(Mashable) -- New mobile photo apps such as Instagram, Picplz and Path represent the next generation of photo sharing -- where high quality photos are snapped and shared in seconds on your mobile device.
Instagram and Picplz focus on the instantaneous point-and-share functionality of smart phones while providing users with filters to fancify and enhance photos and the tools to share them with the world.
Path makes the same bet that users will capture important moments in their lives on their mobile devices, but instead assumes that users prefer to share these intimate memories with just friends and family.
Each aims to capitalize on the convergence of key mobile and social networking trends with a closed-loop approach: users take, share and view photos entirely on their mobile device.
The online photo sharing movement can be looked at in three distinct product cycles: photo-only sites, social networks and now mobile.
In the early and mid 2000s there was a measurable boom in online photo sharing services. That boom brought us Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket, ImageShack and dozens more.
It also led to key acquisitions -- Yahoo purchased Flickr, Google bought Picasa and Fox Interactive snatched up Photobucket -- and a widespread user interest in using the web to share photos. The trend was also fueled by the prevalence (and falling prices) of digital cameras.
In the late 2000s, social networking has dramatically grown in popularity and photo sharing has become standard fare on Twitter and Facebook. These two services alone served as a catalyst for the second photo sharing boom, which had a slightly narrowed focus on instantaneous sharing to friends and followers.
As of July of this year, Facebook now sees more than 100 million photo uploads every day. In 2008, TwitPic kicked off the Twitter photo sharing phenomena and dozens of copycats hurried to pile on in the hopes of a building tools for users to quickly share photos on Twitter.
Now in 2010, mobile photo sharing products from Picplz, Instagram and Path represent the next boom in photo sharing. These startups are strategically focusing on mobile first and aiming to capitalize on both the ever-improving quality of smartphone cameras and users' desire to snap and share with ease.
The trend in action
Mobile phone cameras have been around for years, but until recently poor photo quality was a deterrent that prevented device owners from using their mobile phones as their primary cameras. That's no longer the case.
Now there is a vast array of smartphones available capable of producing photos that are as good, if not better than, the many digital cameras. As a result, more and more users are opting to use their mobile device to capture, save and share stunning photo memories.
The common belief is that mobile users want a friction-free way to capture and post photos, minus the clunkiness and time commitment usually required when transferring photos from mobile device to desktop to web.
Entrepreneurs and investors are just now starting to build or invest in mobile-only applications specifically designed with these users in mind.
Path, for instance, was generating buzz long before its launch thanks to the pedigree of its founders and its all-star cast of investors, including Ron Conway, Keith Rabois, Paul Buchheit and Ashton Kutcher.
It's unclear how well its private approach to mobile photo sharing is catching on, but its existence suggests there may be other unexplored roads entrepreneurs can traverse to capitalize on mobile photos.
Picplz founder -- and former Imeem creater -- Dalton Caldwell is making an educated bet that mobile photo sharing will become big business. The startup landed $5 million from investment firm Andreessen Horowitz, which clearly shares the same vision.
And then there's Instagram, the two month-old, hit iPhone app that signed on more than 100,000 users in its first week and is now seeing two to three photo uploads per second.
As more mobile device owners upgrade to smartphones -- and there's still plenty of room for growth here -- and mobile cameras continue to improve in quality, more startups and businesses will form to cater to the modern conveniences that instant mobile sharing affords users. They will build for mobile first and web second, if at all.
Plus, since history tends to repeat itself, we can expect Google and Yahoo to make acquisitions to stay competitive in the mobile frontier.
Of course, Facebook -- particularly keen on improving its photos offering -- will also continue to make strategic acquisitions to maintain its place in the photo sharing market.
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