Instagram is not the only social image-sharing platform out there.
Amongst the alternatives is EyeEm: A platform created by the Berlin-based app maker of the same name which launched in August of 2011. The app offers slick, well-organized image browsing by pushing users to tag images via topic and location, as well as web upload capability and compatibility across all three major mobile operating systems.
The basic concept will be familiar to Instagram users, though the interface feels completely different. Images come in all shapes and sizes (not limited to the ubiquitous squares we've become so familiar with), and are grouped according to the tags you assign when posting (alternatively, you can add captions). As you upload images, EyeEm invites you to tag them according to topic and location, which groups your image with others that use the same tags.
“We used to say that EyeEm basically starts where Facebook and Instagram stop,” Severin Matusek, Head of Content of Community for EyeEm, described in a recent interview with Connect. “Our big vision behind EyeEm since the very beginning is to make photo sharing smart.”
While the basic concept is the same – choose or shoot an image to share, add a filter and post -- EyeEm’s unique tagging process during upload leads to a different viewing experience of images.
“Our experience starts after you’ve uploaded the photo,” Matusek explained.
EyeEm seeks to branch out beyond a self-built social sharing network through its Discover feed, introduced in the app’s major update to version 3.0 last month.
“This is a stream of photos that shows you what's relevant to you: photos around you, trending topics, albums that just got updated with new pictures,” Matusek said. “It gets better and better with every photo you take, learning what you love and showing you places, topics and people that matter to you.”
The Discover feed feels intuitive: upload an image from your recent hiking trip with the label “hiking,” and you’ll see an album of images others labeled hiking by other EyeEm users. You’ll also be directed to other images taken in the same location you selected.
“Our vision from the beginning was to be the first to perfectly organize and structure all photos taken with EyeEm (and eventually all photos from the social web) and leverage the data cube behind it to build the most personalized experience out there,” Matusek said.
EyeEm is certainly not a competitor to Instagram with 1 million app downloads and 1 million images uploaded, but it offers features the reigning social image-sharing platform can’t. EyeEm users can upload via the web -- something Instagramers can't do. Another differentiator: EyeEm is available as a free download through the App Store and Google Play, as well as Windows Marketplace (Instagram isn't currently available on the latter).
Further improvements are already in the works.
“The app is far from being completely finished, we still have lots of ideas,” Matusek said.
“We are reworking our camera, which means there’s probably going to be new filters, new functions to filter pictures, so there’s lots to be expected in the area of processing your pictures.”
EyeEm is also focusing on helping its users connect in the real world. While EyeEm users have been gathering for meetups – a chance to meet face-to-face with other users and typically take a photo walk together – for some time, EyeEm will also soon introduce an EyeEm ambassador program to expand the program further and establish stronger local EyeEm communities.
A third Photo Hack Day event is also being planned for early 2013. The event, which EyeEm recently hosted for the second time around last month, brings together both creative and developers for a 24-hour hackathon to conceptualize photography-related applications and projects.
“In the developer community, it’s a proven concept,” Matusek explained.
This year’s winning project happened to be one Matusek worked on himself with other developers. Helmut would be an Android app that converts analog film negatives into positive digital images. Whether the prototypes conceived during the event are actualized or not, EyeEm staff are enthusiastic about the possibilities.
“We believe that we're at the beginning of a revolution in photography,” Matusek said. “In two to three years there won't be many digital compact cameras around any more, most people will use their smartphones as their primary device to take and share photos with. More photos will be shared online than were ever shot in history before. Photography becomes a tool to communicate, explore and discover your world. This is an exciting time and, with the vision and technology that's behind EyeEm, we think we can be a part of it.”
As Instagram skyrockets into the social stratosphere with 100 million users sharing more than 5 billion images, the medium may feel overwhelming to some. EyeEm has piqued our interest by narrowing the scope of what users see through clever algorithms behind its Discover feed.