In 2009 I launched a social network called DailyBooth. It's currently my only project with a wikipedia page. This is the abridged story of the company that brought me to the USA.

dailybooth header A few DailyBooth themed pictures, uploaded by users of DailyBooth. We used these as our business cards.

I was 21. I had no vision, no network, and no idea what I was doing. DailyBooth was just another little website I wanted to exist. A guy had just gone viral for taking a picture of himself every day for 10 years and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I wanted an easy way to do the same thing!  

The Product

The website was simple. Every day you'd come to DailyBooth.com and use your webcam to take a picture of yourself, adding an optional blurb about your day. Over time your collection of pictures could be turned into a video that quickly cycles through all of the daily photos that you had taken.

After building that basic functionality, it seemed silly that it wasn't possible to follow your friends an get updates any time they posted their daily photo. This is how the project turned into a social network.

an example of the DailyBooth interface I don't have many assets anymore, but I pulled this screenshot from Google Images. It shows the dashboard of a logged in user.

The Secret Sauce

The thing that made DailyBooth special was the picture comments. It was possible to post a reply to someone's daily photo with another photo. People loved that often when you'd post something you'd get a few picture comment replies! Getting a picture comment felt a lot more meaningful than a regular text comment. You got to see the face of the person at the moment that they posted the comment. You saw their emotion, the space that they were sitting in, what they were wearing.

a picture uploaded by Demi Moore Demi Moore had an account that she used frequently. She was also an investor in the company!

People loved it. Especially people who had an engaged audience on other platforms. Now it was possible for them to SEE the people that followed them vs just a username. The YouTube community embraced the website and we grew quickly.

The Live Feed

We added a "Live Feed" that was a real-time stream of people taking their daily photo. People would sit watching the live feed and interact with users that caught their eye. It wasn't uncommon to upload your daily photo and instantly get a few picture comments from friendly strangers around the world as a result of so many people watching the live feed. Even if you had no followers or were a new user. This lead to many interesting behaviors.

Picture threads would often go viral. Any time you made a picture comment it would push it out into the feed so everyone following you would also see and draw more attention to the thread.

For example: Someone posted a picture wearing a cool new hat? Within a few minutes there'd be 100+ pictures of other people wearing a cool hat with more appearing every second.

There's a few threads that still stick in my mind.

DBFilmClub: People would watch movies at the same time then play out different scenes and react, as they happened in the movie, through picture comments. Everyone involved would pre-arrange to press play at a certain time. Some people would even dress up as different characters.

The High Five flash mob: every day a new main character was selected at random to become the focus of the High Five Flash Mob™️. The people following this account were encouraged to reply to the selected victim's latest picture with a picture of themselves "high fiving" them. Within minutes there would be hundreds of replies from people around the world.

Live sporting events: One of my favorite memories was watching some of the world cup games in 2010, and following along with the real time picture threads that were popping off at the time. You could see the emotion in peoples faces as different things happened. When a goal went in there'd be an influx of pictures of people celebrating. It was wild!

a dailybooth fancy dress costume Amanda and Roberto posing with their DailyBooth themed fancy dress costume.

Generally speaking, the community was extremely nice and positive. Unlike other social networks at the time (and today), replying to pictures of peoples faces seemed to encourage friendly behavior. This was never an intentional product decision, but a very happy accident.

What happened

The website grew quicker than Ryan (my technical co-founder) and I could handle. We went through YC in summer 2009, raised a $1m angel round with some top VCs and angels, then went onto raise a $6m series A.

For a couple of years it looked like the website might break through into the main stream, all the numbers were looking good for a while, but eventually we ran out of steam.

the email we sent announcing the company was closing down The email we sent announcing the company was closing down.

Ultimately the company failed. We didn't grow fast enough and we couldn't raise more money to keep going. The team was acqu-hired by airbnb and the website was unceremoniously shut down. We went out with a bang by messing up the first line of the email we sent to millions of people announcing the shut down. An unfortunate end to a wild adventure.