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Photo Sharing and the Return of the Flip

I got an email a little while ago that the company that owns NetZero and Classmates.com (the almost 1960s sounding United Online–what, no Amalgamated?) is purchasing PhotoSite, a photo-sharing website, from Homestead Technologies. On the heels of the news that Yahoo bought Flickr and that HP purchased Snapfish, we now have what we in the journalism racket call a trend.

I got an email a little while ago that the company that owns NetZero and Classmates.com (the almost 1960s sounding United Online–what, no Amalgamated?) is purchasing PhotoSite, a photo-sharing website, from Homestead Technologies. On the heels of the news that Yahoo bought Flickr and that HP purchased Snapfish, we now have what we in the journalism racket call a trend.

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Frankly, I’m a little depressed. With the emergence of Flickr (and a far inferior PhotoSite, among others), I thought we’d moved away from the idea of photo-sharing as a secondary or tertiary feature in a portfolio of photo-related commerce. Photo sharing as loss leader or afterthought. I thought photo sharing, which had been revived as a business within the last year, was going to be another example of a dot-com boom era idea that failed only for poor execution, not because it wasn’t sustainable as a business.

Fact is, we don’t know the answer to that and maybe we never will. Rumor has it that the cofounding couple behind Flickr were exhausted from the startup grind and that’s why they sold out. Homestead cashing out a division is a bit of a mystery to me at the moment. The price tag was $10 million in cash and a licensing deal. Chump change, in the scheme of things. Snapfish had already sold itself once, so what’s one more time?

What this feels like is a return to the “build a feature, not a business” days of 1999 and early 2000, the same built to flip mentality that Jim Collins wrote about in Fast Company five years ago at the peak of the bubble. Read the Collins piece and tell me what you think. Has this latest resurgence in tech again fallen victim to a bout of the get-rich-quicks? What’s the next exciting development in tech that will become a boring land grab for the Internet blue chips? Or is this picture not fully developed?

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