Shutterfly Launches ThisLife amid Casualties in Photo Aggregation

Alan Bullock
Nov 8, 2013

It’s been a rough week for startups in the photo aggregation space. On Tuesday, November 5, Everpix notified users that it was shutting down. Today, November 8, Linea made a similar announcement. While there may be a silver lining for Linea (the shutdown letter to users says that its “core technology will be deployed in a new platform in the future”), there was no such optimism coming from Everpix. Its demise is well documented in this article on The Verge.

This news comes in the wake of Shutterfly’s recent beta launch of ThisLife, its new “Enhanced Cloud Service” for gathering and organizing photo and video content from multiple sources. Retaining the name of the startup company it acquired in January 2013, ThisLife by Shutterfly can connect to users’ accounts at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, Picasa, Tumblr, SmugMug, and, of course, Shutterfly, retrieving copies of photos and videos into a single collection. Early users of ThisLife in its original, pre-acquisition, form can also import collections they had previously assembled into the new service.

In addition to a browser interface, ThisLife can be accessed via mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, and Amazon Kindle Fire platforms. Desktop uploaders are also available for Mac and Windows so that offline photos can be added to ThisLife from local hard drives or from attached cameras, card readers, or other devices. The Mac version will also import photos from iPhoto libraries. There are currently no plans for a Windows Phone app, but Shutterfly representatives assure us that when there is sufficient demand, they will develop one.

ThisLife’s photo library is displayed in one large gallery view, with photos automatically organized by date. This view can be “zoomed out” to show months or years at a time. In the “Places” view, geo-tagged photos are shown on a world map that can be zoomed in to show where each photo (or group of photos) was taken. Users can edit date (but not time) and location metadata for photos, either individually or in batches. This is a useful feature for those instances where the original data was incorrect or missing. After some initial manual tagging, ThisLife uses facial detection and recognition to speed the process of identifying people in the rest of the collection and in new photos that are added.

Photos can be also be grouped into “stories”, which are user-curated sets of photos around a theme (such as events, groups, etc.). Stories can be shared with other ThisLife users, who can be classified as a “viewer” (with commenting and downloading privileges) or a “contributor” (with full add, delete, and edit rights). Individual or multiple photos (but not stories) can also be shared to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or via e-mail.

ThisLife is currently free for storage of up to 1,000 photos (no video). Additional storage is available in increments of 100 GB for $7.99 per month or $79 per year. An introductory annual price of $59 is now being offered. Shutterfly representatives say that the 100 GB storage should be sufficient for about 25,000 photos and videos but, obviously, individual mileage will vary based on factors such as the length and quality of videos and the resolution of photos.

InfoTrends’ Opinion
So will Shutterfly succeed where companies like Everpix and Linea have failed? Odds are in its favor. As the undisputed leader in personalized photo products, with expected revenues of more than $750 million this year, it has the luxury of waiting for this market to develop. And, according to our consumer research, it has good reason to believe that it will. In InfoTrends’ 2013 U.S. Cloud Services End-User Survey, nearly 40% of respondents who were storing files in a cloud service said that they would be “extremely interested” in a web service or mobile app that let them view and maintain files from multiple cloud services in a single interface.

Furthermore, nearly 45% of respondents who were storing photos in the cloud said that doing so made them significantly easier to find. And that’s what it’s all about for Shutterfly, where ThisLife is “about enjoying memories, not warehousing files.” It’s impossible to enjoy the memories that photos evoke if those photos can’t be located. And fortunately for Shutterfly, making those photos easier to find also makes them easier to use in photo books and other custom products.

Shutterfly’s staying power in the photo industry should also help them to gain favor with consumers, Many are understandably reluctant to invest the time, effort, and trust to build up their photo collections with relatively unknown startups. This week’s news validates those concerns. Perhaps Shutterfly’s presence will even be a stabilizing influence, allowing the market to develop faster than it otherwise would.

Updated 11/11/2013 to correct Shutterfly’s expected 2013 revenue.

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