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Shutterfly offers Web space to customers

Online photo service debuts personalized URLs, Web pages that let people store an unlimited number of albums.

The fierce competition in the digital photography marketplace has prompted online photo service Shutterfly to find a way to lure customers: exclusive Web pages for storing and sharing pictures.

Dubbed Shutterfly Collections, the service lets customers create a maximum of two Web addresses that will be hosted on the company's Web site. The Web pages have a personalized URL and can store an unlimited number of photo albums, the Redwood City, Calif.-based company said Thursday.

The Web pages can be protected with passwords. Guests with whom customers would like to share the albums can be invited through e-mail. Guests can add comments to individual photos or albums, which can be viewed by other visitors.

"Our customers tell us that sharing photos has become as much a part of their regular communication with family and friends as phone calls and e-mails. Shutterfly Collections is the answer, giving customers their own Shutterfly Web page to return to over time to relive the special events and everyday moments of their lives," Jeffrey Housenbold, CEO of Shutterfly, said in a statement.

Photo sharing is becoming more popular with consumers, and various companies are jostling for a stake in the emerging market. Major players in the online photo-sharing space include Kodak's Ofoto, Yahoo and Webshots, which is owned by CNET Networks, publisher of News.com. Hewlett-Packard, too, has thrown its hat in the ring recently, acquiring the Snapfish photo service in April.

The companies have been introducing new technologies in an effort to attract more consumers. For example, Yahoo, which bought community photo site Flickr in March, debuted a new instant-messaging technology that lets people view photos in a chat window much like a slide show. Yahoo's PhotoMail service makes it possible to include up to 300 pictures within an e-mail message in a thumbnail version.