More On Webshots/Flickr Chatter

It seems that Robert Scoble’s post on the HeyPix acquisition has sparked a small (and amusing) debate about Webshots v. Flickr.

[Disclosure: I am a founder of Webshots, a former CEO, and now contributer as part of CNET Networks, Inc.]

As someone who has watched and helped Webshots grow from a single web server to portal class, I wanted to clarify/make few points.

First, we are fans of Flickr! As an entrepreneur, I appreciate the great job they have done designing a product, building a community, generating loads of press, and selling a business. Their innovations, along with several other of the newer crop of photo-sharing/social media sites (e.g. buzznet, fotolog.net) have made this space exciting again and that is good for everyone involved.

For the record, Webshots is committed to open API’s, open social networks, citizen journalism, and navigation/presentation that makes use of rich metadata.  We have a lot of work to do! The acquisition of HeyPix is just one of many aspects of our product strategy designed to lay the foundation for a more open and intuitive experience.

Second, I thought a brief history of Webshots might be in order as it seems even Scoble didn’t know very much about us! The company was started in 1995 (when people had scanners and not digital cameras) and our software was used to collect and share photos visually. In fact, in 1996, we had to make a custom screensaver of Bill Gates’ first child that was to be a Christmas present from his brother-in-law. The company was bought by Excite@Home in 1999, bought back by the founders at the end of 2001, and finally acquired by CNET in 2004.

We were pioneers in album sharing, photo messaging, photo blogging, and image search, launched a social network long before Friendster, and have built the world’s largest public archive of photos. We grew up on LAMP (before it was an acronym) and have prided ourselves on running the leanest operation per page view. Along the way we built a very popular service and a highly profitable media business where many others failed.

Finally, Webshots was "cool" back in 1996, we have a lot of buzz on college campuses in 2005. We take pride in having built one of the few Internet brands that is approaching a ten-year anniversary, and having scaled a business that continues to grow at an incredible rate week over week.  I appreciate Frank Boosman’s Flickr zeal (he has every right to be excited) but the graph he references is a change in Alexa ranking and it is one thing to climb into the top 1000 and quite another to scale higher than the 40’s (to keep climbing we would have to start dislodging the likes of eBay and Amazon.com!)

I still care a great deal about Webshots and that is why I have weathered and stuck by through two acquisitions.  In many ways the opportunities are really just beginning. With innovations in user interface, content aggregation, search, and tools for making social connections, a variety of players (Webshots, Flickr, heck even Kodak EasyShare Gallery) have a great chance to have a collaborative open network that facilitates both discovery and rich applications.

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