We’re reaching the point now in the techno era where just about every member of the family uses some kind of handheld device, no matter what generation they hail from, whether it be a tablet to help pre-teens with their homework, or grandma’s first smartphone. Now there is also an application designed to enable family-based social networking.
It’s called Hubble, and is the brainchild of Robert Evans and Andre Neumann-Loreck, both of whom are alumni of Pure Digital, the creator of the Flip Cam. They are also both fathers with school-aged children, which they credit for equipping them with a family-skewed perspective on social networking.
While family members are often connected via social media, they rarely use it as a primary or meaningful means of communication. Facebook, after all, is where we keep up with everyone from old school friends and co-workers to that one nice couple we met on holiday five years ago. On the flipside, LinkedIn is all business. And then there’s Twitter, the channel through which we can engage with total strangers. Neumann-Loreck and Evans felt that there was a substantial gap in the social market for entirely private, family networking. Enter Hubble.
Hubble doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but rather applies family-centric thinking to features that users are bound to recognise from Facebook and Twitter, with two functions: everyday communication, and long-term memory making. For instance, you can create a “timeline” of shared experiences such as milestone birthdays, graduation ceremonies, weddings and christenings, complete with family photos and messages. There is also a “check-in” function, meaning Mum and Dad can easily stay up to date with where the kids are without pestering them with constant phone calls, and vice-versa.
You could say that the seeds of Hubble were sown years back during Neumann-Loreck and Evans’s days at Pure Digital. Even back then, the Flip Cam offered the ability to share videos privately without posting them to the mega-public forums of Facebook or YouTube, using a private sharing facility called FlipShare.
One distinct advantage of this private content sharing functionality is that it offers users the ability to keep family life well and truly separate from the rest of their online presence. Now you can protect youngsters and grandparents from those “hilarious” and incredibly embarrassing photos that your friends insist on posting, and prevent your timeline from becoming clogged with cute e-cards from your parents, without having to consult Facebook’s infamously impenetrable privacy settings. It also means you will be less likely to be constantly subjected to your casual acquaintance’s baby photos; they will instead take pride of place on that person’s own Hubble family timeline.
At the time of writing this, Hubble is available in iOS only, with an Android edition in development to encourage “cross-platform” family use. The app is free to download, but plans are afoot to introduce monetisation by charging families a small fee to save their timelines beyond a certain point in time.