Posted by: nickgerlich | February 20, 2008

Snug As A Rug

Web 2.0 apps continue to flourish as well as amaze me. In most cases, though, the business model is one that is high on wow factor and freedom of access, and low on profitability (unless you count all the ads they allow). And yet big companies continue to acquire these wing-and-a-prayer start-ups in multi-gazillion dollar deals.

Another big trend these days is the data cloud, as I have extolled lately in several blogs. The idea of paying for permanent online storage is rapidly making a foothold as users realize the benefits of letting someone else do all the storing and heavy lifting.

SmugMugInterestingly, there are hybrids of these two Web 2.0 apps. Users get all the benefits they want from the social networking scene, but also receive safe, secure storage. And if they wish to remain invisible, they can do so. Like at SmugMug, one of a handful of premium photo sites geared toward serious enthusiasts to professionals.

SmugMug differs from the likes of Flickr, PhotoBucket, Snap, et al, in that there is no free version. With annual fees ranging from $40 to $150, users are in complete control over nearly every aspect of their photo library; the top-of-the-line pro level even allows you to set up your own sales gallery. And there are never any ads.

If you are a budding amateur photog and wish to be “discovered” by the hording masses (or maybe just a magazine or newspaper in need of a couple of pictures), simply do nothing. Google will eventually index your SmugMug pages, and someone Googling you or your key words may find you.

And if you wish to remain invisible, you can do so by setting up meta tag values that essentially erect a “No Trespassing” sign to search engines. The effect is your own SmugIsland.

The number of features included in each level of membership is impressive, ranging from basic photo manipulation to sorting, backup DVDs, photo printing and other novelty items, communities, and more.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of SmugMug is that it is truly a family business. Thirty-year-old Don MacAskill is CEO of the company launched in 2002; his father is its President. Also working at the company are his Mom, three siblings, and numerous other relatives.

Where’s Sly Stone when we need him to sing the virtues of this family affair?

What strikes me the most about SmugMug, though, is that this offers me the best of all possible worlds. I need a secure place to store the 11,000+ digital photos I have taken since 1996. I need a way to organize these pictures. And I want to be in control of who gets to see them.

This is one big, white puffy cloud I don’t mind hovering over my head.

Dr “ShutterBug” Gerlich

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