Delco Dad’s Christmas Lights Map App Goes National

Alas, success comes with its share of issues.

a screenshot from christmasprism, the new app that lets you find quality christmas light displays near you

A screenshot from ChristmasPrism, the new app that lets you find quality Christmas light displays near you (Image via ChristmasPrism)

Mike Kane wasn’t expecting all that much when he launched ChristmasPrism on November 30th. His new app would allow homeowners with Christmas light displays to upload a photo of their home to the ChristmasPrism app. People out hunting for cool Christmas light displays could then pull up the app and map them out. The app was originally just to showcase his Delco town, and he expected about 50 users by Christmas. The user count just a little more than two weeks later: 55,000.

“It’s been insane,” says Kane. “We are in 40 states. We’re in Puerto Rico. I even saw Alaska pop up. I thought that was so cool, that somebody in Alaska would use my little app.”

After ChristmasPrism launched, users began to trickle in. But Kane says downloads picked up speed after Philly Mag broke the news of ChristmasPrism on December 8th. “That’s when it really took off,” he observes. The morning after the Philly Mag story hit, Preston & Steve picked it up on WMMR. Then came 6 ABC, NBC 10 and Fox 29. But still, Alaska?!

“I’m really not sure how people in Alaska found out about it,” says Kane. “I guess it’s just organic Facebook reach. There are all these mom groups out there on Facebook. And they’ve been sharing the stories nonstop.”

In between hanging out with his wife and two kids and working a full-time job as a programmer, Kane has managed to issue some much needed updates to ChristmasPrism. He added an edit button so homeowners can change a house photo once they upload it. And users wanted the ability to filter their search just for houses with the “big lights,” so Kane added that feature as well.

ChristmasPrism Christmas lights app creator Mike Kane and his family

ChristmasPrism Christmas lights app creator Mike Kane and his family

The ChristmasPrism app is still only available in the Apple Store. (Sorry, Android users.) But Kane was able to put together a website in all his spare time that allows Android users to map out Christmas lights in their browsers. You just can’t add houses on the website interface.

The overwhelming success of ChristmasPrism has presented some issues.

First, Kane has insisted on approving all the images uploaded to ChristmasPrism, so some nefarious ne’er-do-well can’t go uploading a photo of God-knows-what to the app. “So it’s been me and my wife late into the night with a bottle of wine doing all the approving,” he explains.

Then there are the houses that asked to be taken off of ChristmasPrism because they’re getting too much traffic in their tiny neighborhoods. Kane told us about one house in Drexel Hill that was already very popular in previous years (I’ve seen it; it’s amazing); after the house popped up on ChristmasPrism, the neighborhood was overwhelmed with visitors.

And then there’s the impostor. Kane says that shortly after ChristmasPrism went viral, an app with nearly identical functions suddenly popped up in the Apple Store. “It even has the exact same UI,” Kane laments. (That’s tech speak for user interface.) “So I copyrighted and trademarked everything. But the real difference about their app is that anybody can post a picture of anything they want. I guess they didn’t want to take the time to stay up at night approving images.”

Kane expects a big crush of users this weekend, the last weekend before Christmas. After that, he’s looking forward to spending more time actually enjoying the season instead of helping others do the same.

“Last night, after approving a bunch of houses, my wife and I wrapped all the kids’ Christmas gifts,” he says. “We got the one a bunch of Jurassic Park dinosaurs and the other this Baby Shark karaoke thing. We’re going to decorate the tree this weekend. Bake some cookies. You know, the normal kind of thing.”