Now’s concept is to allow its users to browse various locations around the world and find interesting “experiences” that are going on there. The app initially searches for the user’s current location and then shows them a list of the nearest posts, the closest of which were a good 50 miles away from me when tested in Southampton, U.K. — the app’s feeds are much more heavily-populated in highly populous American cities, however, and the app even provides the facility to jump straight to the top 5 cities of the week (which include Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, London and San Diego at the time of writing) or to trending topics.
An “experience,” as Now defines it, is largely some form of social activity that is happening at a specific location. This can either be posted directly on Now, which allows for the adding of a title to a specific experience and photographs to subsequently be posted, or imported from other social networks via the “Now Bot.” The app doesn’t make it particularly clear exactly where it is pulling this external social information from, but at least some of it appears to come via Instagram’s API, which is also location-aware and thus eminently suitable for this use. Experiences posted directly on Now may also be shared to Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare at the time of posting.
When viewing an experience that has been posted directly on Now rather than via other social networks, the app gives the usual options to “like” or reply to the experience with additional photos or comments. An “echoes” stream for each experience — similar to Tumblr’s “Notes” system — tracks how many times the experience has been viewed, who has liked it and who has added to it over time. The experience may also be shared via Facebook, Twitter, SMS or email — doing so posts a link to a Web-based version of the experience that displays a map of its location and the relevant photos, one of which is chosen for the page background. An example can be seen here.
Now’s function is theoretically to allow people to see what is going on in their local area, but in practice it doesn’t really achieve this goal. Given that the emphasis is firmly on photographs and single-line comments rather than users actually explaining what is going on, it comes across looking more like a feed of random photos rather than something that is a useful tool to discover social events in the vicinity. Its interface is not organized particularly logically and it is difficult to navigate. More than that, though, it just doesn’t feel like its purpose has been particularly well thought through. It’s difficult to think of a practical use for the app rather than idle curiosity, and as such it’s difficult to recommend it with confidence. It’s mildly interesting to be able to browse photos taken by location, sure, but in practical terms it’s simply not that useful — and if there is anything more to the app than this, it doesn’t make itself particularly obvious.
You can follow Now’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.