Do you like looking at photos? Who doesn’t? Especially when they are beautifully made! So far, browsing photos has been quite boring, no matter which photo website you chose. Most of them have a linear browsing style which isn’t fun if you just want to look at pictures (if you browse for other purposes, like finding pictures for your website or buying, then the linear style is more appropriate).
I’m guessing that many readers use StumbleUpon. It lets you browse websites in a random manner and leaves room for plenty of surprises. Last.fm offers the same type of service. People like surprises, right?
Introducing Photoree, the Stumbleupon for photos
Now the same concept is applied to photos by a service called Photoree. The Romanian service was launched in December 2007 and founded by serial entrepreneur Daniel Racovitan (other services he established: Colegi.ro – the Romanian version of Classmates.com sold to Neogen.ro, Ghidoo.ro – a social bookmarking service like Reddit, Cafeneaua.com – an online discussion community). He’s one of the Romanian Internet pioneers creating several other services which were among the first in Romania at that time.
The service is bootstrapping so far and has several thousands users a day. But if it takes off more clearly then probably they should look for financing to grow it.
The photo selection
Photoree has a recommendation engine based upon your personal settings. Once you are registered you start rating pictures and the engine starts to learn your taste. It needs about 100 ratings before figuring what you like and don’t like and displays pictures accordingly.
At the time of this writing, it has over 1,000,000 pictures indexed in its database and most of them come from Flickr (using the Flickr API). Almost all are under a Creative Commons license so you could use them if you want. The owner plans to add other images repository sites like Zooomr, PicassaWeb, Devianart and maybe others as long as those sites offers an API.
Open up, please
One drawback of the service is that you can’t do anything unless you are registered. It would be better if they opened up a bit and let people explore without the need to register. They could also implement a cookie or session based recommendation system, which would eliminate the need for registration for that session. This could give a boost to their number of visitors. You know, it’s nice to get a sample of what you might buy..
The selected pictures are very beautiful (most seem to be HDR pictures which not everyone will like). I don’t know why, but during the period of time I had to rate 100 photos (you can’t escape that) only landscapes and women pictures were recommended to me. Is this a universal behavior of the service or the engine just guessed my taste :)? A look at the online forum proves that I was not the only one who was getting this selection.
Nudity can be turned off if you desire and I think they could serve more diversified genres, besides just landscapes and women (could become boring after a while).
Even a 100 votes is not enough
During the learning period the engine keeps notifying you about how many times you have voted (you can skip some photos but the pop-up notifier will show up after a while). After you vote 100 times these notifications hopefully will go away (Oops! Even after 100 votes that pop-up still didn’t go away ot at least to come less often).
I tried to turn off the nudes but it seemed not to work (I also unsuccessfully tried to change the Current Method of showing pictures). Maybe I still have to make up those 100 ratings so I can do whatever I want after that…this rating it’s a bit of a burden, I should be able to browse pictures without any conditions if I want that. After all, it should be fun to get surprises, right? They could have a Surprise Me! page with totally random pictures being shown. Another idea is to display the number of votes I have done in real time on the browsing page so I don’t have to view the Stats page or wait for the notifier to tell me. Now, I’m just thinking about usability. Other than that, the layout is simple and clean. You don’t get lost in tons of options.
The service has very crude social networking options (no profile pics, no personal details, no sharing with friends, no messaging). You can only add a user as a contact. Sometimes the loading can be slow (I don’t know if they use some kind of caching system but if not then they should – caching the next 5 images for example and that requires some kind of prediction calculation based on what the user voted so far).
Make it more viral
Overall, Photoree could be a good service, but it still need some more work to reach the status of StumbleUpon. I hope the developers will improve the site and make it more viral (send a picture or a bunch of pictures to a friend, send emails invites to friends using the address books from Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, make it more social, etc). Otherwise, if they don’t move fast enough, somebody else with a better and faster execution could take their place.