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Samsung is building a new social network called Waffle

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Strike while the iron is hot

If you're building a new social network likely to get battered in the marketplace, you may as well call it Waffle. The latest entry in the ever-expanding category of Weird Samsung Things allows you to post a photo that your friends can annotate by adding their own photos or drawings in a grid surrounding the original. It's a product of the C-Lab, a skunkworks inside Samsung that develops and tests new products. "Waffle offers a new, differentiated service that illustrates multiple points of view to generate a collaborative story," the company says. It's currently in beta in Android.

Waffle was named after the grids of images that users create. A video about the app shows someone wishing a friend a happy birthday, and other friends chiming in with birthday wishes of their own in separate squares. The grids are technically infinite — users can continue expanding them in every direction. That gives them potential to be akin to "a communal graffiti wall," the company says, with each user contributing a piece of a larger whole. In one example, a user posts a photo of a rabbit sitting on a wall; other users fill in the surrounding pieces of the wall below and the sky above using drawings. "Waffle enables users to add their own perspective to someone else's content, and vice versa," says Joseph Kim, who's heading up Waffle, in a statement.

waffle2

Of course, one person's "perspective" is another person's trolling. In a short demo today at South by Southwest, the app's privacy settings weren't totally clear. While it's designed for friends to use, the app appears to have a social component. And it's easy to imagine high-profile users eventually seeing their content surrounded by lewd or offensive photos and drawings.

One person's perspective is another person's trolling

There's also a more immediate risk — that no one will add to users' grids. When the whole point of a social network is that its content expands infinitely, it's going to feel awkward if most posts draw few other contributions. In order to look "complete," a grid needs to draw eight other contributions — a high bar for a new social network to clear. Name aside, there's little that's actually strange about Waffle. But there's nothing particularly compelling, either.

That said, almost every social network sounded like a terrible idea at the beginning. It's difficult to tell how seriously Samsung is taking Waffle — on one hand, the company proudly showed it off at SXSW; on the other, it's still in development, and could be killed off this summer if executives don't think it's showing enough promise, a company representative told me. At this point, Waffle seems to exist primarily as a way to show off the S Pen, Waffle's preferred method for creating drawings inside the app. But if Samsung decides to proceed, we could see Waffle on Android and iOS later this year.