Over the past few years, building a successful social photo album app has quickly become an anathema. After the shuttering of Batch and the implosion of Color, it’s tough ground to tread for investors and designers. But like Hillary and Norgay (okay, not exactly like that), Adam Ludwin and Devon Gundry want to be the first to succeed where others have failed. Last week, Ludwin, a principal at RRE and an original Vine investor, and Gundry, his co-founder, unveiled their answer to the social photo-app conundrum: Albumatic.
Albumatic is designed to revolve around specific, real-world events. It allows you to create albums that everyone at a single event can contribute to, which are available to faraway friends to check out simultaneously. Say you’re having a house party. Start a new album at the beginning of the night, and all your Albumatic friends nearby will be able to join and upload photos. Friends who aren’t (in Albumatic’s intro video, this character is played by a poor sucker with a broken leg) receive a push notification letting them check out the album anyways.
Like Vine before it, Albumatic is based on a series of simple, intuitive actions. Gundry and his team of three engineers (Sheldon Thomas, Ben Maer, and Eric Rykwalder) cleaved away extraneous elements like buttons wherever possible, relying on side swipes instead. The focus here is on notifications, which are accessed by swiping right when you’re looking at a photo. "Our objective was for the app to be as fast and out of the way as possible, while surfacing the two most important elements, the photo and the notification panel," says Ludwin, who compares the app’s push notifications to Facebook album tagging. "They’re designed to bring you back in, even if you haven’t touched the app for four days." The clean white interface is punched with neon pink and yellow (a color scheme inspired by their favorite movie, the 2012 Gosling vehicle, Drive).
UI issues aside, the real challenge was tackling the issue of privacy—arguably the thing that dragged down Albumatic’s predecessors. "When we started this process, we realized that there were fundamental issues with privacy that were never solved," Ludwin says. The key was finding a way to connect users with different sociographs (an oversharer versus an isolationist, for example) without "freaking everyone out." Similar apps oversimplified the issue by making everything either totally public or totally private. "It’s like living in a house of windows," he adds. "Because you know people may be watching, you never walk around naked. At the same time, a house without any windows is boring." Albumatic connects friends and notifies them based on location—a far more fine-grained approach.
Do the terrible track records of social photo apps trouble them? No: "Every competitor that’s failed has been a prototype we didn’t have to build." Four days into Albumatic’s life, Ludwin is most excited about his 13-year-old cousin’s reaction to the app. "She’s promoting it in the morning announcements at school," he says. "I’m more excited about that than about being featured by Apple."