When a new app launches and suddenly seizes early adopter interest en masse the way Peach has, I usually take a look and try it out. Basically it's a messaging app with a bunch of "magic words" that pop in features like a dice roll, local weather, or colourful backdrops for your words. The messaging isn't just one-to-one either. You can also post things in your feed, much like Twitter, for any of your followers to see. It works well, and is pretty fun.
Being a fine artist and illustrator, the first thing I look for when a new platform takes hold is how it treats images. Back when Pinterest had blown up, my Symbiartic co-blogger Kalliopi and I wrote about Pinterest's sketchy Terms of Service in a couple of posts (The Promise and Perils of Pinterest, Pinterest's Terms of Service Word by Terrifying Word) that some later credited as being part of the push that caused Pinterest to change their ToS.
Pinterest was an interesting case: the ability to properly attribute the image is partially built in. Pinned images link back to where they were pinned from online. This is great if the user links them back to the original artist and not just to say, a Google search result. They also gave sites tools to opt out of having their images "pinnable".
But last month's hot new thing Peach isn't even trying that hard.
Developed by the creator of Vine, Peach has been rolling out some new features, mainly new magic words. When I received an email about the update, it said one of the new magic words was "Image". If you start typing the word "image", a button appears and you can select "image: search for an image".
Curious about it, I published it to my Peach feed, adding in an image credit message underneath.
After publishing the image to my Peach feed, there's no way to trace it back where it came from. It doesn't link out to the site where it was fetched from the way Pinterest does. It doesn't auto-attach a name underneath. It doesn't even link to the search result site that found it. It's just a static image.
I even tried image searching "selfie" and yeah, a parade of images of people I don't know went by. If you search "porn" or "sex" a number of images of women in lingerie will go by, but no actual nudity that I came across. So Byte Inc, creators of Peach, cared enough to limit searches with filters on.
If this was just a messaging app between friends, I could kind of overlook it. But Peach has a main feed which can be seen by any of the person's followers. If the app continues to gain popularity, it won't be long before "curated" spam accounts like History in Pics or less careful aggregator sites take off, becoming the new superstar accounts while building their popularity on uncredited images used without permission.
What if an exterminator company starts using Peach to reach potential customers and just grabs photos of say, ants through the image magic word? It's not going to credit or even alert the photographer. (Yeah, Alex; I wrote this part for you.)
It's potentially worse than the typical blog and media rip-and-run with images: at least those can be searched using Google Reverse Image Search or Tineye. How do you search a messaging app?
Aggressively adding features is a hallmark of new platforms if they want to be successful. But this is running roughshod over image creators so you can have a feature. There's not even the misguided initial attempts at attribution platforms like Pinterest try to build in, or any tools to opt out. If you have images online they're part of Peach's free-for-all. This is not a good way to build an app.
Hey, Byte Inc. - If you're reading this: you've obviously put some sort of safe filtering in to block porn. Can't you put some filters in to search only public domain images? Creative Commons is out of the question since nothing your image magic word posts is attributed, but maybe part of Peach's charm could be that it only shows vintage images that you're actually allowed to use without unethically swiping stuff that isn't yours.
For new app developers - stop running before you check to see if you're stepping on someone. Stealing from image creators is not the right way to build a business, and adding in ways to credit us after you've made it big does nothing to earn our trust.