More closures in online photofinishing!|
(Saturday, February 16, 2002 - 14:18 EST)
Yet another online photofinisher reaches the end of its days, but this one has been in the cards for some time...
Online photofinisher StudioAvenue.com (a co-branded site run on behalf of imaging software company Jasc by PhotoLoft.com) is closing its doors after giving a month's notice that it would be discontinuing service last January. The deadline date came and passed yesterday, and at the time of this writing the site is still up and running - but don't expect that to last long. If you're a member and have not saved any vital images from the site, do it immediately.
PhotoLoft's owner, BrightCube.com, announced last October that it had sold its PhotoLoft-related hardware and software, as well as the PhotoLoft brandname and all related brandnames to Canon U.S.A. Inc. at the bargain-basement price of $1.2 million "less closing adjustments". This is a far cry from what the company might have been worth in the dot-com heyday - a quick look through our news database found announcements from the past of more than 10 times this much money being poured into PhotoLoft as equity capital!
PhotoLoft started hosting Canon's HyperPhoto website in February 2000, and one presumes Canon spotted a good opportunity to bring its photo site in-house. We can think of two good reasons to do so - the first being potential cost savings over paying a third-party to provide services. More importantly, though, by taking over Canon ensured that HyperPhoto customers weren't at risk of being put through the same ordeal that Epson's PhotoCenter customers faced when that site had to be taken down for a period of weeks whilst third-party provider PhotoPoint.com ceased operations.
Now that the deal is done, though, we can see little reason for Canon to continue PhotoLoft's operations in the long term. It may have had to fulfil obligations to third-parties such as StudioAvenue, but as those contracts expire it has little to gain from continuing the relationships. Hence comes Jasc's terse statement that: "As of February 15, 2002, the entire StudioAvenue.com site will be shutting down because our third-party provider will no longer be offering photo-sharing and printing services."
We're not privy to the terms of PhotoLoft's contracts with other cobranded sites such as, for example, FutureShop.ca (the Future Photo Online website is a PhotoLoft cobrand) and so can't really estimate when/if these sites will cease service - but we doubt any of them have long to live.
Likewise, it may be that PhotoLoft itself is nearing the end of the road - the company switched to a pay structure over 11 months ago, and the majority of those one-year subscriptions will be expiring soon.Obviously members who enrolled since that time will still have longer left, but when all is said and done we do think it advisable that all members of PhotoLoft and co-branded sites take the time to ensure they have backups of their images.
Realistically, we'd see only a limited number of options for Canon - it can continue the PhotoLoft service and brand-name, but since online photofinishing has not proven to be the easiest way to turn a profit it has little incentive to do so. Alternatively, it could switch over existing users to the HyperPhoto service, either all in one go or as subscriptions expire - hence promoting its own brand-name, which could be seen as a better use of the money. Finally, it could just cease taking new subscriptions at PhotoLoft, and close down the servers at the appropriate time.
Whatever happens, we think this is as good a time as any to repeat our "online photofinishing mantra" - always, always keep backups of your photos. You wouldn't hand over your film negatives to the local WalMart or photofinisher for safe keeping, so don't do it with your digital negatives either. Be sure you have a safe, secure backup system and you won't have so much to fear should your choice of photofinisher go the way of the dinosaurs!