Consumers haven’t exactly warmed up to face recognition technology, partially because we haven’t seen in executed in many forms we can use yet. There’s Facebook, with its auto-tagging feature (which works to varying degrees and hilariously tries to tell you that potted plant in the corner is your friend Becky), a handful of digital cameras that can recognize your subjects, as well as the iffy Android 4.0 feature that allows you to unlock your phone after it sees it’s truly you.
With the exception of Facebook’s tool, though, these are all rather niche products. But Klik, a free app with incredibly sophisticated technology and high face matching accuracy was easily consumable by anyone with an iPhone. And it can’t be said enough: Klik worked really well.
But now Klik is no more. Last month, Facebook bought Face.com, the development platform behind Klik as well as the Face.com API, which powers Klik, as well as a variety of other face recognition apps (rumored to be what’s under the hood of Facebook auto-tagging). The acquisition made a lot of sense because Facebook wants and needs to improve its own client, and it’s also making a harder push in photos and at the moment auto-tagging isn’t available via mobile uploads. The technology powering Klik will be introduced to Facebook’s Camera app and the whole system would be far more interesting (the Face.com API can read things like gender, mood, height, age, etc).
That’s all pretty obvious and easy to swallow – what isn’t particularly pleasing is that Klik has been shut down and with it the Face.com API made unavailable. Sometimes that happens with acquisitions, but this API was powering a lot of applications. Also, there’s the fact that in the wake of the Facebook deal, Face.com said it would continue to support its third party developers; TheNextWeb noticed the change in policy that came via email, where Face.com said the API will only be available for another month.
Understandably, developers are angry. For starters, Face.com said they’d do something and now they won’t. Secondly, the platform’s API is unique and there aren’t as any remarkable alternatives. Facebook is unlikely to license the technology, and that means developers are clamoring for something to take its place (interested parties, take note: this is in demand).
What’s interesting is considering how Facebook could leverage this. A friend new to Instagram and smartphones in general recently asked me how she could tag Facebook contacts in her Instagram photos she planned to push to Facebook – which, of course, you can’t. Perhaps this is something that will be available for popular photo apps down the road, complete with auto-tagging thanks to the Face.com API. Which, for all the inherent creepiness that we should have gotten over a long time ago, would be rather convenient. But it gives popular outside photo apps (and let’s remember that Facebook was notably spooked by one popular photo sharing app – a billion dollars sort of spooked – that was able to stand on its own two content heavy legs) a reason to prominently feature sharing the site in exchange for the API usage.
What the long term effects of the decision, it means that at the moment developers will soon be without an API for their applications. So anyone waiting in the wings with a Face.com alternative or the know-how to create and license face recognition technology, now would be a good time.