It is really hard for me to form thoughts on new services as quickly as I would like. My initial excitement usually dulls in very quick order but not before I have shelled out some cash to use it. As much as I never think anyone wants to read my thoughts when there are far more popular takes, I do have a few things to say about photography apps.
Since reading No Filter last year I have been a little sad. The excellent behind the scenes story of Instagram from founding to acquisition made me miss the service even more. I am still filled with a longing for the old Insta days, unfortunately one that I know couldn’t exist today. It’s hard to believe that just 10 sort years ago Instagram was the popular up and coming app with all the buzz, but a decade is a long time on the internet and things change.
The modern version is 5 or 6 different things crammed into one app, and removes exactly what Instagram is for. This, understandably, has left many photographers out in the cold and a little bitter considering how much work they have put into the service over the last decade. So many have been looking for something new. In recent memory the app Gala arrived and looked promising but ultimately failed to keep my attention.
A Little Different
Glass is different though. It is set up as an anti Instagram and removes all of the foils that entrap almost anything that Facebook touches. The app is designed to display the photographs beautifully, removing almost all engagement traps. Likes, follower counts and a constant strive for influence is replaced by a constant stream of the latest images uploaded.
The design focuses on the images themselves and the details of them. Displaying privacy conscious EXIF data about the image giving you an insight into exactly how the image was shot. You get to not only see the images, but feel the desire behind them, if your a photographer of course and know your shutter speed from your aperture.
My first log in allowed me to follow a few people that I knew already, but also find others that took the kind of images I like to see and learn from. As an amateur shooter being able to peek behind the curtain and understand how a shot was made proves a great learning angle too.
The founders talk a great talk, and seem to be walking exactly as then intended. When talking to Om Malik they sold the service well and aimed it to fulfill exactly what I and many photographers were hoping for.
We’ve intentionally avoided any public counts. We don’t want Glass ever to become a popularity contest. We’re not home for influencers. We are a home for photographers. – Tom Watson, founder of Glass
There is zero counting and metrics going on. No followers (well I guess you could count them yourself if you want to), no hashtags and best of all no likes. I want that rush of dopamine as much as the next person, but double tapping is far too easy. Where as in Glass if you like a photo the only choice you have is to leave a comment, which feels much better.
With these metrics gone there is no algorithm at play currently. I am sure if the app grows there will be no choice but to tweak this slightly, for the risk of becoming unmanageable. Glass is no where near reaching a scale that needs more though putting into it, but only time will tell. I do fear that they will eventually feel the pain of volume, however with zero metrics there would be no point gaming the system anyway.
Which in short means that my trust in getting into the app feels very well placed currently. They have spoken publicly about the very straight forward way you are able to get your photos back out again should you wish to leave, which is also great. The iOS only limit also seems to be lifting with Android and web versions in the works, so hopefully everyone can join very soon.
Paying For It
However. Saying things like “We believe great photography can come from anywhere and anyone” is fine. But the anyone is only those that can stump up the £50 a year entrance fee. Don’t get me wrong I love the fact that paying money to support a service means none of the bad stuff that comes from free services. However the worry would be that Glass becomes just another service along side all the others.
If I want as many people as possible to see my shots then I have no choice but to post them every where else too. So when the next years subscription comes around am I willing to pay again to look at photos posted by others everywhere else too?
My answer is probably yes, but the true telling will be how many people stick around in in a few months time. A few of my friends share similar feelings towards the new hotness app but I might have to cross my fingers and hope. Following high profile shooters is one thing, but I would like a mix of people I know.
As the opening few sentences gave way to a flood of my opinions I am still very bearish on the future. I can’t tell people how good a service is until I have used it for more than 14 days, and more so for a service that costs money and isn’t for everyone. My hope is that the grand plans for Glass keep on track and achieve even more, but my worry is the new hotness burns out and we all skulk back to Instagram again.