There’s been a lot of speculation about what will be the next killer photo app, something that will replicate Instagram’s base of users and widespread adoption, not to mention its billion-dollar acquisition. Earlier this year several animated GIF apps debuted, including Cinemagram and Flixel, though none have achieved Instagram-like success to date. Now Lightt is trying to take a new spin on the photo- and video-sharing trend with its app, which lets users capture and share 10-second long bursts of photos, called Highlights.
A cross between a photo, animated GIF, and a video, Lightt’s Highlights are photo highlight reels shown as a video, similar to high-speed photography clips. To create one, users film a video on their iPhone, and as they film a camera shutter clicks away. The result is a video highlight of all the photos, which users can then share with their friends on Facebook and Twitter, and the Lightt user base. They can also view highlights only by their friends, and like and add comments to highlights.
Unlike other media-sharing apps that display clips or photos as a stream users have to scroll through, Lightt’s main home screen is a continuous feed of other users’ highlights, which can seem to move at a frenetic pace, and between a wide array of subjects: a view of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco; someone making an espresso; flower petals on a sidewalk. The end result is a collage of daily experiences from people around the world, all blended together in an endless loop.
Lightt co-founder Alex Mostoufi formerly founded me.com, which was acquired by Apple in 2007. He said the idea for Lightt came from wanting to give people a way to record their daily lives, and he was also inspired by Jonathan Keller Keller’s video project, which captured his photo every day for eight years. “You are able to see and share your life with people that could be halfway around the world in the same moment,” he said in an interview. “We’re not creating a static file, we’re basically creating a dynamic visual, where you have an ongoing forever motion picture of your life, and you could not foresee a single GIF file doing anything nearly like that,” Mostoufi said.
With several comparisons to Instagram, Mostoufi is quick to define this is as a new type of media sharing, but says the comparisons are flattering. “We’re really humbled to be compared to people who have done a really fantastic job,” he said. “One way for people to understand you is to compare you to something.” Hee said Lightt’s app also differs from photo-sharing and GIF apps because of its custom infrastructure and back-end to support the new highlight format.
Mostoufi said the response since launching on Wednesday has been extremely positive. While he said they’ll be focused on iPhone in the short-term, it’s likely that they’ll expand to other platforms.
As for a revenue model, something that Instagram didn’t need to get a billion dollar buyout, Mostoufi said it’s something they’ve thought about, but for now the app is free. “Of course we’ve thought about [monetization], but one thing’s for sure, we’re not thinking about the garden variety type of opportunities, we think that with the new format we have a new opportunity.” That means that it’s not likely they’ll look to charge for the app or integrate ads, though premium in-app features could be one route that makes sense, for example letting users add Instagram-like filters or effects to their highlights. Or potentially sponsored highlights, for example a hotel chain posting a highlight of a new property, or a resort posting a highlight of the beach.
While Instagram’s app never had any paid options, the company’s user base was what gave it value, something similar apps will have to replicate if they want to stay free. Lightt seems to have early buzz from media and users alike, but whether it can turn that into an engaged user base of millions remains to be seen.