Austin, Texas-based startup Blurtt is launching its iOS app today, and it aims to provide users with more tools for expressing themselves beyond standard photo-sharing or status update apps. CEO and founder Jeanette Cajide believes users struggle to communicate adequately with the tools currently available for mobile social sharing, and she thinks Blurtt can help complete the picture.
Blurtt allows users to share images paired with a short caption to help people express more than pictures alone. Captions are limited to 100 characters, and users can then change the placement of the text, along with its size and font. Posts created by Blurtt users can be modified by others, so the possibility of a post taking on life of its own and becoming a meme is definitely baked into the app. Users can then share their creations via Twitter or Facebook, making viral sharing an obvious possible outcome.
Despite that apparent use case, Cajide says that Blurtt is not really intended as a meme-generator. “We envision Blurtt as much more than meme-generating,” she said in an interview. “People struggle to convey emotion and tone in today’s texts, emails and status updates without filling them with emoticons. With Blurtt, we are providing a much more visual and powerful way to communicate tone, feelings, mood, and more.”
Cajide also wants to distinguish between Blurtt and social photo sharing apps like Instagram. “You have the option with Blurtt to use photos from your phone to help create a message, but we believe the majority of users will use our web search to find images that convey what they want to say,” she said, which makes the app actually sound a lot more like Pinterest or Tumblr, in that it provides a quick means for users to share and draw inspiration from the works of others.
Overall, the goal of this incarnation of Blurtt is to scratch the same essential itch as emoticons, the popularity of which Cajide says are a sure sign that smartphone users are interested in conveying emotion in their communications. That’s a little different from the original vision of Blurtt, which in 2009 planned to deliver customized physical postcards to people back under departed co-founder and then-CEO Nikhil Sethi (now at social advertising startup Adaptly).
The revamped Blurtt’s digital approach is a a more focused one, and Cajide hopes that will help the company eventually attract targeted advertising from brand partners as a means of monetizing the app. First, though, she says that focus is on building value for users in order to attract a strong community to the platform. The company has secured an undisclosed amount of angel investment, and has self-funded the project in the meantime.
Blurtt faces a couple of serious challenges, including convincing users that while an image may be worth a thousand words, an image with a caption is worth even more. Also, it will have to avoid becoming the type of meme-generating mobile machine that Cajide emphasized it goes beyond. Without careful moderation and a strong shaping of the community, Blurtt’s model of encouraging remixes of shared content could veer toward unwanted modification. But on the other hand, it could also be the birthplace of the next viral internet phenomenon.