Let’s face it: everything Facebook touches eventually turns into an engagement honeypot behind which lies an algorithmic whirlpool designed to suck attention that can be packaged and eventually sold to advertisers. And that is why I am not surprised that Instagram is moving on from its photography roots. And why not: it had to keep up the likes of TikTok, who are sucking attention away from Instagram. Not surprisingly, many photographers feel a little double-crossed. Hey, welcome to Zuck’s Planet.
However, for two big tech refugees, Tom Watson and Stefan Borsje, this is an opportunity: they have created Glass, a photographer-focused community and photosharing service whose primary focus in photos and a community-focused on the art of photography. (For now, it is available only on Apple’s iOS.)
I have only been using Glass for a few hours, but I think it is a wonderful place. It is very much what you make of it: you post the photos you want to show others — with some exceptions — you follow who you want to follow, and your feed is just that combination. You see the most recent images without stuff being algorithmically injected into your feed, and everything feels very carefully considered.
Malik interviewed the two founders. I appreciate this response, from Watson, to a question about what makes Glass different:
But how we are going about implementing features. For example, currently, we don’t have likes. If and when we launch a feature in that vein, it’ll be private. We’ve intentionally avoided any public counts. We don’t want Glass ever to become a popularity contest. We’re not home for influencers. We are a home for photographers.
So, we have focused on comments in Glass, and there’s a big reason for that. We want to spur discussion about the photograph. For example, we highlight EXIF data in our app. That leads to conversations about lenses, for example. We’ve seen some amazing threads happen in our early testing by making comments the primary way to interact with a photo.
Glass really does feel different. It feels like a more creative, slower, and more laid-back kind of place. Instagram was the closest thing there was to a great photo sharing experience for phones. But its evolution into a marketing and video platform has robbed it of that initial charm. Glass does not feel like it aspires to boast a billion users, and it is better for it.