One goal I have for Phanfare is to be as transparent as possible with our customers. When you entrust your photos and videos with a company, you want to know what is going on within the company. It’s a partnership between the company and the customers. In that spirit, here is some roadmap information so that our customers know what to expect from us.
This release was intended to move away from freemium and go back to a 14 day free trial (I will write about why in a future entry). In addition, we put back in the simple web hosting model that was so adored by our customers. We deprecated the social networking a bit, in that it is harder to find, and a bit harder to use. Forums has some color on what is harder to us about the social networking so I won’t go over it again here.
We are planning a pro version of Phanfare to be released during the summer. The Pro version will include the following features, broadly.
- Much more customization of the look of your site
- Phanfare navigational banner removal
- Phanfare subsites. You will be able to designate a set of albums to http://yourname.phanfare.com/soccer, for example, and that subsite can be open or have its own password. Subsites should address a bunch of diverse situations including wanting to share a subset of albums with a client, or put up a public site of albums for your soccer friends while having your main site be password protected.
In addition, we plan to polish the Phanfare Premium offering a bit, including better tracking of who is opening your sharing invitations so that visitor reporting is more interesting.
We have not yet announced the pricing for Phanfare Pro. Note that the initial product will not have the ability to sell your own prints.
We are moving away from unlimited storage for new customers. This will happen mid-summer. Expect to see storage limits on both Premium and Pro accounts, plus the ability to add more storage. We are doing this because we want every customer to be profitable. As currently designed, new customers with small accounts subsidize old customers with big accounts. I don’t like it when my best customers are the ones I don’t make money on. It’s not healthy.
For now, we plan to leave our existing customers with unlimited storage accounts. I realize it would be a negative surprise if we were to suddenly impose storage limits when none existed when the person signed up. We will continue to evaluate this issue from time to time.
We have some lifetime customers that we signed up early on in our existence. Those customers will get Phanfare Pro accounts.
Note that having everyone pay their fair share for storage enables a bunch of features that can be included in the product without worrying that the storage use will be high. For example, storing RAW files and higher definition versions of video are no issue if everyone is paying for the storage they are using.
All these changes are aimed at rationalizing the business in sensible and simple ways. Like any lemonade stand, it is important that the cost of the ingredients be less than the selling price of a cup of lemonade.
We realize that some people will find Phanfare too expensive. That is ok with me. The truth is, delivering the Phanfare service is tremendously expensive and archiving your fullsize original photos and videos is a luxury item. We live at the high end of the market and cater to prosumers and serious amateurs. This has always really been true (70% of our customers have digital SLR cameras) but in the last six months, we have come to grips that this is where the market lies for us.
Yesterday’s release is one half the story. Without knowing that we plan to impose storage limits on new users, you might wonder how we could afford to lower the price. And without knowing about the Pro version planned, you might wonder what features will be used in lieu of the current groups feature.
Whenever you talk about the future, you risk being wrong or late. But our engineering team has traditionally executed very well and I expect we will get the things done that I described above during the summer.
Two companies that come to my mind when I think about transparency with customers is USAA and Vanguard. I am a customer of both these companies and I find that they consistently communicate their core values and share much of their internal workings. I hold both these companies up in my own mind when I think about building Phanfare into a lasting company.