First Click: Commenters on this 15-year-old article foresaw Tinder, Instagram, and Snapchat

February 9th, 2016

1.8 billion digital photos are uploaded each day, according to an oft-cited 2014 Internet Trends report by Mary Meeker. That’s 657 billion photos per year or 1.25 million every single minute. And that number has certainly only accelerated over the last year thanks to the global proliferation of phones equipped with pretty decent cameras. Certainly good enough to comply with Chase Jarvis’ mantra (and book) “the best camera is the one you have with you.”

But who could have predicted the importance of mobile photography on today's apps and services, especially back at the turn of the century?

Cue the BBC commenters.

In September, 2001, Jon Wurzel wrote an incredulous article titled Taking pictures with your phone about Japan’s first cellphone with a built-in camera:

"Downtown Tokyo is already full of what are called Purikura photo booths. People dive into them — on their own or with friends — just to catch a moment on film. The craze is getting mobile with the help of a new cameraphone from Japanese electronics giant Sharp.

The Sharp J-SH04 phone allows you to take sneaky shots of yourself and your friends with a tiny digital camera that is integrated into the cellphone. So what would you do with a gadget like this, particularly as it costs nearly US $500?"

Wurzel seems to suggest that a cameraphone is limited to advancing "sneaky" perversions. A view shared by Rob H. in the comments, long before the advent of /r/creepshots:

"Great for spying. The camera could be held against a keyhole, and the images immediately sent to any interested parties."

Other commenters were capable of seeing less skeevy uses for cameraphones. Lizz, for example, foresaw mobile shopping, and the importance of sharing and discussing images on services like Snapchat:

"I could see it being a great way of shopping for clothes on a wide scale. No longer would girls have to go in groups, they could each scout out the good outfits, send pictures, and compare prices. It would be inclusive - even if one of the gang is too ill, or busy their opinion can be sought."

And the egocentric practice of bragging about your social life online:

"Prove you’ve met your pop idol and send the pictures straight away."

Lizz also rightly predicted the rise of mobile dating apps like Tinder:

"Set your friends up on dates and send instant pictures to potential mates"

But failed to see how adults could make use of the new trend:

"Infinite uses for the teenager, not entirely sure what the rest of us would do with one though."

Chris Hunter could though, with his sober prediction of the smartphone as mundane documentarian:

"In car accidents, you can take a photo, and send it directly to the insurance company. If you have an injury, then you can send a photo straight to NHS direct, or the ambulance men so they know what to expect. On similar lines, photo something like a fire or incident so the police know what they are dealing with before they get there."

Then there’s business traveller Will Meyerink, who wanted to stay close to his family:

"A phone like this would mean that I could send back pictures of my experiences while traveling and my family could send me pictures of the children’s birthdays and other special events which I always seem to miss."

And Steven Shelley who took it a step further with his desire for mobile video apps like Skype and FaceTime:

"I would use the cameraphone to talk to people in a separate location."

Glenn Broadway described the typical Instagram account full of steam and geese photos:

"There’s so much I’m looking forward to photographing … grumpy commuters, clouds, sleeping dogs, minor vehicle collisions in car parks, geese, steam, have-a-go-heroes."

John also had a thing for dogs:

"Take pictures of friendly dogs I see when I walk around."

And Miles Brown, too:

"I would use the camera phone to take pictures of my best friend, my dog Benson."

Who definitely isn’t the same guy as this:

Weirdly, nobody, not a single person, wanted to photograph kittens. Leading us to one inevitable conclusion about these internet comments.

Fake. First! Fail.

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