Ditch That USB Cable: The Coolest Apps for Sending Your Photos Around Wirelessly
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build mini-travelogues; a case in point is user a member called JD573F, who’s at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, uploading dozens of shots as she walks the vast halls of the convention center.
The other mobile photo sharing app I’ve been playing with a lot lately is called AirMe. So far, the Colorado Springs, CO-based startup’s service is only available as an iPhone app, but the company says it’s working on versions of the app for Sony and Nokia phones. If you want to share a photo, you open the AirMe app instead of the phone’s regular camera application. It instantly uploads any photo you snap to the photo-sharing service of your choice, including Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, and Twitter. This simplicity is what makes AirMe so useful—like the Eye-Fi cards, it eliminates the laborious step of manually selecting and uploading the photos you want to share.
Services like SnapMyLife and AirMe aren’t meant to compete with heavy-duty online photo communities like Flickr. They’re mainly for sharing the more casual photos that people capture on their cell phones. Indeed, as a longtime Flickr user, I have trouble imagining any new photo-sharing application so cool that it would induce me to start sharing the bulk of my photos anywhere else. But there is one new photo community, called Fotonauts, that caught my eye recently.
The brainchild of Jean-Marie Hullot, the former chief technology officer of Apple’s application development division, Fotonauts has a website full of gorgeous outdoor photos and a high-minded, Wikipedia-inspired mission to “enable the creation of the definitive pool of images for everyone to contribute to, discover, use and enjoy, covering all areas of human interest.” Hullot says he’s out to make photography more social by allowing users to do things like collaborate on Web albums, build information mashups that combine photos with maps and Wikipedia entries, and hold bulletin-board-style discussions around each photo.
It sounds great—and I’d definitely be interested in an application that allowed me to do something more creative with my photos than simply plop them into a Web album. But while the Paris-based startup has been getting a lot of fawning coverage from TechCrunch (Keith Teare, who co-founded Edgeio with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, is an employee at Fotonauts), I’m forced to report that Fotonauts is nowhere near the point of living up to the hype. I’ve been testing the beta version of the Fotonauts application, and I’ve found it to be both buggy—repeatedly hanging my Mac—and lonely, with little content available to browse and little discussion going on.
Fotonauts’ one indisputably useful function, at the moment, is to automatically synchronize whatever photos you dump into the application with your accounts on Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, or Twitter. But as I’ve noted above, that’s something that many other devices and applications can do. Fotonauts also provides a nice slide-show widget (investor and board member Joi Ito has published a sample show on Dubai) but that, too, is nothing unique. I get the sense that there’s a broader technological vision behind Fotonauts, involving tagging, the semantic Web, and better algorithms for searching images. But little of that is visible yet. I’m hoping that over the next few months, the Fotonauts community will grow to something closer to critical mass, and that Hullot’s team will reveal more of the features that would make Fotonauts into a true “photopedia.”
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Before I close: I always like to direct readers to cool free stuff on the Internet, and some of the most amazing free content anywhere is on iTunes U, which I wrote about back in August. Between now and Inauguration Day, January 20, Boston’s own WGBH is offering free iTunes downloads of six riveting episodes from “The Presidents,” originally aired as part of the The American Experience on PBS. There’s 20 hours of video available overall, including shows on FDR, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan. (Don’t ask me what happened to Eisenhower, Kennedy, the two Bushes, or Clinton.)