Foursquare Adds Photos: ‘Color’ful Feature or Privacy Concern?

When popular check-in service Foursquare announced this week it would add an easy photo-sharing function, users could be forgiven for seeing shades of ‘Color’ flash before their eyes, and wondering if, perhaps, their favorite site had just gone there too.  Did it?

Sharing photos, of course, was the intrigue and selling point of Color, the much-hyped, and equally criticized, app with no privacy settings, and even fewer boundaries that debuted in March.  The free app, for both Android and the Apple iOS platform, detects a user’s location and lets him or her create and share photos and video albums automatically with other Color users within 100 feet, in real time. No permission asked, or needed.

So when Foursquare announced in a blog post this week that it would add easy photo-sharing, because, it explained, “ten cameras are better than one,” users scared by Color and weary of their privacy may have said a collective “what?” instead of breathing a sigh of relief.

As described, however, the new feature seems to fill in the gaps for Foursquare where Color, and its privacy lacking boundaries, 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.”

Where on Color there are no friends, the new tool on Foursquare allows the site to play up what its known for, the ability to connect with friends, by narrowing photos down to the ones taken by friends.  That is, the new photo-sharing on Foursquare has made the site, and the feature, relevant once again.

“Foursquare has always been about not just where you are, but also who you’re with and what you’re doing,” Kushal Dave, a Foursquare engineer, wrote in a blog post. “…But 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. So how to remember that restaurant when your distressingly flash-less iPhone 3GS couldn’t take a picture in the dim light, or the critical moment during the birthday party when your baby nephew put his pants on his head?”

Foursquare also now organizes the photos by the event itself, the specific check-ins and venues, compared to Color’s images which are grouped based on the time the photo was taken.

Interestingly, the new feature was the result of a recent internal “hack day” at Foursquare, where the whole company took a day off to simply brainstorm ways to make the site better.

So who knows what will come of the next hack day, but it seems the ‘color’ of photo-sharing on Foursquare could be even brighter down the road.

“We’ll continue to hack at things to make improvements, but wanted to point this out so everyone can more easily enjoy their memories,” Dave wrote.

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