Internet

Yahoo develops Net photo album service

The Net giant is teaming with Jim Clark's Shutterfly to launch a new site that will let people store and view digital photos on its popular service.

Yahoo today announced it is teaming with Jim Clark's Shutterfly to launch a new site that will let people store and view digital photos on its popular service.

As previously reported, the site, called Yahoo Photos, allows consumers to upload, store, share and develop photos through its service. It also lets people create photo albums that can be viewed publicly or by a predetermined group.

Shutterfly is a service that turns digital images into actual photo prints and then mails them to customers. As part of the launch, Yahoo and Shutterfly will offer people up to 15 free prints.

With the addition of photo publishing and photo albums, Yahoo is stepping into a market that has attracted the attention of several Net heavyweights.

In October last year, America Online formally launched You've Got Pictures, an online photo service created with Eastman Kodak. Later that month, Netscape Communications founder Clark launched Shutterfly to offer enhanced digital printing services over the Web. Hewlett-Packard also has an online photo album service, Cartogra, that allows friends and family to share pictures over the Web.

Another online photo start-up is Snapfish.com, which said it would offer free photo processing and prints in a January launch. But the service has not launched yet, according to the order form on its site. eMemories, an eCompanies start-up, also processes film and then scans and uploads the images onto the Web.

PhotoAccess.com is another site similar to Shutterfly that went live in December.

The budding of online photo sites is in response to the expected rise in popularity and sales of digital cameras. According to research firm International Data Corp., digital camera use is set to take off, growing from sales of about 4.7 million units this year to 22 million units by 2003.

Yahoo Photos ties together other Yahoo sites, including home page publisher GeoCities, message boards and clubs--features likely aimed at boosting community offerings to keep customers on the site longer. The site also includes links to Yahoo's shopping, auctions and classifieds pages, where people can search for digital cameras and other photography hardware.

In addition, the Web site includes a searchable picture gallery that people can surf to find photos to illustrate home pages, greeting cards, auction pages and so on.

Yahoo's move into online photos makes sense, according to Jupiter Communications analyst Aram Sinnreich. The company has focused heavily on owning or operating services that foster recurring usage. Services such as clubs, home pages and photos give people more personal space for posting their own content.

But cultivating customer loyalty with an online photo service remains untried in a business that has yet to cause a stir among consumers.

"It is a stretch," Sinnreich said. "Nobody's figured out the magic formula yet to cause a sea change in consumer behavior."