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Kawasaki revs up for FilmLoop

Early Apple Computer evangelist Guy Kawasaki is busy proselytizing for his new photo-sharing venture.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
3 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--Early Apple Computer evangelist Guy Kawasaki is looping his career back to the Mac once again--or at least revisiting the world of Apple to promote his latest pet project.

On the eve of the Macworld conference here, Kawasaki affectionately touted his newest venture, photo-sharing start-up FilmLoop. He's a board member and investor, as well as a high-school chum of company co-founder Kyle Mashima.

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Guy Kawasaki's newest love
Ahead of Macworld 2006, a new photo-sharing program

FilmLoop, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is "how photo-sharing should be done. It pushes pictures to people (via the desktop) instead of pushing people to their pictures," said Kawasaki, managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, a two-time Apple executive and a self-professed Mac enthusiast. Kawasaki said he devotes roughly 70 percent of his time to FilmLoop because he's so jazzed about its product.

So what's the software's tie-in to Macworld, where Kawasaki spent years selling the Mac, as well as applications, like Emailer, that he developed? FilmLoop released beta software for the Macintosh on Monday.

Simply, FilmLoop is a free desktop program that lets people drag and drop photos into a file, then view those pictures on the desktop, like they would a film reel. It continuously parades photos across the screen when it's on.

Unique to the service is people's ability to share and edit photos in the loop. Users can invite friends to view their photos, and once those friends have downloaded the FilmLoop Player, they too can add related comments, pictures or Web links to the file, so they're visible to all in real time. Users can also broadcast photos to anyone on the Web who wants to subscribe to that film loop, or "looplet."

The company's FilmLoop Network also offers professional or commercial "photocasts," which anyone can subscribe to. For example, online auctioneer eBay is a company partner, and it allows anyone to subscribe to an eBay Motors Ferrari FilmLoop so that viewers can see a constant stream of Ferraris up for auction on eBay. Normally, car enthusiasts would have to visit the Web site constantly to see the same auctions.

Similarly, ESPN can offer a sports loop; TBS a "Sex in the City" loop; and UPN, a "Making of 'King Kong'" loop.

The service is supported by advertising, so visitors pay only by viewing ads on the Web site or within a loop.

"We offer marketers a direct channel to a person's desktop," said Mashima, FilmLoop CEO and a former Apple executive.

Of course, the company has competition. The photo-sharing business on the Web is a crowded and fast-moving market, with companies like Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Apple and News.com parent CNET Networks' Webshots fighting for the title of best service.

FilmLoop also has several business issues to work through, such as developing rights management for copyright-protected photos. As of yet, the company does not have a way for visitors to download and purchase photos from the service. It also has to grapple with filtering out adult-related photos or copyright-protected works.

In the coming month, it plans to add support for Really Simple Syndication (RSS) so that people can add news and information feeds into their film loops.

FilmLoop was founded last year, but the idea for the company came in 1999, while Mashima worked for Adobe Systems and was collaborating on a photo-sharing project with the then-CEO of social networking site eCircles.com, Prescott Lee. The two men thought that photo-sharing was still too difficult, despite advancements in the market, and they wanted to develop an easy way of finding and sharing pictures. Last year, their answer was FilmLoop.

Last February, the privately held company raised $5.6 million from Garage and GlobeSpan Capital Partners.

"You know, most people think venture capitalists take time to check out the business model and do due diligence before investing," Kawasaki said. "This decision took 30 seconds."