Wander has been on the travel radar for over a year now, first announcing nothing at all with their pre-product financing and then executing a much-hyped six-week on-boarding marketing campaign on its website.
Most recently, the company sold T-shirts through online retailer Fab.com. Now, Wander has finally released an actual product - under a different name and platform.
Introducing Wander, err, Days
The product is called Days, and it is a mobile app that allows users to share moments from everyday life by capturing shots quickly without fuss.
The company variously describes Days as "a photo capture and sharing platform that allows our Members to capture, collect, organize, and share digital content about themselves, their days and their lives," or "Days is the most natural, authentic, and casual way to capture and share your life."
Or, more simply, "the first visual diary that lets you capture your life as it really is."
The iTunes App Store points to the supposed differentiators, which (alongside the over-used "authentic") sound a bit forced marketer-speak trying that capture the essence of imagination that Wander's mysterious rollout did.
An edited overview:
★ GIFs! Animated ones!
★ Unique emoji-based commenting system makes it fun to interact with friends and family
★ Works offline.
★ Photos save to your phone’s camera roll
★ In-app diary lets you browse past days
★ One tap to share on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr
★ Share your day via text message or email
★ Supports front & back camera
★ Unlimited free uploads
★ Full emoji keyboard support
★ No camera roll import
★ No filters
★ More time to enjoy the moment
★ Friends ask, “what app is that?”
★ Show, don’t tell, how your day was
★ Instant nostalgia
★ Less time worrying about picking the right filter
The "caveats" mentioned in the iTunes store also point to the absence of filters, and the inability to upload photos from the camera roll.
Ostensibly, this is to provide the most "real" and "authentic" shots from a person's life, rather than the carefully-constructed filter-heavy photos popular on other services. The company touts that "there’s no filters or camera roll import, so you can be you—in less time and without all the stress."
The idea is basically to redefine the way that people capture their photos. Rather than forcing users to pick and perfect one moment with filters, user are encouraged to take photos throughout their day, and then to post the roll from the full day, all at once.
Ergo, this is not a real-time photo-sharing app, but an app that aggregates a day into one module: the user takes photos throughout the day (either singles or a series that they can turn into a GIF), and then is able to post each day's photos in one go.
Each day lasts for 24 hours and starts at 5am. The user is presented with the interface below, where they can see a day's photos before posting them in aggregate. Users cannot access their camera roll, and must take the photos directly from the app - thus creating the "capture the moment unfiltered" value proposition that Days is proposing.
A user's day is presented as a series of moments, which can then be logged and relived at the user's discretion. This is one of the more potentially interesting features as it facilitates a "full life" capture, a sort of memory bank for the digital set.
Rather than being presented with a real-time feed, users see the day-by-day lives of their friends and families. Each day can be browsed, moment-by-moment, in a true visual diary fashion.
The days are full of the unfiltered, everyday moments rather than only the share-worthy. The focus on follower count is also much less pronounced - in fact, new users will find that there's nothing to look at if none of your friends have joined.
Similar to Path's challenges, this is a potentially fraught launch issue, as its just not a useful tool if none of your friend. In initial testing, the app was a bit buggy, with some frustrating random crashes common to other photo-sharing apps. The interface is crisp, the fonts are sleek, the graphics are cutesy, and the overall experience takes some getting used to.
What the people say
As there aren't many people on the service, it's too early to get much early-adopter feedback. As of Friday, there were 19 reviews on iTunes, and here's the scoop:
By Tuesday, there were 157 reviews - anecdotally showing some good traction, especially amongst families with children and companies.
Some love the simplicity of it: without having to choose a filter or pick a creative shot, they seem more likely to use it. Others are comparing it, unsurprisingly, to Vine and Instagram.
While the focus on documenting an entire day makes sense in theory, many are already fatigued with the constant stream of apps documenting their lives.
Will there be space for another app, especially one that requires much more documentation than simply one shot every once and while? Do people want to share the everyday, unfiltered moments of their lives?
And if no friends are on the service, the value proposition becomes murky - even a friendless Instagram and Vine user can be creative with their posts and explore others' creativity.
The creative cachet of the Instagram feed is one of the most appealing aspects of that particular social network, which managed to attract a cult following of designers and photographers quickly. Similarly, the creativity-enabling aspects of Vine has fueled uptake since its launch earlier this year.
For a company that launched itself on a platform of a well-designed website that drew raves for its layout and typography - not to mention contracting famous illustrators and selling high-design tees - this focus on the unfiltered everyday (read: generally unpretty) might prove to be a misfire.
