VSCO’s Magic Trick: The Turn

In The Prestige, Sir Michael Caine explains, “Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary…”

The Pledge: Originally, VSCO showed us something ordinary. The first version of the VSCO Cam app debuted in 2012 for $.99 cents. This version of VSCO Cam had just ten filters and basic editing tools. It’s debut saw it land amongst a crowded mobile photography space. On the one hand, the app was extremely ordinary. It didn’t shoot lasers or create antigravity. It’s popularity came from the fact that it’s design and execution (especially it’s filters) were marked improvements on the editing apps around it.

A little over a year later, VSCO  released version 2.0 of their app. Switching from a paid to a freemium model, this new app offered a plethora of new filters along with fine-tuned editing. By this point the community surrounding VSCO was increasing at a rapid pace. When version 2.0 launched over 4 million photos were tagged #vscocam. Today that number exceeds 7 million. Yet despite it’s polish, VSCO Cam was just a well-executed mobile photography app.

Shortly after VSCO Cam 2.0’s launch, VSCO launched VSCO Grid, a minimalist online photo portfolio. Users can only sign up for a grid via the VSCO app, sound familiar? VSCO allows each account to sign up for one grid. One can upload photos to the grid, caption the photos and add hashtags. Community, platform, accounts, the ‘ordinary’ pieces were now in place.

The Turn: This past Thursday, a select group of beta testers were given the ability to “to follow other photographers on Grid.” VSCO calls it “Follow for VSCO Grid.” In the email, VSCO stated that in order to keep “the ethos that quality imagery trumps social clout, the names and number of followers are NOT displayed.” It’s Instagram without the pet peeves. Beautiful images one can view in a distraction-free feed. The Turn is now complete.

Is VSCO trying to become the next Instagram? Maybe. The only way to find out is to wait until VSCO’s third act. One thing’s for certain, VSCO has all of the requisite pieces of a social network. Their Prestige will reveal what they do with those pieces.


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