App: Socialcam Platform: iPhone, Android Website: Socialcam.com Cost: Free
Most of the time, this column is dedicated to actual apps that go on smartphones and while this is an app, it's also something else, but I'll hit the app part first for the purposes of being thorough.
Socialcam has positioned itself as the Instagram of video. For all intents and purposes, it's a social networking application that allows users to share videos taken with the phone and processed through its interface. The setup looks a lot like Instagram and the overall look and feel are comfortable, and it's easy to use. In fact, if this were all there was, I would say this is a damn fine app that works quite well, but that isn't the issue or the reason I have grown to truly hate Socialcam.
A few weeks ago, I saw a post on a friend's Facebook wall linking to a video of something that looked vaguely entertaining. I'd like to say it wasn't someone falling down, but it probably was and it came with some enticing title like "The craziest stunt you'll ever see!" I clicked it and my phone immediately took me to the App Store and to the Socialcam page.
Perplexed, I pulled the video up on my phone and when I clicked it, I got this:
To even watch the video, you have to allow Socialcam access to your account, similar to the ridiculous Facebook Reader app.
This sort of thing goes against everything that sharing is supposed to be, that was created by YouTube when it first started displaying videos. When something is shared on a person's timeline, it should be easy to access. But then I read a little more closely.
"This app may post on your behalf, including videos you watched, videos you shared and more." Let's start with that "videos you watched" thing. Recently, I saw a joke image on Facebook to the effect that the one thing most of us would want to do before we die is erase our Internet history. Most of us, no doubt, have looked at things online that we would prefer to keep private, even if it seems innocuous to everyone else. With Socialcam, the minute you click on a video, they can share that information with all your friends.
And I've noticed that virtually every video shared with the service is, if not controversial, set up in such a way as to make people want to look. Scantily clad women screen-capture images or crazy photos of people wiping out on bikes are commonplace, it would seem, and Socialcam tells everyone you checked out that chick in the bikini.
Then there is the "and more" part of that disclaimer. What the hell do they mean "and more?" To me, that gives them permission to post just about anything they want, including ads, which makes me wonder if some of the videos I've seen "watched" or "shared" by friends are really just ads for Socialcam. Even Worse
Unfortunately, that isn't the worst of it. When you're signing up on the app, Socialcam virtually forces you to login using your Facebook information. It's the first option when choosing a login and when I clicked "Signup with Email," it gave me the notification pictured to the right.
Once I got through to the next screen still un-connected to Facebook, it gave me a list of "people I might know." All of them were culled from my address book on the phone and I had to click an "un-follow" button to keep from adding them. Any person signing up for this service quickly could easily miss this step and end up alerting a bunch of people whose e-mails happen to be in his address book that he just signed up for Socialcam.
I checked off un-follow on all of them and proceeded to the main screen. At the top was a conspicuous "social" button that when clicked, activated the Facebook app and tried to get me to connect with them AGAIN.
And if that weren't enough, I got an e-mail from them providing me a password for my account. I didn't even get to choose the password I wanted. They assigned it to me.
In short, Socialcam is pushy.
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I like to share things with my friends and I like to watch funny videos, so it would seem Socialcam would be for me, but all the forced connectivity and sharing is overbearing. Even if it isn't for any nefarious reasons, I don't want to be forced into sharing things I don't want shared. No thank you.