"We see this as a real killer application," Lennert Leader, AOL's chief financial officer, said during today's BancAmerica Robertson Stephens Technology '98 conference.
AOL's move comes as use of digital cameras and photography is ramping up. Last year, about 2 million digital cameras were shipped, and that figure is expected to jump as high as 9 million by the year 2002, according to a study by Forward Concepts.
The familiar computer-animated voice that heralds the arrival of incoming mail on AOL's network now will say: "You've got pictures," when a member receives a photograph.
Leader said high demand for the transmission and reception of photographs by AOL members is driving the plan to include the new feature on the AOL network. He noted that the average photographer uses 7 rolls of film for every 12 rolls burned by AOL users, and pointed out that 33 percent of AOL members scan photos for use on the online giant's network.
"Our members are very active photographers," Leader said.
With the new service, AOL users will be able to check a box on the site if they want to digitize a photo, and will be given options to store, email, or drag-and-drop the photo onto a Web page.
AOL views the feature as a way to retain members and provide a "value-add" to its users.
"It's a natural extension of our AOL community," Leader said.