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Smugmug's logo. Click here to visit the Smugmug website! New website lets your pictures speak for themselves (UPDATED)
(Wednesday, May 21, 2003 - 16:36 EDT)

Something users of current online photo-sharing websites may be familiar with is the problem of your prized pictures being drowned out by banner ads of all sizes, shouting out for your visitors to purchase prints, visit personals websites, buy a new car - anything but look at that photo they came to see.

Now, a new website from a father-and-son team with a long history on the 'web promises to change that, letting your photos take pride of place on advert- and popup-free pages that you can customise to your own choice of look and feel. Smugmug.com, officially launched yesterday, was founded by father and son team Don and Chris MacAskill. Don was the first non-founding employee at Best Internet, a Californian web host formed in the mid-90s that was eventually taken over by hosting giant Verio. Chris, meanwhile, is best known as founder and CEO of FatBrain.com, a now-defunct site that gave individuals the ability to publish and sell their own e-books (Barnes & Noble eventually took over, and then shut down, FatBrain).

So - will Smugmug.com succeed in the difficult photo-sharing marketplace, where many others have failed before? That will only be answered with time - as we've noted before on these pages, internet users often seem hesitant to pay for a service they're accustomed to receiving for free. Smugmug will have to rely mostly on membership fees to survive, and whilst it could be argued that internet advertising isn't a great way to make money these days anyway, most every other photo-sharing company that's still around has based its business model on selling prints and photo-customised products. That's not to say that these items won't be available through Smugmug - the company has partnered with Shutterfly to provide prints, and promises to add more partners for other photo products.

Smugmug will offer users unlimited storage space, but limit photo and video file size to 8MB per file (videos are not allowed at the lowest pricing level, incidentally). Pricing will instead be based on traffic, with 2GB of bandwidth a month costing $29.95 annually, 4GB / month for $49.95 annually, and a rather confusing "8GB+" per month for $99.95 annually.

That's probably doesn't sound like a lot of photo views if you're talking about the full-sized 8MB originals you're allowed - about 8 to 33 views per day, depending on the plan you've selected. Smugmug's own estimates, which work out to about 900 to 4000 views daily, are based on a file size of about 70KB per image. We'd guess most users will probably come down somewhere at the lower end of these two levels...

These prices are probably below what you might be able to purchase your own domain and web host for (at least, for a reliable web host), and you do gain the convenience of being able to upload your images through a pre-prepared system rather than having to set everything up from scratch. We'd like to see Smugmug succeed, if only to offer digital photographers another option for their photos. As you can see from this sample gallery (another is located here), the site layout is indeed quite clean, and lets your visitors access the original images for download, something not many of these sites will allow. If you have a very busy gallery full of large photos, it won't be difficult to burn up even the maximum 8GB of bandwidth every month, but if you have a gallery that isn't viewed often, and has a *lot* of photos in it, it could prove a relatively cheap way to keep them accessible to friends and family...

UPDATED 2003-05-30 08:52AM: Corrected an error in this item based on a misunderstanding of SmugMug's press materials. Whilst the figures for bandwidth allowance are monthly, the related prices are actually annual - making SmugMug an order of magnitude more affordable...

Original Source Press Release:

Smugmug.com Debuts as Premier Photo Sharing Destination for the Photographer in All of Us

Smugmug.com offers everything consumers need to easily share their memories with friends and family around the world with style

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF., May 20, 2003 - Smugmug today announced a new, dedicated online community for friends and family to easily share their priceless pictures and videos on the Web. Smugmug centers on sharing, not prints, providing an elegant and complete environment to bring loved ones, friends and family closer together. Smugmug.com offers an unmatched experience combined with fully customizable, style-driven galleries to give users the ability to instantly build, tailor and update their personalized albums with ease. Smugmug is available online today at www.smugmug.com.

When the dot com bubble burst, many high profile photo sharing and finishing sites suddenly shuttered leaving many users abandoned, scrambling to recreate their photo albums elsewhere. Although the concept of online photo sharing is not new, Smugmug believes that is has developed the right business model to keep its customers memories online for good. The company believes that everyday photographers are faced with a confusing set of options when attempting to organize and share their priceless photos with friends and family. With the top online photo sites focused on prints and photo-related gifts, while others rely on distracting pop up and banner ads, Smugmug is driving a new paradigm for those who are specifically interested in sharing pictures in a highly personalized environment.

Founded by avid photography enthusiasts, Smugmug.com membership is designed to offer a host of features that are ideally beneficial to both photographers and viewers, including a customizable look and feel, unlimited photo album hosting, simple and fast bulk uploading, video sharing, personal URLs, traffic reporting, and most importantly, a 'pop-up' and advertising-free experience.

The company was founded by father and son team Don and Chris MacAskill after months of trying to find the ideal place to share pictures with friends and family. Don MacAskill was the first non-founding employee at Best Internet (now Verio), which is considered the earliest, most successful Internet Service Provider in Silicon Valley. His father, Chris MacAskill, was a founder and the CEO of Fatbrain.com.

"When we decided to put our photos online, we found that the so-called 'free sites' surrounded our photos with promotions for everything from coffee mugs to custom cakes, eclipsing the beauty of the images," said Chris MacAskill. "We created a service specifically for people to share their pictures in a friendly and personalized environment. Smugmug showcases photographs and galleries and provides maximum flexibility for the photographer to personalize the experience without feeling like they were competing with the hosting service for the viewer's attention."

Smugmug.com offers a unique blend of tools and design that appeal to both the photographer and the viewer. The site is scalable, allowing users to easily add new albums, and upload hundreds of images with a single click. Best of all, the site is free of advertising and annoying pop-ups, freeing viewers to concentrate on what's most important - the quality of the photography.

"This is a personal endeavor that grew out of our frustration with trying to get established photo sites to conform with our vision of an ideal photo sharing service," said Don MacAskill. "It took only three months to develop a strong base of loyal customers and our steep growth rate has been entirely by word of mouth. Subscribers tell us we've created an ideal community for showcasing their talent and special memories."

Power users control almost all layout and aesthetics including comments, personal URLs and custom subcategories. They can replace the Smugmug logo and navigation with their own identity, they can add their own footer, customize colors, backgrounds, scripts, and style sheets.

Smugmug offers three levels of membership, standard, power and professional.

smugmug plans compared

 StandardPower UserProfessional
# of photosUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Maximum size8 Megabytes8 Megabytes8 Megabytes
Video clipsNoneUnlimitedUnlimited
Maximum size-8 Megabytes8 Megabytes
Monthly traffic2 Gigabytes4 Gigabytes8 Gigabytes+
Avg views/mo.30,00060,000120,000+
Customizationhomepage, captions, etcUnlimitedUnlimited
Annual cost$29.95$49.95$99.95

About Smugmug
Smugmug, www.smugmug.com, is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif. and was founded in November 2002 by the very determined father and son team of Chris and Don MacAskill. Smugmug is unique because it was created by photographers for photographers to offer other professional, amateur, and casual photographers a dedicated, clutter-free community where they can easily share their pictures with friends, family and associates around the world. The exclusive, underlying technology enables a distinctive level of user customization, which enables each gallery to be distinctive as opposed to 'cookie cutter' albums which limit individuality on other sites.

Smugmug is located at 248 Walker Drive, Suite #8 in Mountain View, Calif. 94043.

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