Services & Software

Bokeh, a new tool for quietly logging your memories

The service aims to strike a balance that's not as locked down as a diary and not as public as Facebook. It's from the people behind the PetaPixel photo blog.

Bokeh posts can be written only with an iOS app for now, but the service's developers plan to add Android and Web support, too.

Facebook is great for extroverted folks who want to broadcast their thoughts and photos to a lot of people. A new service called Bokeh, though, is geared for those who want something closer to a private journal -- though not too close.

Michael Zhang and Mike Zupan just launched Bokeh on Tuesday, offering the inevitable iOS app with an online site where people can store photos and thoughts. It's a spinoff from PetaPixel, the photography blog Zhang founded and of which he's now editor in chief.

There are plenty of journaling services available, but Zhang generally thinks they're too private. "Bokeh is a middle ground," he said, aiming to make it easy to remember what happened on a given day and to make it possible to share with those whom you grant password-protected access.

"Social media is very geared toward broadcasting rather than remembering. Services like Twitter or Facebook make it extremely easy to store bits and pieces of your life, but you're putting everything in front of other people's faces through their feeds, and looking up days in the past isn't very easy," he said.

However, those services have shown how easy it should be to create posts, and Zhang hopes to bring some of that simplicity to the job of logging what's going on and looking to see what happened on a specific date in the past without scrolling chronologically back through dozens or hundreds of posts.

To get traction, though, Bokeh will have to compete with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, and many other sites -- sites that do often offer some settings for a more private style of sharing even if it's not as easy as some would like. And for anyone who wants a more public site, adding a more private service like Bokeh means an entirely separate account rather than just tweaking a few sharing settings when composing a post.

The Bokeh app is designed to let people easily find out what was happening on a specific day in the past and to make it easier to whip up a quick post out of photos and text.
The Bokeh app is designed to let people easily find out what was happening on a specific day in the past and to make it easier to whip up a quick post out of photos and text. Bokeh

The free service's costs are paid by PetaPixel revenue. Later, advertising can be added as way to make money, Zhang said.

"We're self-funded for now, and can be for quite some time," Zhang said. "We'll be able to grow significantly on PetaPixel's back until we do need to start looking for some serious funding from outside sources."

Plans for new features include an Android app and a Web interface for writing posts.

"We're definitely aiming to release for Android as well, but we want to see how iPhone users react first and see what feedback we get," he said. "Android is a huge market now, but we actually did find doing iOS easier for this first launch. Everything is so standardized, and there's less variables we need to worry about. For example, the screens are all the same width, and the onscreen keyboards are all the same height. For Android, there are just so many things you need to account for, and it starts to get really messy really fast."

Bokeh logo

More features are planned for the service itself, too: searching, commenting on posts, categorizing them into various types, and reading others' posts with the mobile app.

The service's name also owes a debt to PetaPixel.

"In photography, bokeh is the quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photograph. Our goal is to help you remember the small things in life that would otherwise disappear from your memory and be lost forever," Zhang said. "For uneventful days, it's very easy to completely forget them for the rest of your life as if you never lived them. Even if you snap a simple photo here and there, it really helps you remember those days."