Long ago in a lost world before email existed, there was something called ‘Pen Pals’. The concept was that people could share their lives with another person somewhere in the world by writing letters with a pen and paper, sometimes this person would be a stranger. It was almost like experiencing another life through their story. Fast forward to the world of smartphones and everything ‘social’, creative apps are allowing people to share their lives instantly with not just text, but also sound, pictures and video. Now a new app called C2 by Square C was just released today to let people swap their lives with someone random in the world.
How can a smartphone possibly give you the life of another? It sounds all too science fiction to be true. And it is. However like the Pen Pal concept, C2 is a one to one image exchange platform that allows people to share their lives with a stranger by posting pictures of anything. The trend of social discovery is becoming more and more popular through mobile apps. Another example is PicPic that uses an augmented reality bird to fly around the world and let you see different things from other people’s eyes or camera phone.
So how does C2 work? It lets people anonymously share photos in real-time with people from the far side of the world! The kind of fun or creepy thing is that the system automatically matches you with a random partner. For example a man in Sydney at 2pm could be sharing photos with someone in San Francisco at 9am. But if you think your partner is boring or too creepy, you can disconnect with them; less painful than de-friending someone on Facebook at least. If that is too harsh for you, you can choose an unhappy icon face or comment ‘wtf’.
The vision is to show people stuck in one place what it is happening somewhere else, almost like a double-life or teleportation device. Ideally you want to see interesting things of cool people, places or events but it is likely random people will take even more random photos. I tried the app out, and took a photo of myself. My ‘partner’ took a picture of a table and a couch. So to be equally mysterious, I took a picture of my laptop mouse. I can already sense this will be fruitful relationship.
My initial thoughts of this app are that it is a very interesting idea and it could definitely evolve into something very cool. Who knows, people might end up even getting married if they find the right partner through this app. However, the app needs to incentivise people to take photos of interesting things. One way, is to gamify it and tell people things to take pictures of like a red Ferrari sports car or themselves doing a dance in public; then rewarding them for it. Another way to make it more interesting could be to give people the choice of selecting who their partner is. For example, I might purposely select someone in Japan because I want to learn more about Japan. But of course this can only be achieved once the network of people is formed. Since the app was just released, this will take some time to build up.
Square C is a start-up based in Beijing and only started last year. On its website they proclaim to be “probably the ‘most mature’ start-up team in mobile internet” and have an average age of 33 years but have an average industry experience of 10 years. The team is made up of Shu Wei, a Stanford MBA with investment, marketing and entrepreneur experience and Huang Huiming who has 14 years internet experience.