Today, startup Pixable launches its addictive photo discovery and consumption Facebook app Photofeed. It arranges all the photos shared by your Facebook friends into a highly relevant stream based on Likes, comments, and tags. Photofeed’s recommendation engine produces a more enjoyable browsing experience than Facebook’s native Photos app, and could become 2011’s breakout application.
Founded in 2009 by two MIT business school graduates, the company developed apps that let users share mosaics and video slideshows of photos before concentrating on the bigger problem of improving photo consumption. The seventeen-person, eleven engineer team has secured $2.5 million in funding from Highland Capital to turn the 60 billion photos uploaded to Facebook a year into a photo browsing destination.
Photofeed provides instant gratification by dropping the news articles present in content repurposing apps like PostPost and Flipboard, and integrating content supplied by photo sharing apps like Instagram and PicPlz. While Facebook is good at displaying the latest content, the average user has access to tens or hundreds of thousands of photos and Photofeed is the way to discover the best of them.
Pixable gracefully onboards new users by hiding deeper features and immediately showing them the most compelling photos from their network via the “Popular of the week” category, and later through categories such as “Best of 2010″. An overlaid tutorial can be brought up on command to teach users how they can scroll through photos, leave feedback, and see who’s tagged. Large arrow buttons that only appear when hovered over offer an intuitive and unobtrusive navigation system.
Once users have clicked through a few dozen photos, Pixable introduces them to its sharing feature that lets users post statistics about which of their friends have commented on, uploaded, or are tagged in the most photos. Users want to share these interesting facts that are accompanied by a link back to the app, creating a organic viral growth mechanism for Photofeed.
To bolster retention, users can follow their friends and be notified via email when they upload new photos, but to preserve the anonymous browsing experience of Facebook, users can choose whether they want that friend notified that they’re being followed. These sharing and reengagement tactics are apparently quite effective, as Photofeed’s beta reportedly grew from a few thousand to 100,000 users in two weeks, foreshadowing its potential explosion in popularity.
Pixable’s CEO and cofounder Inaki Berenguer believes the company’s biggest challenge will be maintaining the app’s swift navigation as demand surges. Berenguer says there’s no monetization model such as ads, printed products, or premium services in the roadmap. “The problem is so huge, our goal is to build a massive audience, 10 or 20 million, and then we’ll figure it out.”
Pixable Photofeed is a joy to use because it doesn’t let feature creep obscure the core value of the app. With so much industry concentration on how we take photos, it’s surprising to think no one else would translate the Pandora model into a way to consume them. By creating what is essentially a news feed dedicated to photo browsing, Pixable may be able to redirect the audience of the world’s most popular photo service.