Auckland IT scene: Mobile app for geo-tagged images

Snapr co-founder skypes in from New York

Getting a front page spot on the Apple app store catapulted the fledgling start up to Snapr to worldwide recognition, with the result being tens of thousands of downloads of its geo-tagged mobile application.

Mobile photo-sharing app cofounder Rowan Wernham (pictured above) skypes in from New York, where he is currently visiting the Hyperfactory office. Snapr is a service for sharing geo-tagged images. The app lets users share their iPhone photos to Twitter and also upload the photos to a map using geo-tags.

Users can browse photos, make comments in other people’s photo streams, as well as search for users, locations and keywords to see related photos on the map.

The idea behind Snapr is that people can take photos with smartphones and other internet enabled devices, upload them to the site and their others can instantly see what is going on, in real-time, says Wernham.

With the next release of Snapr, planned for this month, it will be even easier to find out where your friends are, based on their photos, he says. As well, the new version will have a social layer with lots of new features.

“If you and your friends use the app, you can perhaps look at a map, which is filtered down to just your friends and you can really easily see whereabouts people are in town right now. It makes it easy to keep track of your friends’ [through their] latest photos.”

He says this particular space is getting quite crowded. “There are lots of people trying to do things with mobile photo-sharing,” he says. “But we are trying to set ourselves apart by building an API that works well for making third-party photo-sharing apps.”

Snapr put out the API in the beginning of the year and it has already been integrated into some interesting apps, says Wernham.

Wernham started Snapr together with Edward Talbot in Auckland last year. They released the app while attending the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. The app happened to get featured by Apple and put on the front page of the App Store worldwide, which generated a “frenzy of usage”, says Wernham.

“We didn’t expect anyone to be using it initially, and we didn’t have a moderation system in place,” he says. “All this porn started popping up and we were freaking out.”

They didn’t want to get into a situation where the app got pulled from the App Store because of objectionable material, so they got on top of that issue pretty quickly, he says.

“We found that if you are quite prudent and weeding out stuff like that, it kind of doesn’t appear anymore.”

So far, the app has had 70,000 downloads and 20,000 users signed up globally.

Most people post photos of pets and food, or map interesting journeys, such as cycle tours in Europe.

“That way they can track where they’ve been and their families can follow them and see where they are right now,” says Wernham.

Wernham is currently in the United States and Talbot rents a desk at a design studio in Auckland. They have one remote employee and also work closely with design studios, such as Cactuslab in Auckland, which designed the first version of the app.

“We have learnt a lot along the way,” says Wernham. “We started out with this big vision of the end outcome when lots of people were using [the app] and we didn’t focus enough on what would work for an individual user. We just threw it up there to see what happened.”

Getting the vision for the product right – finding that incentive that hooks people in – is important, he says.

This article is part of this series on Auckland IT start-ups. Tomorrow Computerworld talks to founder of Look Here, a location-aware mobile application.

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