Love it or loath it, the smartphone app Color is one of the most innovative Web products to have launched this year. It has a user experience that is as unique and different as Twitter was 5 years ago. This has led to confusion about how to use Color and questions about its value. In this post we look at the early uses of Color and analyze its chances of emulating the success of Twitter.

Color launched last month in a whirl of hype, mostly due to the eye-opening $41 million prelaunch funding. But since then, the user experience has been the center of focus. Many people have complained that the app is difficult to understand - mainly because the benefits of the app are only clear once you use it amongst a crowd of people and in real-time. The user interface of the app has also been accused of being confusing and inconsistent.

What is Color, Again?

Color enables you to share "photos, videos and conversations" with a group of people who are at the same location as you. The idea is that it's only useful when you're in the proximity of a group of people. That word, proximity, has since become a trending term among the tech set. Rather than being about your social connection to someone, Color is about how close you are to them. Is this the next wave of mobile apps? Color is hoping so.

Here's a quick intro:

Color Demo from Color Labs, Inc. on Vimeo.

The ideal use case for Color then, is for events with large groups of people - like a concert or conference. Color ostensibly allows you to share your experience with that group; as well as augment your experience by giving you alternate views and allow you to see things that you'd otherwise have missed. ReadWriteWeb's resident hacker, Tyler Gillies, recently used Color at a tech conference and noted that it allowed him to see slides from many different sessions.

Color Goes to the Movies

In mid-April, Color set out to showcase its new app at the premiere of a new Hollywood film called "Water for Elephants." At the event, 49 people took 788 photos using Color - according to the event's web page. In scanning those photos, they range from official and fan photos of the movie's stars as they walk down the the red carpet, to photos of fans as they wait for the action to start.

If the goal was "to bring the red carpet to fans who could not be in Manhattan," as HollywoodNews.com claimed, then that didn't work. While I personally believe that the world can never have enough photos of Reese Witherspoon, it's doubtful that 788 blurry photos of the red carpet was a compelling experience for people who didn't attend.

The real question is: what value did the people taking those photos get from Color, while the event was happening? I couldn't find any of that user feedback online and so I've asked Color for comment. In the meantime, I asked the ReadWriteWeb community via Twitter if they've used Color, and if so was it of value? Here's a sample of responses, collected via Storify:

Color's Future

I started out this post by comparing Color's user experience to Twitter 5 years ago, which baffled early adopters too. Indeed, Color co-founder Peter Pham recently told The Hollywood Reporter that Color is like a "visual Twitter."

In the end, Color is a unique app and it isn't precisely like any other - even Twitter. While there were some initial problems with the functionality, I am optimistic about Color's future. As smartphones and other Internet-connected devices proliferate, it will be apps that augment our real world experiences that will prosper.

Once the early adopters get used to Color - and it will take time to figure out how and where Color works best, just as it did with Twitter - then I expect to see usage filter through to mainstream users at concerts, events, conferences and other large gatherings of people. Whoever is the next Lady Gaga in 5 years time, my bet is that her concerts will generate thousands of photos and videos from Color users.

In short, I believe that Color has a very good chance of becoming a large scale success like Twitter. Certainly it's funded to do so!

Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts on Color's future, or your usage of it now, in the comments.

UPDATE: See also the follow up post: How Color is Being Used. It features more examples of Color usage, including from a concert and a BBQ.