Monday, December 10, 2012

ThisLife Online Photo Service Powerfully Showcases Your Life

ThisLife is a new online photo storage, management and sharing service.

But, does the world really need another?

Listen, I am a long-time user of Shutterfly -- THE leading online photo/video/memory sharing service in the U.S.  Have been for over 10 years.  And, I take a lot of pictures ... and buy a lot of photo books.

Yet, I recently learned about ThisLife in TechCrunch, so I decided to give it a spin.

Here's the deal -- it works as advertised ... beautifully.  It doesn't replace my Shutterfly account, which will always be my "go to" service and vault.  But, it complements it nicely.

First, ThisLife is drop-dead easy -- very few whistles and bells.  The service definitely follows the mantra "less is more."  And, it works.

Unlike most other online photo services, ThisLife is primarily about storing and private viewing/sharing of your stored memories -- it isn't focused on public sharing.  I like that.  ThisLife is great for your family and friend memories.  ThisLife makes uploading your still images drop-dead easy.  You can simply connect to your existing online photo accounts on other sites -- including  Shutterfly and Facebook -- and, voila, ThisLife takes over from there.  In a matter of perhaps 30 minutes, ThisLife had absorbed all of my 32,000+ still images from Shutterfly (which go back to 2002).  Yes, all 32,000 of them!  And, while ThisLife was feeding off my Shutterfly account in the background, I was able to view those that had already been uploaded.  Seamless.  Fun.  Impactful.

Once your memories are uploaded, you immediately see them presented altogether in a time-line of your life (that you slide from old to new with a horizontal "slider").  It is an impactful and poignant way to view your life's memories -- life as it has evolved over time.  I immediately showed my wife and my two kids -- we shared the ThisLife experience -- and we were mesmerized for quite a while.  It was fun to re-live those memories ... and to do it so easily.

While I would add (and have suggested) a few features to ThisLife -- including the ability to create slideshows and view ThisLife on my television via AirPlay -- why quibble?  This is ThisLife's MVP -- and it is solid.  I will use it.  (FYI -- ThisLife's customer service expert, Nicole, was expeditious, enthusiastic and thorough when responding to my suggestions; and indicated that AirPlay "is definitely on our radar"; she also indicated, interestingly, that they intend to add physical publishing options a la Shutterfly (books, etc.)).

But, while I like it (a lot), ThisLife, through no fault of its own, will never be my primary online storage vault for My Life memories.  Too much risk involved, because what happens if that nascent service simply never makes it and fades away?  Then, as goes the company/service, so go your life memories.  And, this is no idle risk.  Many similar life-time memory services have gone the way of the dodo bird -- including some, like FlipShare (remember the Flip cam?), operated by 800 pound gorillas (Cisco in the FlipShare case).  Who would have thought that one would become extinct, essentially abandoning its customers?

Of course, no service -- not even one operated by a long-established company like Shutterfly -- can guarantee perpetuity.  But, I place my bet on a long-established company like Shutterfly over a start-up like ThisLife.  So, that means that ThisLife will always be an added flavor for my memories -- a special sauce, if you will.

Can ThisLife build a long-term viable, compelling, monetizable stand-alone business facing this kind of reality (and an extremely crowded and "noisy" market where it is difficult to rise above the din)?

I certainly hope so.  But, the odds are long.

Still, it doesn't mean they shouldn't try.  And, you can sense the passion behind ThisLife.

In any event, perhaps ThisLife's founders are betting that sufficient market traction will make the already-established online photo services of the world stand up and take notice -- and ultimately acquire them.

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