MIcrosoft Building Photo Sharing Service to Compete With Flickr, Smugmug and Other Photo Web Sites

Microsoft to Build Photosharing Service

[I’m CEO of Zooomr]

Was tipped off to an interesting job posting by Microsoft posted on Friday regarding upcoming efforts to create a photo sharing service that will compete with Flickr, Smugmug and other internet based photo sharing sites.

From the job posting:


“Heard of Flickr? YouTube? How about. Mac? This role will work across the new Windows Live division with teams like Spaces, SkyDrive, Messenger and Hotmail to construct a winning strategy for Microsoft in photo and video sharing. This role involves leading the team to design the strategy then build and implement a winning solution that will be loved by millions of customers. This feature team is building a next-generation photo and video sharing service that will compete with flickr, smugmug and other photo web solutions today. This is a “v1” opportunity.”

It will be interesting to see what Microsoft comes up with in regards to photosharing. Certainly they have the resources (programming talent, money, bandwidth, etc.) to build something really really cool. But do they have the *culture* to build something really cool?

Perhaps most interesting to me with regards to Microsoft and photo sharing would be a site that interacted heavily with Microsoft’s Media Center platform. I’ve long believed in and shared Bill Gate’s vision of the plasma display as a way to deliver art into the home of the future. Originally when Gates started the stock photography agency Corbis back in 1989 (originally named Interactive Home Systems) the idea was to buy the rights to amazing photography for the future value of being able to showcase this art in the home of tomorrow — Gates own home being a sort of early prototype.

Since 1989 though the work coming from advanced amateurs has been as strong as the Pros, in my opinion, and a strategy by Microsoft that combined the showcase potential in the home of Media Center with the stock photography agency potential of Corbis in attracting advanced amateurs, with a kick ass photosharing service could have huge potential. There also could be significant value to Microsoft search with regards to the image search potential (remember folks, this is why Yahoo *really* bought Flickr) of a properly structured photo sharing site.

The biggest question for me though will be will Microsoft have the *will* to win. My friend Robert Scoble says that back when he worked for Microsoft he suggested that Microsoft buy Flickr in the weeks before Yahoo actually bought them. As the world’s leading photo sharing site, Flickr now has an enormous head start over any other photo sharing site out there — but a better Flickr can definitely be built — heck, I’m working on that one myself ;)

But can Microsoft innovate fast enough — can they forgo the immediate business and financial models needed to just instead focus on building something amazing that can generate the buzz needed to launch something truly spectacular and take market share away from their competition? Managing a social network is not easy and nothing makes fueling a social network harder than bureaucracy and corporate politics.

Anyways, this all is just based on a job posting but it certainly would be interesting to see what, if anything develops from this. The question for me is, will Microsoft actually build a Flickr killer, or will they merely build another Picasa without the social network or traction to truly become the leader in the photo sharing space. Can they build a truly innovative site or will what they end up with something that looks more like yesterday’s has been Webshots?

Nice work, by the way, scouring those Microsoft job boards jonester!

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  1. Dawson Jones says:

    Great ‘logo’ for Microsoft! Nice article also. And thanks for the link!

  2. Ulrich says:

    Photo sharing in the style of flickr and – sorry – Zooomr to me is just another hype that I for myself left behind again, so I could not care less.

  3. Jonester says:

    @Ulrich

    If Zooomr is a hype, Flickr is hype. There both the same, but Zooomr offers much better features. How could 2 things under the same category (photo sharing), one be ‘cool’, and one be a ‘hype’? Doesn’t happen. Zooomr has more style because of its cool features.

  4. Gary Denness says:

    I know you’ll probably hate me for suggesting heresy….but the problem with Zooomr seems to me to be a lack of resources. I like Zooomr, but I just can’t bring myself to entrust my snaps to such a small outfit with obvious limitations.

    I don’t have the absolute hatred for Microsoft that others have either, although only Windows Live Writer really rings my bell. So far. But Microsoft Zooomr? Done right, that could work for me.

  5. Tam says:

    I use both Flickr and Zooomr and both have their unique quirks which keep me coming back. Especially the “start a dialogue” function of Zooomr. That part is the best thing since sliced bread, IMHO.

    As for Microsoft building a killer competitor? Not likely. While they’ve succeeded in the past by buying out businesses and developing them such as Facebook and Hotmail, I’m not sure that they have the ability to develop something which will take off in a highly competitive market.

    While I hope for your sake (Thomas) that Zooomr takes off, as it is a great alternative to Filckr, I honestly can’t see Flickr losing much in the way of market share anytime soon. Flickr has developed a strategy to snare serious photographers and non-photographers alike, while my experience with Zooomr so far has meant that I’ve only encountered serious photographers rather than the spam uploading public.

    Certainly this could be attributed to the circles I float in, and I’m sure someone could show me an exception to my experiences thus far.

    End result? I really don’t think many people are going to shy away from their current loyalties unless Microsoft brings out a service that beats the free offerings of the current big names. With Microsoft’s seemingly hunger for money I can’t see that happening.

  6. Ulrich says:

    @Jonester

    I said ‘in the style of flickr and Zooomr’

    To me photo sharing in the style of flickr and Zooomr is a hype. It is good for people who do not want to go through the hassle of maintaining their own web space which of course is the majority of people.

    I was on flickr (no account there anymore) and still have an account at Zooomr and Ipernity but I prefer to operate my own little online gallery meanwhile. I maintain a personal blog in addition where I post about photography among other topics too.

    I like that better than photo sharing at flickr or Zooomr, don’t know, I guess it is just me but I think there is nothing in it for me with photo sharing as part of an online community.

  7. opuntia says:

    I wouldn’t hold my breath hoping that MS might integrate Media Center with the photo sharing project. My personal rant right now is with the new Zune and Media Center. Basically, the new Zune software is getting rid of 5-star ratings for the heart/broken heart (like/don’t like) system and they’re also getting rid of smart(auto) playlists. This makes the Zune useless for me and, ironically, makes the ipod better suited for MCE.

  8. Greg says:

    I also have it on good authority that Adobe is working on a photo sharing service as well. All these places to share photos and no good way to manage your photos…