Shoto wants to make photo sharing more private

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on October 17, 2013

From The News Desk

I have more than 1,000 photos on my phone, each organized temporally starting with my first photo in 2007 (a nice shot of my mother) up until my most recent one this morning (a tasty egg I cooked). If I'm bored it's fun to take a stroll down memory lane and see the first few that I snapped, but other than those fleeting moments I rarely interact with my phone album unless I'm uploading a photo to Instagram or Facebook. Additionally, quite often there are photos I simply don't want broadcasted to the entire world.

Well, now there's an photo app that is about "sharing without thinking." Okay, what does that mean? Shoto, which sounds like a new Japanese junk food, performs two functions: It automatically creates albums based on where a picture was taken (via geotagging), and, if the user is okay with it, shares these photographic shared moments with the people involved.

Let's say I went to Las Vegas with my friends and documented my escapades in photos. Shoto would know via the timestamp and geotagging that I was in Vegas in early October and group them into one album. Further, it would notice that my friends (who, duh!, also use Shoto) were there and surmise that we were together. Thus all the Vegas photos are dropped in one album without having to manually upload them on Facebook or Dropbox.

Shoto's co-founder and 'chief wizard' Sachin Dev Duggal told me that 1.5 billion photos are taken everyday on smartphones, but only 15 to 17 percent end up online. While some may not be meant for any online exposure, à la Anthony Weiner, it's also difficult to control who can and can't view them once the photos are uploaded.

As Duggal explained it, sometimes there are just "nights you don't want to share with everyone." Shoto the front door!

In essence, Shoto is trying to create a platform that creates private networks of photo-sharers. It ups the ante, however, in the way it automatically groups them. Duggal sees Shoto as tapping an area that is "privately social. It's not just broadcasting and not just sharing."

Like any social or quasi-private-social-platform, it will need a large user base for it to have any real value. While it's nice to automatically group my photos based on where I am, the only way for me to truly interact with Shoto is if all of my friends use it.

Despite this, Duggal has high hopes. "We're only starting with photos," he said alluding to the possibilities of expanding to recommendations by leveraging users' data. Of course, this is now moving into Foursquare territory, but if Shoto becomes a widely used product it could have impressive data mining possibilities.

That's a big if. The app just debuted at the DEMO Conference, and is now waiting for the masses to download it. If the masses sign on, well, then maybe "sharing without thinking" will become a "thing."

But maybe Duggal should think of a better tagline; In general, I'm pro-thought.