Skip to main content

Color's Bill Nguyen: 'We're headed toward the singularity, right? Brains in a jar. Teleportation.'

Color's Bill Nguyen: 'We're headed toward the singularity, right? Brains in a jar. Teleportation.'

/

Bill Nguyen is the mad scientist behind Lala, which Apple bought in 2009, and most recently Color, a video broadcasting app for smartphones that lets you share what you're doing with friends no matter where you are. Color got off to a rough start when it launched last year, but Nguyen is far from discouraged.

Share this story

bill nguyen color 1020
bill nguyen color 1020

Bill Nguyen is the mad scientist behind Lala, which Apple bought in 2009, and most recently Color, a video broadcasting app for smartphones that lets you share what you're doing with friends no matter where you are. Color got off to a rough start when it launched last year, and even supposedly turned down a $200 million offer from Google, but Nguyen is far from discouraged. He took some time to talk to us about building big things, failing at other things, and even the benefits of owning a nice down jacket. You can find him on Twitter at @BillNguyen.

Where are you? What have you done so far today?

Got to Color early this morning because my Facebook News Feed was going off. Had a green tea and a Kit Kat for breakfast. Then, I was off to working on a product demo.

So the new Color app is greatly optimized and built for 4G LTE networks. What comes after 4G LTE? How fast will wireless data get, and how soon?

Coverage. Coverage. Coverage. The speeds are pretty lights-out and good for any Web-based application including streaming video. We just need full coverage to enable the migration from the desktop to a post-PC world. Verizon has coverage like no one else. We'll have cable broadband speeds within a year with full coverage.

Color is built on top of Facebook. Do you think Facebook will be around forever? What are the risks of using the Facebook platform?

Facebook is a legit platform. I can't see past five years, and I only see their platform growing during that time. People are sharing in so many ways. Zynga. Pinterest. Color. But underneath the covers it's still Facebook.

"Since my first startup, we've tried to build things with the intent that they'll be around."

How does it feel when people don't like something you've built? Do you listen to critics, investors, bloggers, and commenters when they tell you what to do?

It's definitely not ideal, but I take it with a grain of salt. Since my first startup, we've tried to build things with the intent that they'll be around. Onebox is still around to keep people's email. iTunes Match keeps the spirit of Lala alive. We're trying to build a social tool leveraging the latest hardware so what you capture will still be good enough years from now.

What technology in the market today is most exciting to you? Where will it be in 5 years?

Digital cinema and photography. How we see film and TV will be transformed by the super high resolution cameras at Red. I can't wait for The Hobbit. That technology is trickling down to phones. The processing power on smartphones will soon reach a level where we won't have to choose between pictures and videos, recorded or live. We'll have everything. Our phone cameras will be a perfect window into what we're experiencing. The challenge is nailing the user experience. We're working on software designed around the "metal" or hardware on the phones to get there faster.

I've noticed that you like wearing down coats. Why do you like them so much? Where, physically, is human evolution headed?

I'm obsessed with puffy down jackets. No matter where I am it feels like I'm still in bed. We're headed toward the singularity, right? Brains in a jar. Teleportation.

When you start a product from scratch, how do you organize your thoughts and prioritize your goals?

I usually start with a bunch of open web browsers and Adobe Photoshop. It helps a lot to visualize it as pixel perfect as possible.

"We're headed toward the singularity right? Brains in a jar. Teleportation."

You visualize Color as a "visual status update." In ten years, what will a status update look like?

Today, we're talking about low-res video from one camera. In ten years, we'll have full HD+ video linked between multiple cameras. We'll be able to visit anywhere in the world from our phones.

What past technologies have inspired your work the most?

Logo. It was a simple programming language like BASIC but for kids. It inspired me to make games and fostered a love for computing; HTTP 1.1. It was the first version of HTTP that introduced keep-alive. It assumed that the browser had a persistent connection. That happened when we left AOL dial-up behind for broadband. Every application on the web is different because of HTTP 1.1. Wireless is not there yet, but hopefully we can help.

What's the best book you've read lately? How has it impacted you?

Facebook S1 is a book right? It's kinda important to understand your partners so I sat down and read it cover to cover. While it's mostly legal work, there's a lot to understand about how their business is changing.

Who's your favorite person in the Valley, and why?

