The slightly retro but still massively popular video and photo sharing service Photobucket will begin gradually rolling out the first major redesign in its nearly ten-year history today. The overhaul has been in the works since last year, inspired by current user feedback along with Photobucket's vision of what users will want in the future. (So no, it's not a response to this week's "fusking" scandal, in which some users found that their private, semi-nude photos had been reposted around the internet due to a security oversight.)
"It was time," CEO Tom Munro told The Verge. "Photobucket has been around for about a decade... We spent a lot of time with our users and basically, they were having problems doing exactly what the new site does." The new site is simpler and prettier, with a revamped landing page and more visual icons replacing text.
Photobucket is no dying dinosaur. With 100 million users, it is the second-largest photo-sharing site after Facebook.
But Photobucket isn't just playing catch-up. The company recently commissioned an Infotrends survey that showed that people are uploading material from more than four devices including phones and cameras, to more than five different locations like Facebook and Instagram. This fragmentation makes it easy to lose track of photos — or just lose them entirely when a friend deletes a Facebook album or a photo service like PicPlz shuts down.
People would rather upload their stuff to one place, Munro figures. Photobucket, which now has close to 100 employees headquartered in Denver, hopes to become the central repository for your photos and videos. Photobucket was bought and then sold by News Corp, which reportedly knocked its valuation down from $250 million to $60 million in 2009. But the company is no dying dinosaur. With 100 million users, it is the second-largest photo-sharing site after Facebook. And last year, Photobucket snagged an exclusive partnership with Twitter.
The new Photobucket emphasizes "stories" instead of photo albums. "Stories" are collaborative, multimedia scrapbooks designed for ongoing events like a vacation, building a house, or having a child. Although Photobucket users have started uploading lots of video, the site is still limited by its name. "We are expending additional energy to help educate users and talk to the press too about the fact that it is not just photos but video too," said Photobucket's head of marketing, David Toner. "And stories."
The new Photobucket makes it easy to automatically upload photos from a phone or desktop in order to simplify the process of collecting all your photos in one place. It also lets you grab photos from Facebook with a few clicks. "As with many sites that have been around for a while, there were component parts that maybe weren't as intuitive or as accessible to our users," Munro said. "Quick links to upload, quick link to edit, to share. That's what users wanted front and center." Users will get access to the "all new" Photobucket incrementally, but the first 50 users to click here can get in now.
Photobucket has the same subscription business model as Flickr, a competitor half its size. Photobucket offers two gigs of storage for free, or 20 gigs of storage for $29.99 a year. The site also has ads, as most of its users are unpaid.
As for the trick that exposed users' private photos, Photobucket has addressed that issue. In the past, anyone with the direct link to a photo's address could see the picture. Photobucket has replaced the automated, easy-to-guess URLs with scrambled strings for all new uploads. Users can retroactively edit their photos and videos to have random URLs. "What we want our users to know is that we're absolutely committed to their privacy and security," Toner said. "The problem wasn't as widespread as reported."