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Cooliris picture viewer going socio-local with Liveshare

Browser plug-in maker finally making a destination service with a potentially strong business model.

Cooliris, which originally made a whizzy plug-in for displaying images from the Web, is finally expanding beyond just making software that leeches on the install of other products (browsers) and is delivering an actual unique business. It feels like a small play to me, but it's focused and addresses a real opportunity.

The company is re-releasing Liveshare, a mobile, social, photo-sharing app designed for venues and events. The idea is that people at an event, like a concert, will use the app to snap pictures on their smartphones. Since the phones know their location and time, it's easy for them to automatically tag pictures as belonging to a particular event. The service has been tested so far at Kiss concerts; the company is announcing today a wider roll-out and new apps for Android (available today), iPhone (soon), and the iPad (to follow).

Other people can then see pictures flow into an event in real time, or after the fact. At an event, smartphone users might to see what's happening on the other side of the stadium; viewers at home can use a Web or iPad app to see what they're missing or what they just missed. The app can also post updates to Facebook.

The Liveshare smartphone app lets you contribute to the live photo stream of whatever event you're attending. It also shows you a list of events you're missing.

The company also provides a special "Jumbotron" version for venue operators, to bring the crowd's photos to the whole audience. (It has a moderation queue so Liveshare users at an event can't Live-moon the people they're hanging out with.)

The list of events is populated in advance using a feed from Eventful, so users can see what is happening or is scheduled to happen and can make plans accordingly. But Cooliris' real business will come as it actively pitches the service to venues and traveling shows. The company is still "looking for the sweet spot in monetization," Cooliris Vice President Michele Turner told me, but there are decent options for this Web service that touch down in the real world. Like Foursquare and Facebook, the company could do deals with venues to coordinate rewarding photo check-ins from users. Advertising could go into the feeds too; pitching concert souvenirs or refreshments on slides that appear on the "Jumbotron" might work. Or the service could just be sold outright to venue operators.

To give an impression of critical mass, Cooliris is focusing hard right now on getting this service supported primarily by San Francisco Bay Area venues. We're the test case. Going door-to-door won't work as the company scales up this project, but for now, local venues are getting special hand-holding.

I asked about the use of this service at private events, like weddings and parties. That's not the focus of the first generation of the Liveshare business. I think it'd be a decent way to goose the viral spread of the app, though.

Liveshare is an intimate little app. It can take a large event, like a football game or giant music festival, and make it feel more like a tight community by highlighting the personal photos and experiences that people are sharing at the moment. I'm frankly not sure if the revenue side of the equation will work, but as a social experiment I'm curious to see if it can be as engaging as I think it should be.