My publisher turned to me the other day and asked, “Why can’t you come up with something I can invest in that Facebook will buy for a billion dollars?” That’s not an exact quote; newspaper folk tend to curse a lot in casual conversation.
He was referring, of course, to Facebook’s recent purchase of Instagram, a little company with an app for taking pictures, applying retro filters, and sharing them online. With 40 million users, the company is still small potatoes compared to Facebook, but the technology behind it could help Facebook offer more photo sharing options to its own users.
With my publisher’s entreaty in mind — and ignoring the fact that wacky ideas with no real plan for making money other than being bought out were a big part of the dotcom bubble — I came up with a few ideas for blockbuster companies.
• InstaGraham: An app that takes pictures and formats them for printing on a graham cracker. Somewhat hampered by the current lack of consumer printers capable of accepting graham media, but an economy of scale should rectify that problem shortly.
(Real InstaGrahams are all over the place, though they’re mostly accounts or pictures of people named Graham.)
• InstaGran: An add-on for Siri that replaces the helpful iPhone assistant with a crotchety but loving old woman. Ask for a good restaurant and she gives you her address. Search for a clothing store and a sweater is mailed to your home in 8-12 weeks. Warning: Asking any technology question results in InstaGran calling your own phone.
(There is an insta-gran.com, featuring adorable grannie pictures. And it benefits the Alzheimer’s Society, even.)
• InstaGroom: Take a photo of yourself at any time of day — just after waking up, in the middle of a smorgasbord, partying hard late into the night — and InstaGroom cleans up your look. From a little bit of messy hair to the black eye you got telling that tool at the bar what you thought of his Bluetooth earpiece, this app makes you look good no matter what.
(I was expecting a lot of wedding-related results, but somehow didn’t anticipate the Insta-Groom pet shampoo that actually exists.)
• PhonoGram: A filter that adds pops, a low hiss, and an indescribable “warmth” to all your pristine digital music files, whether bought from iTunes, ripped from CDs, or borrowed from friends. A planned feature is live filtering, in which your phone’s mic picks up conversation and ambient noise and adds vinyl noise in real time, so the real world will finally be available in superior low fidelity.
(A real Phonogram app, without the capital G, lets users DJ a virtual room or connect with other users and collaborate on playlists from everyone’s collection.)
• SloMoGram: Instead of seeing and sharing your snapshots right away, you take your cameraphone to a processing center in a pharmacy, discount store, or mall. There, professionals extract the encrypted photos from the SloMoGram app and apply filters according to their expert opinion — usually some degree of “Underexposed” or “Overexposed.” You then have the option to buy a second cameraphone with the same pictures loaded to mail to friends or family.
(The name doesn’t appear to be in use, for some reason.)
Have your own ideas? Tweet them with the hashtag #TheNextInstagram.
Find retweets and the occasional original thought at twitter.com/CitizenjaQ.