Shutterfly, the photo sharing and printing company today launched Share Sites, which will allow users to create photo albums centered around events like travel, birthdays, or weddings. Shutterfly member can also invite others to upload their own photos to a shared album. Share Sites is Shutterfly's first foray into providing a more open, Web 2.0 oriented service to its mainstream audience. While Shutterfly markets Share Sites simply as a different way to share photos, it is really a fully featured photoblogging platform.
We spend some time testing out the service this morning and came away impressed with the capabilities of Share Sites. Most of the sites functions are accessible even for novice users. Share Sites comes with a very wide range of templates for various special occasions, most of which are actually pretty well designed. Users also can decide to make a site public, only accessible to invited members, or to simply password protect them.
While Shutterfly announces the service to its users as a way to "create a custom website for sharing," Share Sites are really fully featured photo blogs, with comments, polls, RSS feeds, and even the ability to download an OPML file with feeds for your various photo galleries. For those who want to photoblog on the go, Shutterfly provides you with an email address to send your pictures to. You can also embed YouTube videos, though the embedded Google and Yahoo video search for finding those videos didn't yet work during out tests.
With Share Sites, Shutterfly is obviously competing with Flickr, Google's Picasaweb, and Photobucket, but its real competition includes Kodak and HP's Snapfish, as Shutterfly's business model revolves around making money from physical prints (most of Shutterfly's employees actually work in its printing plant). Indeed, most photo sharing sites rely on Snapfish or Shutterfly to fulfill their printing orders.
Out of the Silo
What is most important about Share Sites, though, is that it provides mainstream users an easily accessible entryway to the sharing and commenting culture of the modern web. In the near future, as the New York Times reports, users will also be able to embed their pictures on any blog or social network.
Though it allowed for sharing, Shuttefly's old system was mostly a closed off silo. However, adding these photoblogging features makes a lot of sense for Shutterfly. After all, the more people you share your photos with, the more people are likely to want prints of them.