It seems that barely a day goes by without a new free web application being announced. Whether it’s a Google Spreadsheet or something even more del.icio.us, some company is eager to jump on the “Web 2.0” bandwagon, where today’s crazy idea could be tomorrow’s multimillion-dollar buyout.
Now it’s Yahoo’s turn to join in the fun. After having made a splash with the first major redesign for their front page in years, they’re now busy upgrading their services to have that shiny new look. Yesterday, Yahoo opened up a public beta of their redesigned photo sharing service, Yahoo Photos.
The old Yahoo Photos was a pretty pedestrian service where you could upload JPG-format photos from your hard drive one at a time into “albums” of up to ten pictures, then share the albums with either friends, other Yahoo users, or the entire Internet via a URL. It was a quick and easy way of sharing pictures without e-mailing them or hosting them on your own server, but the feature set was sparse and the user interface clumsy. When competitors like Flickr came around, everyone jumped to the new hotness. After Yahoo purchased Flickr last year, most thought that the service would simply be folded into Yahoo’s site without changes. Instead, Yahoo has taken some of the best ideas and technology from Flickr and created a new service of their own.
The new Yahoo Photos presents an interface not unlike Google’s standalone Picasa application, which I suspect may be intentional. Albums are sorted into a folder structure that is displayed in a scrolling panel on the left hand side of the screen. Photos can be rated, and it’s easy to add tags to each photo to make them easier to search for.
Signing up for the beta is a bit of a pain. Those outside of the United States do not offer access to the beta signup, so international users will need to create new Yahoo accounts set for US content. Once you negotiate the signup process, you are treated to a message telling you that it may take “up to ten business days” before your beta account is migrated to the new Photos service, and given a warning that you will not be able to revert to the old Photos interface should you change your mind.
Still, the new service looks pretty neat, and Yahoo is hoping that people will be tempted enough to move away from Flickr to the new Yahoo Photos. According to Nielsen/NetRatings statistics compiled in April of 2006, the old Yahoo Photos held the second highest traffic rating with 7.7 million US visitors, while Flickr is the fastest growing photo sharing site, quadrupling its share over the past year to hit 4.8 million US viewers.