You may have noticed a couple of “random” photos on this blog recently.  This is because I’ve been trying out a…hmm…clever?…service called PressGram.

PressGram is a service and iOS app that was Kickstarter-funded and that attempts to mimic the features of something like Instagram, but with automatic posting to WordPress blogs, and a policy of NOT own or use your photos. By which I think they mean wanting to use them in any other way than for the purpose of running the PressGram “social network”.

While I’m not a hugely visual person, I like the idea of Instagram, but I don’t like the fact that it’s owned by Facebook (a service that I have a minimal presence on) and I don’t like what they might do with my photos; Facebooks terms allow your images to be used in adverts, for example. And, I believe, they don’t just have these permissions, but they actively do these kinds of things.

You can read about PressGram in their about page.

While I kind-of get the PressGram mission and objectives and I support the notion of an app like this, a few things have bothered me about it.

Understanding

I confess that I didn’t back PressGram on KickStarter because I didn’t quite understand what it did.  Was it just an app that published photos to WordPress and had nice filters? Or did it do something more?

Now that PressGram is out (and has been around for a while), I understand that it’s a social network based around your photos, with discovery, liking, commenting, etc.  So it’s more than just an upload-to-WordPress app.

I think it’s also not clear where your photos end up.  Or why you’d need to publish them to WordPress if they’re also on the PressGram network.

I think that what PressGram is, and why it’s needed, is proving hard to communicate succinctly.  I’d certainly struggle to be an advocate for it. I think it does too many things and is confusing as a result.

Terms

PressGram, and it’s creator, has a great goal in letting you maintain ownership, control, and page-views of/for your content: your photos!  But, this is confused by its terms of service which grant PressGram “a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content”.

This is pretty standard terminology and I guess it’s required for any service that is publishing your content on the web using an app. You MUST grant this right in order for something like PressGram to serve its most basic purposes. And the term is clarified as being “solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting your Content in the app”.

But this section of the terms jars a little when you’re signing up for a service that’s main selling point is that it lets you keep ownership of your content. I truly believe that they let you keep your content, and won’t sell it, or use it for any other purposes than making the app work, but the legal words they need to use to achieve that still give them great power.

Plus: “Pressgram reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to modify or replace any part of this Agreement. It is your responsibility to check this Agreement periodically for changes.” For a service that prides itself on it’s legal rules, this also seems a little unfair.

Sustainability

I was surprised to find that PressGram didn’t use MY web hosting to display my images.  From what I gather they are first uploaded from the phone app to Amazon S3 cloud-based storage, and then from there to my WordPress blog(s).  And a copy is kept on the Amazon storage.

This means that John Saddington, PressGram’s founder and creator, is paying to store all of the PressGram images on Amazon S3.  And that number of images will grow and grow over time. What I don’t understand is how PressGram will sustain itself. There’s talk of getting some kind of funding, and of in-app purchases. And John is aware of this business problem. But I’m not convinced that he’s solved it or got a sustainable business plan. I do find myself wondering if PressGram will last

Don’t get me wrong, John’s done a great job of building the app and the community – it’s a huge achievement and his heart is totally in the right place, and I’ll probably up my usage of the PressGram app because it’s a brilliant way to post simple images to this blog (look out for more photos!). But I not convinced, yet, about what PressGram is, why it’s needed, and how long it will last.

Is anyone else using it? What do you think?