Well folks, there's less than 2 hours left in this amazing Kickstarter campaign. We've come a long way, and raised more than $10,000!! That in itself is an achievement, even if we didn't meet our goal. And thanks to all of your overwhelming support, we've decided that there is no way we're giving up that easily!
We made this signup page so that when we're ready to take another stab at it, we'll be able to keep in touch with all of you:
This is instafocus. It's beautiful, and we love it. But for some reason, some people think we've given up -- that there's no way we could reach our goal. We're here to prove you wrong: there ain't no givin' up here, kid.
Imagine if there was a way to share your photos with your friends and family using a service that treated you like a human being instead of like a product?
We're asking for your help on Kickstarter because that's what we want instafocus to be: amazing.
We want to build instafocus into a standalone photo-sharing platform that you can trust. We'll protect your data, we'll promote talent, skill and creativity, and most of all, we'll never sell out. It's going to be completely independent from Instagram, with our own photo-sharing service, better communication tools, and it'll be built from the ground up - not as a service to be sold to some big tech giant - but for you, the people, the photographers, our friends.
We wrote this a couple of days ago in the hopes of inspiring people with our vision. It's from the heart, and worth a read: http://blog.instafoc.us.
There are hundreds of thousands of you awesome photographers out there who've yet to be found -- that's why we're opening up the doors completely: anyone will be able to join instafocus and share their photos. We'll still showcase beautiful photography, but we'll make discovering other photographers a whole lot easier.
We're also here on Kickstarter because we don't want to rely on investors telling us what we can and can't do; in effect, we're making you guys the investors. We're letting you tell us what you want, instead of someone else you don't know calling the shots. If you've heard about app.net, you'll understand that we're trying to build a similar platform built upon honesty, by humans with morals.
Of course, the great thing about backing us on Kickstarter now is that you won't have to pay later. Even $5 will get you an account for three months! $70 will get you that account for life.
Are you hooked yet? Well, if not, read on and learn about everything we are.
What is instafocus?
The back story.
If you don't already know, we (that's Brandon, Jeremy & Rebecca) built instafocus (yes, it is spelled with a lower-case "i"). It's a universal app for iOS that takes some of Instagram's finest photographers and curates their photos into a real-time showcase.
Frankly, it's not enough.
People love instafocus, but we're still bound by Instagram's existing infrastructure, which not only binds our success to that of another company, but it's exceptionally challenging to work with too:
Communication is almost impossible to manage, recent API limitations have crippled some our core functionality (most notably the real-time API that ensures photos appear on the showcase), and we're finding it harder than ever just to find those great photographers out there that should be added to the showcase.
A breakdown of the app's new features
Direct photo uploads to our own cloud service (completely separate from Instagram). We'll try our best to get EXIF data in there too for the photo geeks.
A robust communication system built from the ground up that'll let you stay in touch with your favorite photographers. View your @mentions in one place, respond to comments in another, send direct messages to your friends, and control it all with black- and white-lists.
We'll let you edit your messages and the photo caption in case you make a mistake.
Photo collections. Give your collection a name, add your favorite photos to it (yours or your friends), and share the collection with your followers.
We're going to store photo likes, but also keep track of the number of times your photo was viewed -- this will help you better gauge your social reach.
You'll be able to #tag photos with your favorite hashtag, but we're going to put a lot of effort into keeping the hashtags relevant and not overrun with millions of unrelated posts.
We'll build in a system for you to easily re-post other photos that you love.
You'll be able to quickly go back and delete as many old photos as you want -- all in one go.
We're going to make it easier to manage multiple accounts -- log into as many as you like and quickly switch between them.
We'll build in better search tools to help you easily manage your relationships.
The app basics and cost
instafocus (we're calling it 2.0 for now) will be developed for iPhone and iPad.
It's going to be free to download, but to hold an account we're going to charge you a modest monthly fee.
A standard account will cost you $2/month. This will let you share photos, comment, send messages, and use all of the app's core components.
A pro account will cost you a little bit more (somewhere in between $3 and $5/month). With this, you'll get a special badge on your profile and the added benefit of uploading full-resolution photos (which will come in handy if you intend to sell prints!).
If you're not sure you want to pay for an account, you'll still be able to download instafocus and view photos, you just won't be able to comment or share your own.
Seriously! Paying for a service like this might seem a little outrageous at first, but consider that by paying, you wouldn't be somebody’s product anymore. We'll be able to control spam, we'll be able to protect your privacy, and we'll never be forced to sell out. Besides, $2 really is less than the price of a cup of coffee.
The back-end technology
We're going to build a feature-rich back-end platform using Amazon's EC2, S3, DynamoDB and CloudFront technologies. These state-of-the-art technologies are crucial to ensuring the app is scalable.
This back-end will be completely independent from Instagram and will accommodate direct photo uploads, a robust communication system, and many more great features (see below!).
We're going to develop a fully-featured private API that will broker communication between the app and the cloud services. Unlike many other social platforms, we're not going to expose this portion of the API to the public -- that way we can better protect your privacy and control spam. All around, this will provide a better user experience.
We're going to expose a read-only public API for anyone to browse and view photos, but we'll take care to ensure it aligns with your own personal privacy preferences. Under some circumstances we may charge a small fee for accessing this mostly for the purposes of quality control.
We're going to implement a sophisticated push notification system so you don't miss anything important -- you'll have complete control too! That way you'll get all of (and only) the notifications you want.
