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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Hawai'i Tech
Photo posting made easy

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

A PhotoPoint Web album of 6-month-old Samantha Yonan made its rounds of the kinfolk, including Alan and Susie Yonan of Hawai'i Kai.

Photo illustration by Jon Orque • The Honolulu Advertiser

Harold Hoover has just moved to Phoenix from the Kona side of the Big Island, but he can still hand photos back and forth to friends in the Islands and elsewhere almost as easily as if they were seated across the sofa.

This comes as consolation to anyone far away from cherished people and places.

"I'm not looking forward to the day when I have to replace the Hawai'i license plates on my Jeep with Arizona plates," the Jeep enthusiast reported via e-mail. "That will be very sad."

Being one of the tech-savvy breed (he is a computer network administrator), Hoover has his own Web site for sharing photos of his beloved vehicle. But many who hang out with him on the Internet newsgroups for Jeep-oholics would have better luck writing a mechanic's manual than coding for a Web site.

So he's been directing them to PhotoPoint, one of many photo-sharing Web sites and online photo albums that have proliferated across the Net, many offering free service.

Lots of families use them as a way to share digital images of the new baby, or the wedding or any of those smaller events that define our lives.

Lisa Minato, an information resource coordinator from Mililani, had a friend scan in photos and post them to PhotoPoint and WebShots, showcasing her 10-month-old son Zachary. "Even our kid's grandparents, they print out the picture and post it on their refrigerator," Minato said.

"It's really quick: You don't have to make copies and give them out to your friends. you can actually put more photos up."

Or hobbyist photographers, like Mike Bambi of Makakilo, try them as a means to give their photos wider exposure.

Or people with special interests, like Hoover, can form communities at these sites, viewing the collections of and swapping commentary with their like-minded brethren.

Or people with something to sell use them for display purposes (Hoover's sister stores images of merchandise she's hawking on eBay at sites like these).

You don't need to know HTML (the language in which Web pages are coded). You don't even need a digital camera: Regular prints can be digitized using a scanner, either by purchasing one of the affordable models marketed to the home user or paying a commercial copying service to scan them for you. You can have your film processed and delivered in digital form on a CD.

All of this helps explain why the sites are so popular. According to InfoTrends Research Group, which analyzes the digital imaging market, photo-sharing Web sites have attracted nearly 100 million users, placing them among the fastest-growing segments of the Internet.

Each site has its own way to make money through ads, targeted marketing or sales of customized goods. Several are driven by software makers that hope to hook visitors on their premium products by showing them the ropes.

The going can get tough, though: Webphoto.com is posting a notice on its home page: "We have decided to sell this site. Interested parties ... please click here."

And eCircles, a popular Web sharing service, shut down for good April 15.

"The market downturn of the last 12 months made it increasingly difficult to cover the costs of operating the eCircles site," company president Prescott Lee said in a notice posted at the site.

The eCircles operation had included a partnership with software manufacturer Adobe, in which free copies of Adobe's ActiveShare program could be downloaded, used to crop and adjust snapshots and then easily upload the photos into an online photo album.

A similar joint venture between Adobe and the online photoprocessor Shutterfly.com remains active, however.

Adobe posted instructions on how to remove photos from eCircles computers before the shutdown, but the fact that companies come and go and your personal photos could go with them makes some computer users nervous about posting their private images on the Web (see adjacent story on security tips).

Web sharing services usually fall into three categories:

  • Photo communities allow users to upload digitized images to the Web as part of an array of keep-in-touch products for family, school, friends and other groups that may benefit from an online gathering spot.
  • Photo album sites also let users post their pictures, which are often stored in customizable templates or slide shows.
  • Photo-finishing services offer to post prints on the Web as an option when photographers submit their rolls of film for processing at a store.

All of them, however, are geared to the "soccer mom" sector of regular folks who love the Internet for its photo-sharing potential but hated the nerdly realities of sending image formats that used to be their only option.

Of course, there was always the U.S. Mail. But that's no longer fast enough for Susie Yonan of Hawaii Kai.

"We're so happy that we're now able to view a picture of our new granddaughter in Singapore a day before the picture is even sent.," she said.

• • •

Some online photo-sharing sites

Photo-sharing sites try to find a special niche in order to compete. CelebrateSomebody (www.celebratesomebody.com) allows you to post photos, invite visitors in to make comments and then print out the album so it can be presented as a gift. Or, at Kodak's Picture Playground, you can upload your photo and then add special effects to it and send it as a postcard (alts1.kodak.com/US/en/corp/playground/index.shtml).

Here are some of the other sites that allow photo sharing:

• • •

Safeguard yourself when posting

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

Many online photo albums are password-protected, so visitors need a code from you in order to see them.

However, creating a family Web site does present risks if you divulge too much information on your page that a cyberstalker could use.

About.com, the Web guide, has posted the following advisory to those interested in photo sharing:

  • Do not give out your last name on the page.
  • Do not give out your location or telephone number.
  • If you include links to other pages (such as your church or school); they most likely will contain information about your town.
  • Do not use your e-mail address on your page, especially if it contains your last name or it's from a small, local Internet service provider that could be looked up and located.
If you really want the ability for someone to contact you, consider a getting a generic e-mail address. You can easily obtain one from Hotmail or use the one provided with your Web space. It would be best if an adult checks this e-mail address for messages.
  • Be careful of what pictures are posted. Study the backgrounds of the pictures: Is there something on them (baseball team jerseys, signs, etc) that would give away your location?

Vicki Viotti is The Advertiser's technology writer. She can be reached at vviotti@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8053.

The Dallas Morning News also contributed to this report.