It's kind of like seeing a celebrity just rolled out of bed - pulling back the curtain removes a bit of the mystery and fun of curating a perspective using creative tools.
But what's the strategy here?
The key to the strategy of launching a photo-sharing mobile product under a different name might be found deep in the Terms of Service:
"By Posting any Content on or through the DAYS Services, you grant DAYS an unrestricted, unassignable, sublicensable (through multiple sublicensses), revocable...royalty-free license throughout the universe...to...broadcast, reproduce, edit, modify...or otherwise use and reuse your Content."
The company could build a user base via mobile that is taking pictures tagged with locations, and then be able to transfer those locations to the place-discovery platform.
In this manner, they could develop a database of popular experiences and places that could translate into something that furthers their overall mission.
In-app advertising is a potential direct revenue stream for the company, as the ToS states that the company has rights to display ads with users' content, which points to the more obvious way route to monetization than the longer-term play of taking user content and seeding them into a worldwide discovery module for travelers and locals alike.
As also stated in the ToS, they could develop the photos into photo albums for users, which documents their lives in a physical format.
Um...what about Wander and all those places that were uploaded by users?
In the beginning, the company spent a lot of marketing mojo to get new users to sign up and create their Wanderlogs. Over a 6 week period, users were prompted to upload places from their lives that they loved. They went through the website, and spent time inputting these places.
Wander also came up with their own naming convention that allows places to be marked and tagged with all related photos and mentions. It was called the "Star Mention," and doesn't make it (yet) into this new product.
And yet the product is only vaguely connected at the moment with the wave of expectations the company created by bringing users through a 6 week on-boarding process via an interface explicitly promising a new way to discover and experience place.
Indeed, users do sign into DAYS with their Wander login, and the iTunes App Store page points to @wander as the contact - a brand conflation that begs the question: What happened to Wander? Wasn't this toured as a travel product for the design-savvy? Wander touts itself to potential hires with the following:
We challenge traditional ways of creating a product and business. We've created one of the most successful viral launch campaigns ever, been covered by the New York Times and launched a blog featuring some of the best illustrators on the planet. We're launching Wander through TechStars NYC and we're backed by some of the best in the business, including: NextView Ventures, SoftTech VC, SV Angel, Google Ventures, Collaborative Fund and Red Swan.
So by challenging the traditional way of creating a product, the company does marketing before product, and then builds a wave of expectation around place-specific logging and sharing. And then pivots completely without telling those invested in the first iteration, and launches a completely different product.
They've done a great job of getting people to talk about them, and one of the perils of this buzz is that it sets up expectations that, when left unmet or even unaddressed, leaves a bad taste in the mouths of some. As far the underlying strategy behind DAYS, TechCrunch says that
Wander is the umbrella brand behind a lot of lifestyle products the company is working on. Since Wander is focused on travel, and recording your experiences to be lived by others, Days has been released as a counterpart to that.
Co-founder Jeremy Fisher has pointed vaguely to this fact in an interview with Business Insider, which now makes more sense given that there's finally a product to demonstrate the strategy:
We saw a gap between curation and location that wasn’t being tapped. There are improvised user behaviors happening on other networks that we’ve observed, and this is a platform for those behaviors.
The company wants to place itself at the center of users' lives, both in the everyday sense and on any worldwide jaunts. Analyzing these so-called "improvised user behaviors," ie. how users make platforms their own, the company intends to build a network of related products.
It's been said before, and should be said again: being unconventional in marketing and business can be admirable, but if being unconventional means focusing on buzz-before-product, there's the risk of alienating would-be-evangelists before they even get a chance to try to the product.
As one Quora user pointed out awhile back, as the product-less Wander marketing was in full force:
"I’m starting to feel that their marketing strategy is a bit sleazy."
The Wander team has a significant challenge ahead of them, not only to manage expectations run amok by the pre-marketing, but to ensure success of a product that hinges on user uptake.
The danger in creating buzz by stoking imaginations without managing expectations is very real, and any travelers expecting a design-focused, place-based discovery tool will be left wondering how this new visual diary fits into their lives.
Outside of travel, the Days app might see significant uptake among communities focused on documenting their lives together - families, groups, businesses. However, the relative simplicity of the experience might turn off the creative class seeking visually-stunning ways of expressing their lives.
NB: Questions sent to the Days team, including co-founder Jeremy Fisher, went unanswered as of publication.