Back in simpler times— let’s say 2006— when Twitter was in its infancy and Facebook was caught in an awkward adolescence, photo-sharing services were an essential part of one’s online persona. Sites like Picasa, Flickr and Photobucket invited users to upload their pictures, share with friends and “follow” others long before such features had caught fire in other social systems.
But where are they now?
While the aforementioned services still enjoy a great deal of traffic, they seem to have been shuffled to the corner in terms of general buzz. Soon Picasa (along with Blogger) will lose its unique brand nameas part of the Google+ integration— a decision that could relegate Picasa (neé Google+ Photos) to the ranks of Instagram and Facebook Photos.
In 2006, Webshotswas my photo-sharing service of choice. Five years later, the site still sends me regular updates on my albums’ activity (surprisingly, people are still looking). The appeal of Webshots lay in its low-pressure yet dynamic atmosphere; it was a place to share images with non-Facebook users and to show off my shots to anyone who happened to stumble upon the account. While Webshots never boasted a strong community environment, it did feature a “Picture of the Day” and invited users to get lost browsing a smorgasbord of images— some funny, some pointless and some extraordinary. Bought by American Greetings in 2007, what was once a tidy and quiet site now seems cold, cluttered and too commercial.
Is the friendly, inspiring and not-too-social atmosphere a thing of the past for photo-sharing sites? Perhaps not.
500px, a startup from 2003 and recent darling of Microsoft BizSpark is attempting to create a home for professional photographers and photo-lovers alike. While the site features a follow function, Twitter account and Facebook page, its tie-in to social media is more conservative. LiveJournal, not WordPress or Tumblr, hosts the site’s blog. Eschewing the share-happy mentality, their mission is “to help photographers get greater exposure, reduce some of the marketing headaches, and to let creatives concentrate on what they do best.”
Although 500px might not be the best fit for an amateur photographer like me, it’s reassuring to know that high-quality images (see editors’ picks) have a community base unfettered by tags and tweets.
— Nicole Duncan