Rob Fisher, the King of Palo Alto. He owns about every restaurant around my office. He feeds me, my team and my family. It's hard to name the technologist since there's been so many that have shaped my thinking and ideas. That list is endless.

Aside from Facebook, which is your favorite social network to use and what value add does it offer?

Kickstarter, because I like the idea of investing in companies anonymously and not providing any feedback that will screw up the company. It's the opposite of the Valley.

What's your computer and software setup?

I start with an iPhone 4S for half of my day. I blend into a Mac Pro with 12-core Westmere box at work because I work with lots of large files. I transition to a MacBook Air with a DIY 512GB SSD install for meetings. Finally, I roll over to a new iPad at home.

You're clearly an excitable guy. How do you stay focused?

Aspartame. Lots of it. The job is also pretty fun so that helps a lot.

When was the last time you failed, by your own standards? What did you do after you decided you failed?

Failing is pretty normal. Over the weekend, I tried to power wash the driveway and the pressure was too low. I headed over to Home Depot and bought some tools. Four hours later, it was working again and by 6PM I finally finished the driveway. I've got serious short term memory loss and getting bogged down from stuff that doesn't work is not something that happens to me. We really try to focus on the possibilities and less on what happened or its impact.

Read more 5 Minutes on The Verge

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 23 10 minutes in the clouds

J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


A
External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
A
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.


E
TikTok
Spain’s Transports Urbans de Sabadell has La Bussí.

Once again, the US has fallen behind in transportation — call it the Bussí gap. A hole in our infrastructure, if you will.


J
External Link
Jay PetersSep 23
Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.


E
External Link
Insiders made the most money off of Helium’s “People’s Network.”

Remember Helium, which was touted by The New York Times in an article entitled “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All?” Not only was the company misleading people about who used it — Salesforce and Lime weren’t using it, despite what Helium said on its site — Helium disproportionately enriched insiders, Forbes reports.


J
Youtube
James VincentSep 23
Nvidia’s latest AI model generates endless 3D models.

Need to fill your video game, VR world, or project render with 3D chaff? Nvidia’s latest AI model could help. Trained on 2D images, it can churn out customizable 3D objects ready to import and tweak.

The model seems rudimentary (the renders aren’t amazing quality and seem limited in their variety), but generative AI models like this are only going to improve, speeding up work for all sorts of creative types.


R
Richard LawlerSep 23
Green light.

This week Friday brings the debut of Apple’s other new hardware. We’ve reviewed both the new AirPods Pro and this chonky Apple Watch Ultra, and now you’ll decide if you’re picking them up, or not.

Otherwise, we’re preparing for Netflix’s Tudum event this weekend and slapping Dynamic Island onto Android phones.


The Apple Watch Ultra on a woman’s wrist
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
J
External Link
Jess WeatherbedSep 23
Japan will fully reopen to tourists in October following two and a half years of travel restrictions.

Good news for folks who have been waiting to book their dream Tokyo vacation: Japan will finally relax Covid border control measures for visa-free travel and individual travelers on October 11th.

Tourists will still need to be vaccinated three times or submit a negative COVID-19 test result ahead of their trip, but can take advantage of the weak yen and a ‘national travel discount’ launching on the same date. Sugoi!


T
External Link
Thomas RickerSep 23
Sony starts selling the Xperia 1 IV with continuous zoom lens.

What does it cost to buy a smartphone that does something no smartphone from Apple, Google, Samsung can? $1,599.99 is Sony’s answer: for a camera lens that can shift its focal length anywhere between 85mm and 125mm.

Here’s Allison’s take on Sony’s continuous-zoom lens when she tested a prototype Xperia 1 IV back in May: 

Sony put a good point-and-shoot zoom in a smartphone. That’s an impressive feat. In practical use, it’s a bit less impressive. It’s essentially two lenses that serve the same function: portrait photography. The fact that there’s optical zoom connecting them doesn’t make them much more versatile.

Still, it is a Sony, and like.no.other.


C
External Link
Corin FaifeSep 23
If God sees everything, so do these apps.

Some Churches are asking congregants to install so-called “accountability apps” to prevent sinful behavior. A Wired investigation found that they monitor almost everything a user does on their phone, including taking regular screenshots and flagging LGBT search terms.