Zooomr, if you have never heard of it, is a photo sharing web site. It was created and is still maintained by a single programmer, Kristopher Tate. It is evangelized by its CEO, Thomas Hawk — the only other person on the Zooomr staff. It has some features that really help to set it apart. And it has recently undergone a major upgrade.
The recent upgrade to Mark III had been anticipated for quite a while. The first time Kris attempted to deploy Mark III, there were some technical issues that forced a rollback, much to the disappointment of its users. After several more weeks, Kris was ready to try again. And there were more issues, including the death of a server that could have spelled the end for Zooomr. However, in a remarkable outpouring of support, the community rallied around Zooomr, hardware and rack space were donated, and Zooomr Mark III was born. During this time, Kris and Thomas actually set up a live feed which they dubbed Zooomr TV. Many people followed the progress as Kris worked non-stop to restore service, and a whole new feeling of community was developed. You can read more about the troubles and the way the community rose to the challenge here and here.
I’ve been using the new Zooomr, and if you just want the short version of my thoughts, here you go: Two Thumbs Up!
Now for the longer version.
There are some great new features. The Upload has been improved greatly, with nice visual feedback in the form of progress bars as your photos are uploading. If there are errors during the upload of a photo, the progress bar clearly indicates the error, so you know to upload that photo again. You can upload as many photos at a time as you want.
There are great new options for how to view a users photostream. When viewing a users photos, you will see three small icons next to their avatar. By clicking these, you can select blog view, normal view, or thumbnail square view. Thumbnail square view is especially useful because you can easily scan through hundreds of photos and pick the ones that really stand out. Quite simply, thumbnail square view rocks.
Zooomr has become even more focused on the social aspects of photosharing with what is perhaps the most visible new feature, Zipline. Zipline is a way for you to easily track the activity of your Zooomr contacts. This includes their photos as well as their activity, because Zooomr now lets you post a Twitter-style “What am I doing right now” message to your Zipline. This message then shows up in the Zipline of people who are following your activity. It’s a little difficult to describe, so check out my Zipline and you’ll see what I mean.
Another new feature is Marketplace. Marketplace allows any Zooomr user to sell their photos at any price they desire, from $1 to $1,000. The photographer keeps 80% of the selling price, and Zooomr keeps 20%. Zooomr is banking on this as their future revenue stream. Looking at the high quality of photographs that users are posting, you can see why they think this will be a viable business model.
Zooomr also introduced groups with Mark III. These are not groups in the sense of Flickr photo pools, but are more like traditional discussion boards. however, users can easily post their photos to a discussion thread, and there are already photography specific discussion threads popping up on the groups. Again, this shows how the new Zooomr is emphasizing the social aspect of photo sharing.
Zooomr TV, born from the chaos surrounding the deployment of Mark III, is now an official part of Zooomr. You will find Kris and Thomas broadcasting occasionally, and chatting about feature, photos, and bugs. It’s an interesting place to hang out, especially if you have any interest in the behind the scenes activity.
I want to touch on one more feature, and that is Discover. Discover uses a square thumbnail view to render photos from the last hour/day/week/month/year. This is a fun way to find great new photos and photographers quickly.
I have mentioned a couple of times that Zooomr Mark III is more focused on the social aspects of photo sharing. Both Thomas and Kris have very strong feelings about the way a social site like Zooomr should treat its users. There is no doubt that a web site accessible to people all over the world has the potential to bring headaches in the form of political pressure – just look at the mess Flickr has made for themselves recently by cutting off many countries from viewing photos. Rather than hide from the difficult issues, Thomas and Kris have shown that they take their position as a worldwide photo sharing site very seriously by adopting a clear policy regarding censorship. If you have been around Flickr during the last week or so, you have probably seen the uproar caused by their heavy-handed censoring of users photos and comments. Thomas and Kris both have very strong feelings about how a company should behave in this regard, and it is good to see them addressing this issue in a clear and positive way.
If you have looked at any of the links in this article, you have probably noticed that the URL for Zooomr has the word “beta” in front of it. If you saw this, you may have thought to yourself, “Hmmm, I bet that means there are still bugs in there.” If you did think that, I’m here to assure you that you are 100% correct!
One feature that was in Zooomr previously was the Recent Activity view. It is now missing. Hopefully when it makes its return it will be an updated version of the previous Recent Activity incarnation. That was one of my least favorite parts of Zooomr. If Recent Activity was more like Zipline, it would be a huge improvement.
Zooomr also has an ongoing problem parsing the metadata for some photos. Metadata is included in photos in many different ways, depending on the camera it was shot with, the program that imported the photos from the camera, and the program that was used to process the photos before uploading them. Currently, the EXIF information stored by the camera is shown for most photos, but this only includes basic information about the photograph. If you have included IPTC metadata such as keywords, they may not be parsed correctly, and you may need to manually add tags after the photo is uploaded.
RSS feeds for users photostreams are currently MIA as well.
Overall, Zooomr Mark III is a very nice upgrade. Even if you currently use another photo sharing site, I encourage you to head over to Zooomr and play with it. Upload some photos, discover some new photos that you like, and add some contacts. Play with Zipline and Discover. Chances are you’ll like what you see, and you may end up adding Zooomr to your list of must-browse sites.
Zooomr is headed great places, and it is rapidly becoming one of the most enjoyable places to discover new photos and interact with fellow photographers from all around the world.