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Hands-on with Color's live, silent video 'Visits'

Color for Facebook is an alternative mobile client app for the social network. It focuses on photo and video sharing, and it's pretty good at that. But the standout feature is a new form of sharing that nothing else does: The "Visit."

I guess John is crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.
Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

Facebook not intrusive enough in your life, Bucky? Can't stand the fact that you can only see what your friends are doing after they've already done it?

Then you'll need Color for Facebook, the new app from the company that made the poorly-received previous version of Color. A preview of the app is circulating now and I tried it out. The app will open up to the public later this year.

Color for Facebook is an alternative mobile client app (iPhone and Android) for the social network. It focuses on photo and video sharing, and it's pretty good at that. But the standout feature is a new form of sharing that nothing else does: The "Visit."

Visits are live video feeds that you can broadcast to your social network friends. They last 30 seconds, and do not include audio. They're like remote camera views from alien worlds: little glimpses of what's happening in another life, that, if you're lucky, you can tune in to live. And you can send them over a cellular connection, you don't need Wi-Fi.

They're also recorded for later viewing, but I found replays of the choppy, silent clips not very engaging when viewed after the fact.

Color for Facebook is also a pretty good app to see the photos your friends are putting on Facebook. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

But during? It works, sort of. It's a weird new medium, and I don't think people yet know what's worth shooting, or watching. We will have to see what people do with it. Personally, I can't really think of anything that happens in my life that'd be worth doing a Visit of and then sharing with all my Facebook friends.

Fortunately, Color for Facebook lets you decide who you want to share a Visit with. It defaults to "public," but you can opt to send a moment out to your entire network, or just to a Facebook group, or to specific friends. Color gives you a very good reason to set up Path-like group for hyper-intimate sharing, if you don't already have one. If I'm going to share, live, my kid blowing out the candles on his birthday cake, I really don't feel it's appropriate to broadcast that to the world. And I sure don't want to bore my network with a Visit to the burrito I'm having for lunch.

If there were audio, Visit could be used to great effect by journalists, both professional and citizen. The Occupy Wall Street protesters, for example, could have used this feature strategically. But without sound, Visits lack the emotional intensity that on-the-ground reports otherwise have.

One thing that Visit does do is glue you to your smartphone. When you get a pop-up that a friend is sharing a Visit, you know you have only a few seconds to jump into the app and get into the stream to see what's going on. It really does connect you to your network in real-time.

I'm not sure that's such a great thing, but it may be. At least for some people in your network, you might want this strong, real-time connection. Again, though, Visit does need more control on who Visits are shared with, and whose live notifications you receive. An overload of updates from one prolific friend could make the app more intrusive than enjoyable.

I think it's great that there are companies experimenting with new visual media forms that are neither photo nor video (see also: Glmps). It's very easy to dismiss something like Visits as a gimmick, and it may well end up being seen that way. But I want to give this form a shot. I think it could be fun.

Here are my public Visits (so far).

Correction at 2 p.m. PT.: The original version of this story mischaracterized Color's capability to define sharing groups. That section of the story has been replaced.