What Comes After Flickr? The Future of Photos in the Cloud

8/26/11Follow @wroush

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it’s close. From the website, you can select photos for upload from your hard drive. There’s also a Mac uploader app called Snapjoy Shoebox that will upload any photo or folder that you drag onto the Shoebox window. It can also suck up your entire iPhoto library at once, or all the photos on any SD card that you attach to your computer (it automatically screens out duplicates). Right now, uploading only works on a Mac or a PC, but in the future, says Ren, the startup will also have uploader software for smartphones and WiFi-capable cameras.

Since the main point of Snapjoy is to get your photos into the cloud, the startup doesn’t yet offer a lot of fancy ways to organize, view, or share them once they’re there. There’s a Snapjoy website where thumbnails of your photos are lined up by year, month, or day. You can page forward or backward through your albums, and you can choose to share an individual photos with one person at a time by entering their e-mail address. But that’s about it.

Ren says the startup will gradually add many of the conventional features to the site, such the ability to create curated groups of photos and share photos on Twitter or Facebook. But for now, the company is focused on storage. “We went and asked people, in the case of a fire, what is the most important thing you would want to save?’” Ren says. “The answer was almost always ‘My photos.’ If you lose your camera or your phone, you can replace that—but if you lose your photos, they’re gone forever.”

There are other Internet entrepreneurs with contrasting approaches to photo sharing. A Paris startup called Picuous, for example, is developing a kind of “Vimeo for photos” where the emphasis is on making it easy to embed photos in other websites. Meanwhile, a San Francisco startup called Singly, led by instant messaging pioneer Jeremie Miller, is building an ambitious open-source system called My Locker, which it says “pulls together all of my personal data—my tweets, my photos, my contacts and all my social relationships…and allows me to choose where, when and with whom I share copies.” If My Locker works, it could change the whole ecosystem of user-generated content, giving consumers far more control over their data—and reducing the ability of giants like Google and Facebook to use it as fertilizer for their advertising harvest.

Singly’s project could take a while, so don’t hold your breath. But if you’ve spent years sending photos to Flickr, as I have, it’s definitely a good time to start looking at the alternatives. You never know—all the new competition might prompt Flickr to try some experimenting of its own. But with Bartz seen more as a cost-cutter than an innovator, and with Yahoo’s stock price near a five-year low, I can’t help worrying about the service. And when you smell smoke, it’s a good idea to locate the nearest exit.

Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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