I was a guest on the Tech-Know show on Channel News Asia earlier today and asked to comment about privacy in social networks, and specifically, about an app called Peep. Peep is like a structured group chat, and kinda like Path.
The big point I made on the show is that while private social networks like Peep are a huge trend, it’s one that’s been happening for a while. For most of us, chat apps are our private social networks, and why Facebook acquired Whatsapp for $19 billion.
So for apps like Peep to add value, they have to demonstrate what they can do better above and beyond chat apps.
It’s a tough hurdle, and I’m not sure Peep clears it.
There are three basic opportunities in sharing:
- Sharing media
- Sharing media with certain friends
- Sharing media with certain friends so they’re easy to find later
There are a million apps that do the first. Facebook and Instagram are probably enough for most people.
Chat apps and email are the most popular ways to do the second, but when you post a photo in a chat group it’s likely to get buried under pages of subsequent conversation and thus, hard to find later.
Theoretically, Facebook already solves the third problem, but of course the process of controlling who can see what is complicated, so there is opportunity to unbundle that into a simpler, focused app.
That’s the hope apps like Peep (and frankly, there are many) have. But the question is whether it’s a real problem at all.
Personally, media that I want memorialized go on Facebook and Instagram. Rarely are these photos that I only want certain people to see. Even though Peep restricts who can share your photos, it’s too easy to beat (e.g., take a photo of a photo). So the photos I want to stay as private simply don’t get shared.
Let’s assume you want to save this photo but Peep doesn’t allow you to share…grab another camera and take a pic of it, done!
Between those two extremes (photos I want people to see, and photos I don’t want anyone to see) is a big gray area. For example, the kind of everyday, unframed, blurry photos you might exchange in a photo chat app like Snapchat. Photos you prefer others not to see, but don’t particularly care if they do.
I don’t want to organize those photos. I’m happy with them getting buried under a stream of conversation. By definition, they aren’t important enough to save.
So I’m not convinced the third problem is a big one.
The real downer for Peep is that even if it is, you can already solve it with chat apps and their group function. On my Whatsapp, for example, I already have groups based on events like “Japan Trip!”
With chat apps around, is there room for Peep?
Given all that, I struggle to see why I’d need Peep. You can’t really control what others do with your media once they’re out there, and chat apps are already an easy way to share organized content with specific friends.