Webshots was created in 1995 by Auralis, Inc. in San Diego, California. It was initially a sports oriented screen saver sold at retail for desktop computers. Founders Andrew Laakmann, Danna Laakmann, Nick Wilder, and Narendra Rocherolle migrated the desktop software to the Web and became one of the earliest instances of photo sharing
Photo sharing is the publishing or transfer of a user's digital photos online, thus enabling the user to share them with others . This function is provided through both websites and applications that facilitate the upload and display of images...
found online. The Webshots Community launched in 1999 as the first photo sharing website with an emphasis on public sharing.
In October 1999, Webshots was sold to Excite@Home for $82.5 million dollars in stock. The service continued to grow and when Excite@Home declared bankruptcy at the end of 2001, the Webshots assets were purchased back by the founders for $2.5 million dollars in cash.
By 2001 Webshots became a profitable company with a combination of revenue streams that included advertising, freemium
Freemium is a business model that works by offering a product or service free of charge while charging a premium for advanced features, functionality, or related products and services...
service, and merchandising. By 2004, Webshots was making grossing $15M/year, had more than 200,000 paid subscribers, and was the #1 photo sharing site and top 50 media property per ComScore.. In the same year, Alexa
- Names :*Alexa , discussion of the name itself*Alexa Chung, British TV presenter*Alexa Davalos, French-American actress*Alexa Demara, American actress*Alexa Gerasimovich, American actress*Alexa Glatch, American tennis player...
ranked Webshots the second largest english language privately held Web media property (behind weather.com). The company was sold to CNET Networks for $71 million in cash. During this period, new photo sharing services began to emerge to service different markets. Flickr
Flickr is an image hosting and video hosting website, web services suite, and online community that was created by Ludicorp in 2004 and acquired by Yahoo! in 2005. In addition to being a popular website for users to share and embed personal photographs, the service is widely used by bloggers to...
became very popular with bloggers and prosumers. Facebook
Facebook is a social networking service and website launched in February 2004, operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. , Facebook has more than 800 million active users. Users must register before using the site, after which they may create a personal profile, add other users as...
photos took over at universities. Photobucket
Photobucket is an image hosting, video hosting, slideshow creation and photo sharing website. It was founded in 2003 by Alex Welch and Darren Crystal and received funding from Trinity Ventures. It was acquired by Fox Interactive Media in 2007....
became the default service on MySpace
Myspace is a social networking service owned by Specific Media LLC and pop star Justin Timberlake. Myspace launched in August 2003 and is headquartered in Beverly Hills, California. In August 2011, Myspace had 33.1 million unique U.S. visitors....
SmugMug is a paid digital photo sharing website.- History :Chris MacAskill and Don MacAskill started the original company to build a new video game-oriented web service in February 2002. By August 2002, though, their focus shifted...
carved out a paid service for family albums and professional photographers.
On October 25, 2007, CNET announced that it had sold Webshots to American Greetings
American Greetings Corporation, Inc. is the world's largest publicly-traded greeting card company. It is based in Brooklyn, Ohio and sells paper greeting cards, electronic greeting cards, party products , and electronic expressive content...
for $45 million in cash. Webshots joined the American Greetings Interactive unit and was reunited with another former Excite@Home property -- the eCard website Blue Mountain.
Business Model and membership types
Webshots has been in business since 1995 and has made use of various means of deriving revenue from services, including banner advertising, paid sponsorships, software bundling, branded downloads, client software advertising, co-registration deals, software sales, premium memberships, and print and gift merchandise sales.
Users can become "Premium Members" for an annual fee which allows them to view the site without ads and also to upload a larger number of images to their own galleries. All members get a free homepage where they can share up to 1,000+ photos publicly with friends, family, and anyone who comes across it. Webshots Premium allows for 5,000+ photos, and 500 more are added to one's capacity each month (feature chart of membership plans
). The site offers an automatic notification feature that tells users when their favorite members have added new photos. Members also have the option to share their photos privately.
For at least a couple of years WebShots sold "LifeTime" memberships. Then one day they issued invoices with options for renewal. Many users believed they were duped and should still be members today. Later (2009?) the company issued lifetime premium memberships to some users for outstanding participation, once again not being consistent with their original offer and supporters supporters who purchased lifetime memberships when they needed those sales.
Differences between Free and Premium memberships
The following are the main differences between the two types of memberships offered by the site http://www.webshots.com/html/matrix.html
- Webshot displays various ads when users browse its contents as a free members. The ads are removed once the users log in with their paid Premium memberships.
- Premium members get "Premium customer support". The support provided to free members is unknown
- Exclusive, hi-res and widescreen pro shots are exclusive to premium members. Free members can only download 5 premium shots per day.
- Free members can only backup one album in their computer and see statistics of only three albums.
In addition, the site offers to all its members Public, Private, and Invited albums. These can be managed either on the web or via the Webshots Desktop client software.
Controversy with malware distribution
In 2010, Webshots employed its Webshots Desktop Application (a free program that users can download from their site to manage their online pictures) to help install the controverted Kiwee Toolbar as part of a software update for this program. This generated a lot of complaints from its users due to the intrusive nature of the bundled software.
Once installed in a computer, this toolbar cannot be removed by regular means. There are a large number of questions posted in different Internet forums asking how to remove it, as well as specialized guides and videos showing how achieve this
Users are advised to use unorthodox methods (including manually deleting directories, unlocking files, stopping processes, unregistering DLL files and/or deleting registry entries) in order to completely remove the software. This is the typical modus-operandi of viruses and other malware
Malware, short for malicious software, consists of programming that is designed to disrupt or deny operation, gather information that leads to loss of privacy or exploitation, or gain unauthorized access to system resources, or that otherwise exhibits abusive behavior...
Kiwee toolbar is potentially dangerous because it may install additional malware onto the compromised computer and collect user-identifying information possibly resulting in privacy violations and identity theft. As in 2011, Webshots was still classified as EMD (sites engaged in malware distribution) by hpHosts, a community dedicated to protecting Internet users against access to ad, tracking and malicious websites.