SmugMug comes to the rescue free of charge when StreamNation’s PictureLife photo site shuts down
posted Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 6:59 AM EST
Over the almost two decades we've been reviewing cameras here at IR, we've seen many photo sharing sites come and go; yesterday another unfortunately (but all too predictably) joined that tally. A little over five years after it was founded, Picturelife is no more. The company sold out to Streamnation in January 2015, only a year after its then-CEO told customers that the company was around for the long haul, something The Verge picked up on when the Streamnation sale took place. Not even two years later, its new owner has pulled the plug entirely.
Picturelife isn't the first and we're pretty sure won't be the last photo sharing site to be shuttered. It's a sad fact of the photo sharing business that customers don't like to pay a sustainable amount for their photos to be published online, especially when the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon are able to offer photo sharing for little if any cost, thanks to their size (and hence, their ability to monetize their customers in other ways.) And since they don't pay, too many sites don't stick around for long. Messages like that below from Picturelife are all too common once the venture capital funding dries up.
Thank you all for everything: https://t.co/Im9P7b3vOs— Picturelife (@picturelife) August 22, 2016
You've probably noticed that we keep using the term photo sharing here, even though many sites instead refer to these sites as photo storage services these days. That's intentional on our part, mostly because we've seen so many such services fail. Frequently, when they disappear so to do their customers' irreplaceable photos. And sure, many of those will be dime-a-dozen selfies and photos of a million restaurant dinners, but that's hardly the point. By referencing "storage", too many people see these services as an alternative to proper backups -- and when the penny finally drops, it's far too late to do anything about it.
If even one in one thousand of those photos was somebody's irreplaceable picture of a long-lost relative, say, or something equally important to them (and perhaps others), well, that's a heartbreak in the making if they didn't have a proper backup elsewhere. But this time, at least, there's a hero waiting in the wings. SmugMug, which has been around long enough now to consider it one of the elder statesmen of photo sharing, has come to the rescue. And although it clearly stands to make a profit if it can persuade Picturelife customers to use its service instead, it's being impressively straightforward and fair by not using all those lost photos as a bargaining chip.
Instead, as an email from Picturelife told its former customers yesterday, SmugMug is allowing them to access their photos -- all 200 million of them (!) -- for viewing and downloading completely free of charge. Picturelife users can, of course, opt to enroll with SmugMug if they want to continue to add to their online photo collections, but it's by no means a requirement -- and that's great news!
With a little luck, the collapse of Picturelife will help to dissuade the public of the notion that online photo sharing sites are a sensible backup solution for their photos, too, although we rather doubt it. Be that as it may, major kudos to SmugMug for stepping in to save the day for the many Picturelife users who for years have mistakenly believed their photos to be safe and secure!