In December 2011 I took a look at an app called Wander (no, not that Wander; a different one) that aimed to let you explore the world through images. It was a bit like having technologically-based pen-pal. Wander allowed you to connect with people in any one of 80 countries and you could share your lunch, your journey to work, and what you do of an evening to get to know each other and where you live, through pictures. It seemed like a fairly neat idea that allowed you to explore and learn about new places while sharing yours. It didn't, however, catch on as the developers had hoped and Wander closed down on 16 August owing to financial difficulties.
Undeterred, some of Wander's original developers have gone on to launch Planett, a Wander-esque app that allows users to discover new places and people by featuring photos tagged with 'missions' from all over the world and organising them into 'city feeds'. Wander's one-to-one element has had to take a back seat for now, but the Planett team is hoping that it can be introduced soon.
I'm impressed by the Planett team's tenacity, but I'm left with some nagging doubts about the app's viability. If it failed on financial grounds the first time around, how will the revamped version fare? There are two underpinning factors here: either Wander didn't fulfil a gap in the market and wasn't popular with potential users; or the team weren't able to monetise it effectively.
Rehashing an app that people didn't want to engage with won't necessarily make it any more popular. If that's the case, then Planett is, sadly, already on a hiding-to-nothing.
Not being able to monetise the app effectively could have been because the developers simply didn't know how to do it. They couldn't see a way to make the app economically lucrative and therefore didn't. That's fine if you're able to bankroll an app as a personal project, but not if you need to transform it into a self-sustaining business. Given that Wander closed owing to financial shortcomings, it suggests that it didn't fall into the category of a developer's part-time project. Seeing the way that Wander went doesn't fill me with confidence that Planett can be maintained as a developer's toy, either. If that were the case, then Wander would still be meandering along.
I sincerely hope that the Planett team hasn't sauntered over from Wander thinking that they can monetise it 'somehow' without having thought it through. Attempting the same scheme but expecting a different outcome is somewhere between futile and fanciful. What I would like to know then is what's the plan, Planett? I have asked Planett's developers to elaborate on the app's monetisation potential, but I'm yet to receive response. Without one, I can only anticipate Planett will head towards the same pale blue yonder of Wander.
Alternatively, the Wander team did attempt to monetise their app, but it didn't raise enough revenue. That doesn't bode well for Planett, either: it casts doubt on the monetisation potential of the app. Sure, Planett might have a different vision to Wander, but there's no evidence of it yet. Planett's developers need to consider if their app is something that plugs a gap in the market and if people will be prepared to pay for it, somehow.
Planett's selling points are that it allows you to explore your world, you can follow 'cool people' who share photos from places you want to visit, you can visit cities pictorially and explore them 'at ground level', and it provides you with photo missions to inspire you and get your creative juices flowing. As you share more images of where you live, you can unlock more images uploaded by other people.
Is this enough to tempt people to join and to share their photos? After all, you can already explore the world photographically using geolocation information with Flickr, Instagram, and EyeEm, and you can follow heaps of people with varying degrees of coolness on all three of those sites. EyeEm has the photo missions element built in, too. The real kicker for Planett is that these examples are already well-established communities with billions of photos, and that they're free. Without something to set it apart, Planett is facing an uphill struggle.
Wander's unique selling point was the one-on-one relationships that it fostered. Planett is hoping to adopt this feature but it hasn't got there yet. Without it, or another appealing and original facet, Planett is trying to establish itself amongst already settled groups that might not be willing to shift (or at least join).
There are billions of photos on the Intergoogles and hundreds, if not thousands, of different ways of sharing them. But if a new kid on the block is going to survive against already well-established communities and ensure its sustainability, it has to know to whom it is appealing, and how. Does Planett?