce papers everyday, courtesy of Color.

I wonder who they will sue for damages. Or alimony. Or whatever pretext some lawyers come up with.

I’m not one to know privacy laws regarding taking someone’s picture without that someone’s permission, but Color will take one step closer to losing all privacy. That is, of course, if it takes off in the first place.

However, “color.com” is a cool domain name. As my friend Radu said, at least we know what the $41 million was for.


Bogdan Written by:


  1. May 7, 2011

    This isn't really a an issue with Color, but with the internet itself.

    The same could be said with Flickr.

  2. May 7, 2011

    @kennethreitz:disqus Point taken. However, having pictures indexed by location makes things more severe, imho.

  3. danoprey
    May 7, 2011

    IMO, there are worse problems with this company than the possibility of a random guy being identified by his wife.One of them being that it's an awful idea. Shame awful ideas with lots of funding are all the rage these days.

  4. May 7, 2011

    bro, you make a good case but hold your horses. nobody is allowed to post any photos unless he or she holds the right to. therefore your and yourfriends need james's permission before uploading.

  5. May 7, 2011

    if u upload james' face u need james' permission. this is not that much to ask.. also, james is going to sue you πŸ™‚

  6. May 7, 2011

    I was always frustrated by the fact that my startup ideas were never stupid enough πŸ˜›

  7. Kelg
    May 7, 2011

    WHy do idiots think that photographers need permission to post images of other people?

  8. May 7, 2011

    This could not be farther from the truth.

  9. May 7, 2011

    I agree, which is why I brought up Flickr, which support geo exif data.

  10. May 7, 2011

    Can't believe no one has said this yet.

    The problem is that James is cheating.

    How exactly is one's own poor decision the fault of another?

  11. May 7, 2011

    One's poor decision being the fault of another (usually company) is why some branded paper coffee cups have inscribed “Warning: HOT”

  12. May 8, 2011

    Taking photos of people is allowed almost anywhere with the common sense exceptions of washrooms, change rooms, courts in session etc. A model release is necessary if the photo is used to promote a product or for advertising purposes. Otherwise, it can be used, sold, displayed, published for any editorial or artistic purpose.There have also been some American cases where because a backyard was in public view, the owner could not have a reasonable expectation to privacy there, so a photo could be taken and used. Judgements in this area have depended on the individual situation. Someone outside the front of their house could probably also have their photo taken too, irrespective of being on private property. “

    This is clear now thanks to the guy calling people idiots on a daily basis πŸ™‚ However users would not sue “platforms” or tools for being exposed, Bogdan. It is ridiculous to sue Cannon, the bar or Colour.com.

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