Baidu’s New Photo-Sharing Service Needs Less #Boobs# and More Instagram Hipsters


The trends/hashtag section of the Baidu PhotoSola app. (Image source: the author)

I’ve never said this before, but here goes: I’ve just seen too many boobs, and it’s got to stop. You see, Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) bought the Chinese start-up PhotoWonder earlier this week, which makes an Instagram-like photo-sharing service called PhotoSola. Trouble is, this loyal-user of the service wants to see more hipster-esque shots of cups of coffee or black-and-white snaps of subway stations (never thought I’d say that, either) instead of the un-creative mish-mash of crowd-sourced #boobs# – yes, that’s currently the third-listed hashtag within PhotoSola’s mobile app – and random pictures filched from porn sites and ‘funny photo’ websites.

So, for Baidu’s newly-owned PhotoSola to survive and prosper – and avoid censure from the authorities as well – it seriously needs to figure a way to remove all the user-generated (and user-pirated) nudity, and instead foster a social network that values creativity and artful photos. This extends even to scenes of landscapes or things. I want to see totally original user-made images from where people are, not what someone has taken off of the web. Photo-sharing apps, with all their filters and LBS integration, are supposed to be whimsical and ephemeral, giving the viewer a sense of place, time, and atmosphere.

You're doing it wrong. (Left) Photo-sharing is not about nudity; (Right) You didn't actually take that photo, so I don't want to see it.

On Instagram, in contrast to PhotoSola, there are refreshingly few reposted photos that have been ripped from the internet, adding greater value to the photo-sharing experience by knowing that you’re seeing mostly original content from around the world. Browsing through the third-party Webstagram site, you can delve into some of Instagram’s hashtags, and see a vibrant community full of pictures snapped in the moment.

Even the potential pitfall of Instagram’s #girl hashtag is not an issue, as there appears to be no nudity and mostly user-created photos. PhotoSola’s tags for ‘beautiful girls’ ‘self pic’ and even ‘scenery’ have been ruined, however, by a combination of spammers and clueless users.

You're doing it right: An Instagram user snaps a subway train in Japan.

I should point out that PhotoSola, with its very nice-looking apps, is being used by more and more people around the world, and so it’s not just Chinese users who seem to be failing to get into the spirit of snapping more creatively.

In all fairness, PhotoSola does a lot of things that Instagram does not. For starters, the Chinese service has an Android app – whereas I get the feeling that Instagram is getting some Apple payola to avoid going onto Google’s (NASQAQ:GOOG) OS – as well as an iPhone one, and integrates seamlessly with local social networks, such as Sina’s (NASDAQ:SINA) microblog platform, Weibo. When we were at TC Disrupt Beijing recently, we saw Instagram’s co-founder, Kevin Systrom, say that Weibo would be a “great idea” for his start-up, but we’re not going to hold our breath for that.

In the meantime, we support PhotoSola as a full-featured, locally-made iteration of a photo-sharing social site – but it really needs to clean up and focus. And stop being so obsessed with boobs. There are, afterall, plenty of Chinese competitors ready to pounce.

If you’d like to give Baidu’s PhotoSola a try, here’s the link for iPhone and Android.

(And yes, we're serious about ethics and transparency. More information here.)

Read More