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Is a Glmps a short video or a long photo?

Neither fish nor fowl, the new and interesting Glmps photo format may have a hard time finding a profitable niche.

This is not the first time that a company has tried to bring "video snapshots" to the Web. Just a few examples: There was 12Seconds, which is gone. Flickr added support for short videos in 2008. Then there's SocialCam, my pick for saving and uploading smartphone videos. And now, yet another service in this vein: Glmps.

Or is Glmps instead really something new? These other services are about uploading short videos. Glmps is something else: It add motion to portraits and snapshots. That's a fundamental difference. While on video upload services you'll get pictures of events (concerts, crazy pet antics, birthday songs being sung), on Glmps, you should get snapshots of people and places, with a little motion back story to add life to the photo.

The consensus around the Web (see related stories) is that Glmps is unique and cool. And since it's based on the concept of a snapshot, it's not different enough that it will force people to think about images differently.

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(Embedded Glmps image shows CNET's Josh Lowensohn.)

But CEO Paul Robinett isn't looking for Glmpses to co-exist as "long photos" alongside old-fashioned snapshots. His vision for this system is much broader. Manically so.

"We're a full-blown social network, bro," he said to me on the day he launched the product at the BlogHer conference in San Diego. He sees Glmps, initially, as being like Instagram, "a visual status update."

And what does Glmps get by thinking of itself as a social network? It means that Glmps is about sharing links, not creating media files. Glmps hosts all the media it takes, and in fact the only way to view a Glmps is to use the mobile app or Web-based viewer. (You can save the static portion on your computer, but not the five-second video that precedes it.)

Down the line, Robinett says Glmps services will be able to piece together movies, either "the movie of your life," or perhaps movies of events based on Glmpses taken by multiple people at around the same time in more or less the same place. A social Photosynth, as it were.

On the business side, Glmps eventually gets advertising. Robinett says "We don't have to reinvent that business model." He thinks that wrapping messages around Glmps images in one way or another, "will be beneficial to the marketing world without being disruptive to users." Although at this early stage, the three-person, self-funded company isn't looking to generate revenues.

Glmps is interesting, and it could get good traction as is. But for it to really take off, Glmpses are going to have to be sharable on the photo albums of smartphones and computers, and that means Glmps will have to open up a transportable format or API. And that could mean images end up getting shared without their financial payload. This is a fascinating experiment that's just getting under way, but I'm not sure it can get really big without becoming generic.