I'm a heavy user of Flickr, where I store and share albums. And I love Riya [video], which is building technology to automatically identify people in photos. But there's something missing from both services: the capability to relate people in photos to each other. But I just got an e-mail from Milena Berry of Amiglia, a photo sharing site that allows you to create a family tree, attach photos to people in the tree, and attach relevant media (such as stories and MP3s) to certain branches of the family or to events (such as vacations and birthdays).
Amiglia brings structure to a data management problem that desperately needs it. The tagging architecture of Flickr and Riya only gets us part of the way in organizing photos. Amiglia lets us build tight social networks that reflect the way we think about the people closest to us. Amiglia's add-ons to this structure are well targeted to navigating this network: there's a Java-based game for children, where they get to identify family members; and there are mapping tools to show destinations on a family vacation.
The service is in beta, so I forgive the site some of its issues, such as the fact that on the tree view, my face appears over the name of my wife, and only one of my parents (who are divorced) appears on the level above me. The Flash tree viewer rotates and zooms you around the tree, but there aren't enough control options to make it usable as a navigation tool, and you can't see the entire tree all at once. Also, the tree clumps spouses in bubbles that overlap vertically, not horizontally like all other family trees. It's not unclear, but it is different, and I can't see the benefit of doing it this way. I'm told an improved tree viewer is in the works.
Once Amiglia improves its navigation, though, it will still be but a portion of the photo sharing puzzle. This is its greatest weakness. Who wants to manage their photos on yet another system? Amiglia, to succeed for itself and for its users, needs to either integrate into an existing system (such as Flickr) or integrate tools into it that make photo management and tagging a total no-brainer. Today, the service can import Flickr images, and there's a very strong uploader application for getting photos from your hard drive into it. But ultimately, as other bloggers have noted, Amiglia needs Riya's face recognition engine. Or Riya needs Amiglia. Or somebody needs to mash the two together.