When Ball State University student Anthony Sparks and former student David Rogers set out to create a fashion app, they wanted to do something different, something better. They started designing a “what to wear” fashion picker that learns your style based on outfits you “like” using the app. What they ultimately created is Noria, a photo-based explorer that challenges social media norms and might just be the advertising solution that other social platforms have been searching for.
“Our big idea with Noria is eliminating the ‘timeline’ that dominates other social media platforms.” Anthony said. “With timelines you have to follow people and they have to follow you for your content to reach an audience. The problem with this system is that users become irrelevant as time passes and your photo gets buried. With Noria, the shelf-life of your photos lasts indefinitely — allowing more validation in the form of ‘likes’ and allowing your photo to reach people who really enjoy it no matter who you’re connected to or when you posted it.
There’s a little bit of psychology and human behavior mixed into the big idea with Noria, too, Anthony explained. Let’s face it, people Tweet their hashtags and share those “lol cats” videos on Facebook in exchange for a healthy dose of Internet validation — it feels good when people “like” and share the things we post. Through Noria, that tingly feeling users get when something they post “blows up” with likes and reTweets will intensify because there’s a much higher likelihood of achieving Internet fandom when every photo you have ever posted is available to everyone at all times.
Noria uses an algorithmic code to curate selections based on the user’s preferences. The user then provides positive or negative feedback. These selections are taken into account for future content selections.
Described as Instagram meets Tinder or Pandora for photos, Noria has actually brought back “top friends” from MySpace, but the app doesn’t display how many people you have favorited or how many have favorited you. Noria places the emphasis on the photo content you post rather than keeping score of how many people you can connect to. It’s the photo content emphasis that Anthony believes gives Noria an advertising advantage.
“We want to disrupt the way these things work,” he said. “We want to chip away at some social media norms and ultimately shift how people see content, including advertisements. Noria is going to be the first platform that has found out a way for social media and business advertisements to co-exist without people being upset. The more you use Noria, the more it learns about you, so over time you will only get ads you want to see. Subtle advertising is going to be the new way of advertising because Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms are grossly hammered with advertising. Subtlety will win.”
Anthony, his co-founder and early investors think they have a winner, but the team doesn’t have the technical ability to expand and scale up the app the way they know they are going to have to in the near term. The Muncie-based team of BSU students and alumni are looking for the right partner or partners and investment to kickstart their growth trajectory and continue challenging the big guys.
“The biggest lesson our team has learned is that patience is a virtue. Delays happen, bugs exist, and design is something that is created over time. The foundation is the most important. At the beginning, we were so focused on making our app look pretty. That’s cool and all, but the algorithm and the functionality of the app was the most important. The coders were trying to tell us that, but we didn’t listen. Eventually, we had to swallow our pride and realize that in order for the app to work, functionality is first.”
Noria consists of three major components: the pool, the profile, and the camera. Each component plays an important role in the simplicity and fluidity of the application.
Pool: This is Noria’s unique twist on the classic concept of a ‘Timeline.” A “Timeline” presents content to the user in order of the most recent post to least recent, and this content is only shown by those with whom you connect. The pool presents photos to the user based strictly on the content of the photos and how it aligns with the user’s interests. Noria learns about the user’s interests by the simple gesture of swiping left or right to each photo in the pool.
Profile: Noria trims all the fat of the typical profile, leaving only the basics. A user profile consists of the user’s full name, username, and a personal website. All of the user’s photos are available for view. In addition, Noria allows users to select their favorite users, and promote five to their “top favorites” section for everyone to see.
Camera: Because Noria is an application based on visual content, the smartphone’s camera is embedded directly into the application for ease of access.
You can download Noria from the iTunes store now, and an Android beta is on the way.