[Full disclosure: I was a founder of Webshots, and actively engaged in building the core product until the beginning of 2005 when I finished up my tenure with CNET experimenting with things like the shoebox. Since August, I have been busy building a slick new social calendar/organization product called 30 Boxes.]
1) Webshots has no capital S. Never has, never will.
2) High resolution images are availble to free members on Webshots.
3) Tim O’Reilly has already touted Ofoto vs. Flickr as a classic Web2.0 case. Aside from the many debates about the meaning of Web2.0, it is a stretch to consider Webshots a Web1.0 company for numerous reasons. Webshots was the pioneer of a public photoblogging on a grand scale and has afforded millions of people the opportunity to quickly become involved in community and discussion around photos for many years. The business was sold a second time because of its very very long tail.
4) Deal prices. There is a profound irony in the philosophy of “transparency” and the reality of deal structures. Everyone would love to know how much Weblogs, Inc. was sold to AOL for and the price is most certainly less than the wild speculation. The only semi-reliable data about the Flickr deal comes from Rafat scouring the Yahoo! 10Q to come up with
– In Q2, Yahoo bought three companies: the total estimated purchase price for all three was about $37 million and consisted of $32 million in cash consideration, $3 million related to stock options exchanged, and $2 million of incurred liabilities and direct transaction costs. That price includes the three publicly announced buyouts I could find: Flickr, DialPad, and Stadeon.
5) As far as addiction or passion for products, Webshots has always had zealots–from people desperate to see the newest Daily Photo just after midnight, to college kids obsessing on Facebook and Webshots. There are more poignant examples like many infirm individuals who have written in over the years to let the company know that Webshots gets them through each day.
With those out of the way, I’ll get to the heart of the matter, Flickr’s Alexa growth. It has been fast and steady and has now pulled into the same order of magnitude as Webshots which is indeed a fantastic achievement.
That growth has nothing to do with Web2.0.
It is a pure market demand to have your photos hosted and served. Have a look at Photobucket (not exactly Web2.0) which I believe also tops Nielsen NetRatings in the photo category. They store your photos and let you post them on your blog/site/whatever.
When it comes to ratings, all these lists and charts are unfortunately only minor gauges. They all have flaws and are prone to wild swings. In fact, the leading metric by influential industry analysts (e.g. Infotrends, Future Image) remains the number of prints ordered primarily because that has a direct tie to revenue generated. In that domain, Webshots is a small player and Flickr is non-existent. Kodak and Shutterfly do lots of volume and generate revenue in the $50-100M range. Webshots fought a hard battle legitimizing the media model and exposing the all-digital photo sharing behavior as a model for the future.
Is there money in online photo sharing? Webshots is a hybrid but under the CNET umbrella has been committed to building branded advertising. Photobucket (ostensibly the industry reach leader) is going slow and steady with an incremental paid service. If they have their math right, then they are building a long-term solid business but ultimately not all that big (because of free alternatives). In a culture known for merit based on revenue and margins, Yahoo! Photos has flip-flopped on whether to charge for the service and has now added Flickr with its odd hybrid (some adwords and a basically “good will” pay-for service). As long as Flickr’s growth remains financially manageable, then Yahoo! can continue to enjoy the halo and gobs of press which has substantial if intangible value.
Digital photos and photo sharing are becoming essential communication touch points in every day life. There will continue to be many large players in this market because there are such diverse segments of people doing things with photos. Heck (in the did you know category) eBay probably gets more photos uploaded each day than Webshots and Flickr combined!
OK, I have to get back to our little calendar project. Anyone out there interested in beta testing (ideally in January), please sign up at 30 Boxes.