I am guessing that in the next seven days, more digital pictures will be taken than in any previous week in history. During 2004, more than 18 million digital cameras were sold in the U.S. Worldwide, the total is more than 55 million (according to Fredonia Research). A high percentage of cellphones today have cameras as well.
I anticipate that Christmas morning (and Chanukah too), millions of additional digital cameras will be unwrapped, while the tens of millions already out there will be snapping dozens of pictures. I know that I will be using my Digital Rebel XT to take shots of my 6-year old unwrapping a Canon point & shoot that was at the top of her list for Santa.
What does this have to do with Content? Plenty. Unlike with film cameras, where all of those pictures would eventually end up in shoeboxes in the back of your closet, the digital world turns that into valuable content. And, just as Del.icio.us allows users to tag their text-based content so that it’s accessible to the rest of the world, its sister company, Flickr, makes image content readily available to share with friends, family and (if desired) the rest of the world.
One of the huge benefits of photo sharing sites is the ability to easily upload photos from practically anywhere. You can send an image from your phone directly to your photo account. What Flickr offers, beyond the simple capabilities of Ofoto or Shutterfly, is that it adds tagging to the process, enabling your pictures to be found.
I can recall a former colleague emailing a daily diary (via CompuServe) to 50 close friends during his annual adventure vacations in the early 90’s. He was cutting edge at the time. Now, blogging from an airplane or sending images from your Treo are things we can take for granted.
Flickr has developed a number of tools to make their site more useful. In addition to basic tagging, they have developed algorithms to rank photos based upon “interestingness”, as well as by the number of times a photo has been viewed, the number of comments it received and how often a member marks a photo as a “favorite”. Flickr also offers a “Blog This” link to each image, so you can easily blog any photo. Through these capabilities, Flickr has developed a fairly loyal and active user community of photographers and photography lovers.
Just as text was about 10 years behind structured databases in your ability to access it, image files are a few years from being part of the mainstream search environment. But, Flickr has carved out a compelling niche to drive social interaction on the web and seems to be a critical part of Yahoo’s Web 2.0 strategy. And, for that, it’s clearly one of the 50 content companies that matter.