Technologizer

Google Dumps Bump — and With It, the Dream of Dead Simple, Cross Platform File Transfers

When neat little apps get bought by big companies, they die.

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If a great big web company such as Google or Facebook buys a startup that’s captured the world’s imagination — such as YouTube or Instagram — it sometimes works out O.K. But if the startup in question is anything less than a massive hit, acquisition is often (and maybe usually) followed by termination.

That’s what’s happening with Bump, makers of the clever, super-simple app for sharing photos and other files among iPhones, Android devices and PCs. In September, Google acquired the company — which also makes a group photo-sharing app called Flock — for a reported $30 million. And as of January 31, Bump and Flock will disappear from Apple’s and Google’s app stores, and will cease to function.

Which means that Bump has suffered the five steps of Google-acquired startup death I’ve had occasion to write about before, though they were spread out over three months:

1. Announcement of thrilling acquisition

2. Reiteration of startup’s wildly ambitious founding notion

3. Explanation that either Google or Facebook is the best place to change the world

4. Acknowledgement (or sometimes non-acknowledgement) that the startup’s product is being discontinued or is going into limbo

5. Expression of heartfelt gratitude to various supporters, usually including the consumers who are losing something they liked

Bump — which let you swap stuff between devices by simply tapping them together — made a splash as one of the iPhone’s earliest defining apps, and had millions of users. I’ve written about it several times (such as here and here) and chatted with its founders, David Lieb and Jake Mintz, who are both smart, ambitious guys.

It never quite became a phenomenon, though. And so Google, which thinks in terms of hundreds of millions or billions of users, was unlikely to give it any love; what the acquisition was about was the talent of Bump’s team rather than the product that team had created.

In the years since Bump appeared, features reminiscent of it have been built into devices, such as Apple’s AirDrop and the NFC-powered photo sharing that Samsung adds to its Android phones. That makes sense: Really, super-easy file transfer should be part of every mobile operating system, and not a stand-alone third-party app a la Bump.

But you know what? In some ways, Bump remains superior to anything an operating system developer or phone maker has built. AirDrop only works with Apple devices; Samsung’s feature only works with Samsung ones. What we really need is the industry to come up with a Bump-like standard that lets you exchange stuff with friends without worrying about who made their phones.

I’m pessimistic about that happening anytime soon. With the exception of HTML5 web technologies, mobile device companies show virtually no interest in working together on software that makes their products compatible with each other. So I’ll miss Bump — and will wonder about what might have been.

5 comments
benferguson88
benferguson88

I think that the author is short sighted here. I think bump has some nice functionality that could be built into hangouts. Hangouts is already a cross platform chat service and could easily roll in the bump to share information feature. As one of the comments here suggested there are a million ways to share information my bet is that Google will be looking to consolidate those many services into one. Hangouts is their communication platform of the future. It is already working on tying in SMS and MMS with Android 4.4 Kit Kat and Google Voice has already been said to be part of the future of Hangouts I can easily see Bump be rolled into there as well.

motmaitre
motmaitre

This writer's love of the technology blinds him from seeing the real issue here: why was Bump discontinued? Simple: nobody was using it.


The fact is, it was a feature, not a product; and worse, a solution looking for a problem. There are myriad ways to share files with other users- and they are MORE useful because they don't require you to be standing next to them. I can share files by email, Whatsapp, MMS, Facebook, Twitter, etc, etc. Whether the recipient is 2 feet away or halfway across the world.


Sorry an ap that can only share files when I'm standing next to you is too limited- it has LESS functionality than other methods, so why in the world would it be popular?

koinotely
koinotely

Bump was too dependent on hardware (accelerometer) which not all mobile devices have. There are better alternatives emerging, Vite.me has a lot of potential.

"With Vite.me getting to know people is easier

Wherever you are: in the subway or traffic jam, at the business meeting or party....all you need to exchange contacts with the person - is press plus button on your devices at the same time. And you are connected! And you don't have to be near the person, it's simple and fun to meet new people with VITE.ME!

Easy to transfer any file

Photos, music, video, documents and links. For example, you are at the business meeting and you forgot your laptop. Don't worry, you can share the presentation or your portfolio using your phone with Vite.me. File sharing process is instantant, all your files are stored in the cloud, and your phone will never be overloaded. You will have access to your files at any time using any device, which has internet connection."

http://vite.me

BillMorgan
BillMorgan

I am in that group that has bump on my phone and use it, albeit infrequently, and love it.  I hope some App development group picks it up and keeps it updated,  

HagrinasMivali
HagrinasMivali

@koinotely That's simply not true. I was able to have bump on a PC and bump my mobile phone against the space bar when the app (web page under Chrome) was running. If it can work with a PC with no accelerometer at all, and Android and Apple phones, that's a much bigger segment of the market than anything like NFC. I have a bunch of Samsung phones, most of them don't support it, I've never used it, and once you get an aftermarket battery it no longer works. And there will likely never be an NFC equivalent for a PC.