Microsoft Joins the Disappearing Photo Act With Xim Mobile App

Microsoft's latest mobile app allows users to share interactive slide shows that self-destruct after an hour.


Xim, Microsoft's new mobile app, turns photo sharing into an ephemeral experience.

Developed by FUSE Labs, a Microsoft Research unit that specializes in media-rich social experiences delivered in real time, Xim is the mobile equivalent of yesteryear's slide projectors. The app, available for Android and Windows devices, creates shareable, impromptu slide shows that are synchronized among multiple devices. An iPhone version is in the works, according to the company.

"Our [goal] with Xim is to change the way people share in the moment," said Microsoft Software Engineer Steve Ickman in an Inside Microsoft Research Blog post.

Xim lays the groundwork for frictionless content sharing, according to Ickman. "Today, we all carry around these powerful smartphones that connect to the cloud and can pull in content from anywhere. Yet if you and I are standing next to each other, and I want to share with you some photos or a post on social media, I have to jump through a bunch of hoops."

To work, the app requires that only one person have it installed on a smartphone. Users then select the images they wish to share (up to 50) and invite friends via text message (U.S. and Canada) or email. After accepting their invites, participants can thumb through Web-based slide shows.

Changes are synchronized, allowing users to view a given photo at the same time. Users can also trade brief messages during Xim slide shows.

The app also helps prevent some potentially awkward interactions. With Xim, users can avoid "passing a phone around in a group, one viewer at a time, or the chance of mistakenly oversharing, whether it's a personal photo you didn't intend for others to see or just handling someone else's grimy, fingerprint-smeared phone," stated Microsoft Research author Rob Knies in the blog post.

At first blush, Xim bears similarities to a popular app that makes shared content disappear. However, Xim is an altogether different experience, asserts the company.

"The Xim system relies on the cloud, but a Xim photo-sharing session isn't permanent," wrote Knies. "Photos persist for about an hour—a Snapchat wannabe this is not—but there is no requirement to manage or store the Xims."

Snapchat allows users to capture photos or videos, and then share them with friends. Once viewed, the content vanishes. Last year, the company, helmed by then 23-year-old Evan Spiegel, made headlines by turning down a $3 billion offer from Facebook.

Apart from the upcoming iPhone version, Ickman hinted that Xim may pave the way for more low-friction sharing experiences from the company.

"We want to simplify the way you get large groups of people quickly connected and into a Xim. We have ideas for experiences that span multiple devices, such as my tablet and my phone," he said. "There are also a number of experiences we could do beyond photo sharing that are interesting."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...