The Color of #thedress: Shopping Just Got Weirdly Public

When Tumblr user swiked posted the photo of #thedress, she caught an innocent snapshot of a classic shopping dilemma: did I buy the right thing?

Cecilia Bleasdale was asking for advice on what to wear to her daughter’s wedding. She had no idea that the poor quality of the photo would set off a global debate about what color the dress really is (here’s a good quality product shot). The original Tumblr post got 73 million views. At its peak it got 140,000 views per minute.

Today billions of people can snap a photo of something and ask friends to weigh in on the purchase process. A Twitter search on “Should I buy it?” turns up a river of posts.And there are so many apps for social shopping in its many forms that PC Magazine has a 10 Best List of them.

Shopping has always been a social activity among family or friends. Now with technology you can share your shopping experience with the whole world (intentionally or not). But technology isn’t a passive player: it creates the experience, impacts it, and bends it to things unanticipated and unintended — by even something as simple as how over-exposed a photo is.