Shane BarnhillSunday,25 August 2013

The Snap:

Recently, I wrote about a trend toward transient and/or untraceable messaging, of which apps such Snapchat and Whisper are a part. These apps are particularly popular with younger users, who want to evade the permanence and potential long term ramifications of Google’s search results. Whisper’s anonymous secrets and Snapchat’s self-destructing photos help mitigate the risk that these posts will become part of some sort of permanent record that is housed by Google and available to be used against younger users later in life.

The Download:

Rando is another app that is part of this trend. Billed as “an experimental photo exchange platform,” the Rando app enables the sharing and receiving of photos (called “randos”) between users all over the world. To receive a photo through the app, a person must first share one, which will then be randomly delivered to another Rando user. The big catch, of course — and this is where Rando fits in with the ephemeral messaging trend — is that the photo-swapping process is completely anonymous. There are no names attached to the photos — only general location information, such as the city and country where the photo was either delivered or sent from. So unless you’re a famous person who deliberately includes your face in a photo, there is almost no chance that a photo can be traced back to you personally. Furthermore, Rando eschews social sharing. There are no options to share photos to popular social channels such as Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. This provides another layer of obscurity by making it difficult to tie photos to the identify of individuals.

Given the anonymity of Rando’s users, one might expect Rando to deteriorate into a seedy, Chatroulette-like haven for dick pics and other sexually-explicit content. In my experience, however, that hasn’t happened. Rando provides a simple mechanism for flagging offensive photos. By double-tapping on a photo, a person can save, delete, or flag the photo as inappropriate. Presumably, users whose photos are flagged will end up being banned from Rando.

Rando ‘s design is interesting, and while it’s mostly smart, it’s also the source of my biggest complaint about the app. Rando utilizes a modern, flat design with generous white space and red icon that “hovers” over the app’s two photo streams to provide a persistent shortcut for snapping photos. Sent and received photos are organized into separate streams for easy browsing through up- and down-swipes. Buttons and icons are simple and clean. All in all, Rando’s design is intuitive, beautiful, and gets out of the way of the photo-swapping process.

But Rando’s design does have some issues. To nitpick a bit, the stream for received photos features a downward-facing arrow at the top left, while the stream for sent photos has an arrow that points upward. While intended to cue users to swipe and view photos, the divergent arrow directions are temporarily confusing. Users swipe the same way on both screens for perusing through photos. The different arrows (see photos, below) are an odd choice, but overall, this is a minor issue.

Down Arrow Up Arrow

My biggest concern about Rando’s design — or more aptly, its functionality — is the lack of a mechanism for accessing photos that are stored on a user’s device. You can’t send a rando of a photo that you’ve taken previously and stored on your phone’s camera roll. Instead, all randos must originate within the app. I suspect this will harm the app’s longevity; already, I’m using it less frequently because of this annoyance. I often find myself thinking, “Oh, that photo would make a great rando,” but I’m left without a means to bring it into the app. I doubt most Rando users will move away from their long-held behavior of taking photos primarily through their native device cameras, and toward defaulting to capturing photo-worthy moments via Rando. It’s just not a sustainable behavior, and I expect it will hurt Rando over the long-term unless the app evolves to support access to device camera rolls.

Despite this issue, Rando is an app worth checking out. It’s available in the major app marketplaces — Google Play, Apple’s App Store, and even the Windows Phone store — and carries 4-star ratings in each.

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Image Credit: Flickr

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