Dropbox’s Carousel Jams

Dropbox has pulled the plug on Carousel, ending the photo service that it introduced just last year. Photos uploaded to Carousel will be available via the Photos section of the Dropbox app.

When I was revising Take Control of Your Digital Photos for version 2.0 (available now!), one of the more difficult parts was the chapter about online photo services. Not because there were several, but because it was hard to tell which would still be around when the book came out. It’s becoming clear that operating a mobile photo service is difficult. Promising upstarts like Everpix folded or were acquired and neglected (Flickr is the poster child for this, with parental attention waxing and waning over the years; rumor has it that Yahoo is trying to sell it now).

Carousel seemed promising because it sat directly in Dropbox’s wheelhouse: photos require a lot of storage, and Dropbox is all about storage. However, when I evaluated it, the app and service turned out to be a basic front end view of one’s photos. Amazon’s Prime Photos is the same. They’re both windows on a lot of storage, but don’t offer much else. So I chose not to include them in the book.

Google is still doing the most interesting work in this area with Google Photos, as covered in the book, actively throwing resources and ideas into not just storing photos, but making the experience of finding and viewing them enjoyable. And, of course, Apple’s iCloud Photo Library has the advantage of the Mac/iOS ecosystem behind it—if you’re willing to pay a premium for additional storage.

It’s surprising that online photo storage and sharing is a problem that still needs to be solved, given how massively popular digital photography is (mostly captured using mobile phones). The problem, as always, is making the solution profitable so that companies like Dropbox can keep improving them.

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