Photophlow is an extremely well designed web application for community viewing of photos from flickr. The best way of describing it would be to imagine a photo slideshow application mashed up with an IRC chatroom. It hosts a variety of virtual rooms (you can create your own) in which people can gather. There are rooms available for flickr groups and the application will highlight room for groups you are already a member of. Anybody in a room can perform a flickr search and then select a photo to be viewed. Meantime all people in the room can talk and discuss in real-time as well as having direct access to usual flickr features such as adding contacts, favourites and comments.
From within a room you can display a list of photos from either a choice of options (the photostream for the related group, your photos, your contacts, explore etc.) or you can search. If you click on a photo from the resultant list it is shown larger on the right hand side of the window. People then naturally start commenting on it, critiquing and generally interacting with each other. It is fascinating to see how the conversation develops. This morning I entered the Stobist.com room and began looking at a couple of photos. A few more people came in and I struck up a conversation with a guy from Huddersfield. Somebody else started looking through his photos and in the meantime a conversation was taking place about the best wireless remotes for off-camera flash. The Huddersfield guy then took us off to view a photo from a friend which recently made the top spot on explore.
The beauty is the way that other people can control what you view. It has the potential to be disruptive if people are constantly changing photo, and I guess as more people come into the system this will be something to keep an eye on. It would be tempting for a lot of people to go into a room and immediately start displaying their photos for instance. Thankfully there are a couple of different modes. In any room you can choose to go into manual mode which means others cannot override the photo you are currently viewing. You can also go private which means others cannot see the photo you are looking at, but you are still in the room and can still participate in conversations.
Things get even more impressive when you try the built-in support for twitter, allowing you to create tweets when you enter a room of ad-hoc from directly within the photophlow interface. They also have tumblr support, and the ability for the system to notify you by email or IM when certain events happen, like somebody entering your personal room.
I have three invites to give away, so please leave a comment (make sure you enter your email address on the form) if you want one.