A Snapshot Look at the Future of the Web

The technology world is all about tipping points, and last month marked the first time ever that a mobile phone (the iPhone 4) became the most popular camera on the popular photo-sharing site Flickr. The change speaks to a broader cultural zeitgeist, in which the ability to transmit images instantaneously to your online social network is valued far more highly than image quality. There are over 1 trillion images on the Web right now, and Facebook is now the largest photo-sharing site on the Web. Some of the innovation coming out of this digital photography zeitgeist has been absolutely incredible – like an entire social network created around photos or brand loyalty programs that reward travelers for uploading images to the Web. One thing is certain: the photograph is becoming the primary way by which we experience the Web.

In fact, mobile photosharing apps have become one of the hottest new cottage industries on the Web. Apps like Hipstamatic and Instagram are at the forefront, providing funky lenses, retro-effects and cool filters that transform everyday digital photos into works of art for millions of users. Nearly any photographic function available on a traditional camera is now yours for a mere $0.99 in the iPhone app store. For example, Tilt Shift Photography - once the exclusive preserve of highly-trained camera experts - is now available to the novice photographer, for less than the price of a cup of coffee.

Coke Facebook Tag As photos become integral to the way we communicate our lives to others in our social networks, they are also becoming part of the way that brands communicate with consumers. Take Facebook, for example, which recently opened up the tagging of photos to brands. This may seem like a small move (photo-tagging has been around for awhile), but it could transform the product placement experience into an everyday event shared between friends: Check out this cool Coca-Cola I’m drinking while updating my Facebook page.

Pixazza Already, the concept of product tagging is opening up entirely new ways to sell products that transform traditional e-commerce. Consider Stipple, which has the ability to transform any celebrity photo on the Web into a shopping opportunity (the site is backed by Justin Timberlake, among others). By mousing over an image of a celebrity like Katy Petty, you can see information on where to buy the dress she's wearing or the clutch handbag she's holding'. For now, the key obstacle is image recognition technology. If you like the look Katy Perry is rockin' - and aren't too fussy about getting the exact product, then you can use a service like Pixazza, which connects products within photos to e-commerce engines. Already, Pixazza is attracting more than 100 million unique visitors a month. If there was ever a reason to add interactive photos to your content website, this might just be it.

What's clear is that mobile cameras are transforming the traditional Web experience in innumerable ways, from search to e-commerce to advertising. Everything is just a lot more visual these days, with people literally uploading hundreds of photos at a time to Facebook - and then tagging all these photos with information about friends, places and products. We used to say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Now, we can safely say that a picture is also worth a thousand mouse-clicks.

[image via: Hipstamatic]

Related Articles

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less

NASA launches ICESat-2 into orbit to track ice changes in Antarctica and Greenland

Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.

Firing three pairs of laser beams 10,000 times per second, the ICESat-2 satellite will measure how long it takes for faint reflections to bounce back from ground and sea ice, allowing scientists to measure the thickness, elevation and extent of global ice

Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).

Keep reading Show less