Here's the stuff we had to leave out:
Android?!This was a tough choice to make, but to ensure the project is successfully backed, we elected not to include Android development costs. The good news though?Because of the way Kickstarter works, if we succeed with the stretch goal explained below, we'll be able to build instafocus for 'droid too. Want it? Help spread the word about this Kickstarter!
Photo filters?! As with Android, we're not accounting for the cost of developing photo filters. Again, however, if we succeed with this stretch goal too, we'll be able to code some super-secret filters we've been itching to build. Here's a tease of what they might look like ;)
$65,000 - Android - We'll be able to build instafocus for the most common Android tablets and phones.
$75,000 - Photo Filters - We'll be able to add some of those super-secret filters into instafocus.
$100,000 - Web Interface- We'll be able to develop a web interface for instafocus with all of the app's core features (except photo uploading).
We're human like you, so we're going to build instafocus' privacy architecture with our families and loved ones in mind. And because people will be paying to use instafocus, you'll never have to worry about foggy or cryptic policies. We'll also do our best to translate any "legalese" into language that makes sense.
None. Period. Ever. We might want to allow people to promote their own posts, but that would be the extent of any sort of promotions. And this would be reasonable too -- remember, we want instafocus to always be beautiful, so why would we want to ruin that with ads?
Everything you upload or create will always belong to you forever, no matter what. If you choose to sell it in some form using any of the tools we might offer, that's completely up to you.
We'll never sell, give away, market, or do anything distasteful with your photos at all. You're paying to use the instafocus service, and you deserve to be treated like a human.
Expect that we'll find some creative ways to elicit feedback from you and the rest of the community to help make instafocus the best it can be. Again, you're paying for it, so you deserve a voice. Imagine having actual control over the way we do things! We are, after all, building this for you, so.. why not :)
This one deserves it's own heading because it's just that big of a deal. We're going to be completely honest with you from the start, and we promise that we'll try our absolute darnedest to be as completely up front and transparent with you about the way we're running the show. That way, if you ever have a problem with anything we do, you know you can trust us to make things right.
Don't believe us? Hey, we were already honest about charging you for instafocus ;)
Where We're At
We're currently in the middle of the planning stage. People have been asking for us to do this while (it's not new to us) but we've still got a lot of work to do before we start building anything.
Where Your Money's Going
If this campaign is successful, a lot of the funds will go towards hiring staff to fast-track iOS development. We want to make sure instafocus is as solid and bug-free as possible right from the get go, and we want it built fast.
API development will begin as soon as we know the project has been funded, since we'll be doing that entirely in-house.
If we succeed in our stretch goal for Android, filters and a web interface, we'll be hiring for that too.
The remaining funds will be covering the server costs and will serve as a reserve pool to cover any emergencies on the back-end.
We are in awe at how much mobile photography has changed all of our lives, and we hope you're as excited as we are about taking it to the next level.
Let's build this!
Risks and challenges
Building a platform from scratch without knowing how it's going to grow can be challenging. We're going to do our best to ensure instafocus is designed to scale, but that doesn't guarantee we won't have some bumps along the way.
We've got a great team of people though, and all we can do is work through issues as they present themselves and learn from them.
Over-budget development costs
It's not unheard of that when developing software you sometimes go over budget. Well, ok, truthfully that actually happens a lot. We've tried our best to make sure we'll have extra funds left over for emergencies without going overboard.
While we've done considerable research into the cost of Amazon's services, until we actually begin to host thousands of users, we won't have a clear idea of how much server power we'll actually need. We've budgeted in some padding to cover server emergencies, but the rest will need to come from active subscriptions.
No way! Anyone can have an account so long as they're cool with the $2/mo subscription fee. We're still going to have the showcase of curated photos be the _centerpiece_ of the app (and instafocus will always be photography-focused), but we want people to share their moments and memories on the app and have a chance to have their great talents noticed.
We're going to keep the showcase working more/less the way it is now - selected photographers will have an opportunity to have their work curated into the main 'showcase' page. The great thing about about controlling the entire service though, is that we'll be able to enhance the showcase with things like categories, hash tag searching, and other organizational tools, which will open up new opportunities for more showcasers.
The biggest difference now though, is that rather than just a handful of people getting value out of the app, anyone with an account can post their work and build relationships within the community.
Since we're charging $2/mo for an account, by backing the kickstarter at a particular level, we'll waive the fee for the indicated number of months.
Case: You pledge $5, you get 3 months for free (instead of having to pay $2/mo). You save $1: hooray!
Case: You pledge $20, you get 1 year for free (instead of having to pay $2/mo). You save $4: cha-ching!
Are you well-known or do you run a company? You'll get up to 5 instafocus accounts (pre-activated for LIFE!) for you and your staff + Reward #4 + Reward #5 + Reward #6 + Reward #7, and you'll also get a "verified" or "official" identity indicator on your profile! Did we mention that we don't give these out to just anyone? Once the app launches, it'll be a complex process to be approved for verified/official accounts! Oh, and we're going to have some sweeeeet t-shirts made up. Everyone loves t-shirts right? We'll send you one.
Everything from Reward #8 (but instead ALL of your staff will get pre-activated accounts for LIFE!). We'll also give you special recognition on the instafocus site: we'll put a photo and a link to your personal or business website somewhere prominent!
This is THE BOMB. You get everything from all the rewards, we'll pre-activate instafocus accounts for as many people as you want (for LIFE!), _AND_ you get an invite to the APP LAUNCH PARTY!! Travel's not included, but did we mention it's an open bar?!