A large set of documents and images of an as yet unreleased Facebook mobile photos app was leaked yesterday to TechCrunch. Many details remain unclear, including whether the app will be part of the traditional mobile apps, a standalone app, or both.
The app cherry picks some of the best design and functionality from existing photo apps Instagram, PicPlz, Path, With, and Color, and combines them with new features and a low-friction sharing process. Facebook didn’t directly acknowledge the app’s existence, except to say, “We’re constantly working on new features and enhancements to our products but have nothing new to announce at this time.”
We’ve dug through all the available images leaked and here’s how we think the new mobile photos app will work, though nothing is for certain until the app actually launches — if it does.
Single and Multi-Shot Sharing
The photo shooting and sharing experience appears to go like this. Users take a photo through the app or select one from their device’s library. They can then tap faces to tag friends. A “What’s Happening?” button allows them to tag the photos by Facebook Places or a Facebook Event they’ve RSVP’d to. They can then add a description to be published alongside the photo, set privacy restrictions on the photo to a certain bucket or list of friends, and then post it to Facebook.
When users select photos from their existing shots, Facebook appears to group them by timeframe, such as today or last week, as well as by geolocation. A grouping of recently taken but unshared photos reminds users of saved up content.
There are also more unique features, like the ability to take multiple photos and share them in a set. As each additional photo in the series is taken, a counter on the share button increases. Users can then location tag and describe them all at once.
Support for Video and Filters
Similar to Path’s apps, it appears that the new Facebook mobile photos app will allow users to shoot and share video. Similar to Facebook.com and the Facebook for iPhone, users will likely just tag the whole video as including a friend, rather than selecting a certain segment the way users tag a specific part of a photo as including a friend.
Some of the leaked screenshots show a button called “Filters” on the camera view. User might be able to overlay special lenses as they take photos, similar to Instagram but with the filters applied before rather than after taking a shot. This feature could allow users to post filtered photos directly to their Facebook albums, and reduce the need for Instagram which only lets users post links to their photos on Facebook.
User can view photos shared by friends through an activity feed that looks like a cross between Path and With. Photos are condensed into horizontal tiles or shown as thumbnails for easy browsing. But they are expandable for larger viewing. Each space in the feed can show a single photo, such as one a friend was tagged in, or a set of several photos from the same location.
If users click into a location or Event, it looks like they’ll be able to see all photos taken by friends or that are visible to the public, and all the people who are there. This incorporates the best parts of Color — knowing who’s where, and seeing a single place from the perspective of several people. It could become powerful way to get real-time information about an event, such as a concert in the example below, while it happens.
When enlarged, a photo’s description, tags, and feedback are translucently overlaid on the bottom of the photo, permitting full screen viewing. Feedback icons can be tapped to slide up the full-text of comments or Likes and the option to add one’s own, but the photo still remains visible in the background.
No Additional Sharing
Judging by their absence in the leaked documentation, one feature common to other photo sharing apps may not be present in Facebook’s. There’s no trace of additional social sharing options in the Facebook app. Unlike PicPlz and Instagram, which offer syndication of photos to Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, Foursquare and more, Facebook’s app only publishes to Facebook.
This could be its biggest weakness. If users really want to share a photo with their Twitter followers or blog readers, they might opt for one of the more inclusive apps such as Instagram, which now has more than five million users.
However, with friend and location tagging, multi-photo uploads, video support, filters, and a sleek interface, Facebook’s new mobile photos app might convince users those extra views aren’t worth using something else. And while the leaked images depict an iPhone app, the documentation points to the app working off HTML5, which would make it usable on other platforms such as Android.