Yesterday it finally arrived, and if you just want to skip to the chase, and find out whether Zooomr really is a photo sharing community at its finest, if this new version lives up to the hype, that’s fine – the answer is yes. Here’s why.
Firstly, if you’re not aware, Zooomr now offers unlimited storage of your photos without any size restrictions for every single user, regardless of whether you’re signed up as a pro user or not (which makes flickr’s free offering look a little feeble by comparison). This was actually introduced back in March to make up for the delay in introducing Mark III, but it’s worth repeating. There really isn’t a catch.
Zooomr already had a great community, but with Zooomr Mark III they’ve taken that a giant step further by really making you feel like you’re a big part of Zooomr. Every time you login to Zooomr you’re presented with a page called ‘Zipline’. If you’re familiar with Twitter then you’ll understand this, it’s basically a timeline of posts, starting with the most recent, of photos people have uploaded (with thumbnails of them), comments they’ve left on their own Zipline (maybe about their photos or asking questions or answering one of their friends), and other things too in the future. It sounds simple, but it works so effectively in getting you hooked in on looking at friend’s photos and seeing if they’ve discovered anything new by someone else. I would expect more and more getting added to this side of the site, it’s a killer social feature, that (against the odds I might add) seems to work very well on a photo site. Unlike Twitter, I can actually see myself using this, you can’t help but get involved, it’s such a fantastic way to keep up with your Zooomr friends, and it’s pretty addictive.
Groups have also been added, something that flickr has had for a long time, and although this side of the site is really only getting started and is still quite difficult to navigate, it shows a lot of promise for getting users involved further in discussing their photography, and sharing photos.
Another thing they’ve done is improve the adding of contacts, friends and family. When you add someone now, that person gets a notice (via Zooomr’s ‘Fanmail’ private messaging) telling them you’ve added them, and asking if they want to add you as a contact too. Previously you only knew if someone had added you as a contact or friend if you happened to spot it on their Profile page. When you add someone you come across, you can decide if you want to hear all about what they’re up to on your Zipline. Things can get pretty busy on there at times, and you might not be interested in everything someone has to say, so this is very handy. You can decide if you want to just keep an eye out for their new photos, if you’re interested in messages they post on their Zipline, any events they might post (a Groups feature that isn’t setup yet), or if you want to keep an eye on their social activity. That last option is still not clear, but I would guess you’d be able to see on your Zipline when a contact has added a favourite or commented on someone’s photo. You can always go back and change these settings later through your profile page, if you change your mind.
You can also quickly see one hundred photos from either everyone on Zooomr, your friends, your contacts, or just you, on the new ‘Discover’ page which gives you 20 photos each of those added in the last hour, last day, last week, last month, and the last year. This is quite a nice tool to see at a glance what’s happening, and one that will hopefully have more options and variations soon (I’d quite like to be able to filter photos to BOTH my friends and contacts for example). As its possible for you to miss some new photos by your contacts as they’ve gone out of the time range that Zipline is covering, there’s still a need for some of the old views in the previous version of Zooomr, so you don’t miss anything.
What else? Searching when geotagging is now much improved (it actually finds locations accurately without much bother, and it will make use of tags to help find landmarks if it can), camera information can be searched against (so you can for example find all photos taken with say, a Canon 5D), smartsets are now even smarter so you can now create automatically updated sets of your photos by camera information too (like this set I created of Canon 5D photos taken by my contacts and I), and lots of other little things that I’ve forgotten.
There’s still a lot coming back online though, some of the features of the old Zooomr haven’t returned just yet (viewing favourites, trackbacks, and photo exif information from pre-Mark II photos, being the most notable), but there’s a lot to really like already about this new version of Zooomr, and a good future ahead too. Kristopher is at the moment still bringing new servers online, but the speed of the site is getting better all the time (the first day or two had been rather slow but today its been mostly great), and I’m looking forward to seeing everything being finished.
The launch of an open API for Zooomr soon should hopefully blow the site wide open for some great applications much as the API for flickr has done. It should also allow for an easy upgrade path if you should choose to move from flickr to Zooomr (hopefully moving your photos and tags for you), but that really depends on flickr providing Zooomr with a commercial api key to do so. Fingers crossed.
During one of the many times during the ustreamed launch of Zooomr Mark III that Thomas was taking questions, I asked him if with this release we’d be seeing the end of these Mark releases full of tons of features, in favour of regular new additions. With it being nine months since the last change to Zooomr (other than the unlimited storage of course in March), and a fair bit of downtime involved in these upgrades, I hoped to hear Zooomr would be swinging the way of regular smaller updates. Lucky for all Zooomr users then that the new architecture of Zooomr should leave things good to go for just that very thing, in fact Thomas hopes that every couple of weeks or so we could be seeing new features or tweaks appearing based on feedback from users and planned additions.
Later in the year one of those features will be the new Marketplace when you’ll be finally able to start selling your photos through Zooomr (and keep 90% of what you charge), so there’s plenty still in store.