We get quite a few questions on a regular basis about our permissions and sharing model for web albums. In this post, I will attempt to explain how it works, the history of it, and how we plan to simplify it.
There are two separate ways to publish within your Phanfare account. The first way is our Website Hosting Model, under which each customer can set a custom URL and has a site at you.phanfare.com, where ‘you’ is chosen by you. When you click Publish after creating an album, your Phanfare site includes the album. You can email folks about that URL or you can use our email tools to notify people.
The second way to publish is to make an album available to Phanfare Friends, Family and Groups. You do this by clicking on the “friends and family” button in album options and choosing from checkboxes for friends, family and your various Phanfare groups.
If you make an album visible through the Phanfare social network then it appears at albums.phanfare.com/you. When friends go to that URL, they are asked to login. As an added wrinkle, your Phanfare connections are automatically notified nightly of all the new albums created by you and their other Phanfare connections.
The Phanfare social network is a vestige of when Phanfare was a freemium service, back in 2008. In that model, you would invite your friends to connect to you within Phanfare, they would get free accounts with 1GB of storage and be able to participate at some level.
When we first came out with the social network version of Phanfare in 2008, people told us that they wanted to make some albums available to everyone, not requiring them to login. And so we added that feature. If you click through the friends and family sharing button in album options, the choices you are presented with are “just me”, “everyone”, or some combination of friends family and groups. When you choose everyone, the album gets published without restriction to albums.phanfare.com/you.
What this basically comes down to is that we have two completely separate but equal ways of publishing content. We know this is complicated and tricky and so we simplified it months ago by removing the Phanfare friends and family sharing options for people who have no Phanfare friends and family. New customers already see a vastly simplified sharing model.
Without the friends and family stuff, an album in Phanfare is published to your Phanfare site, or not. Your site can have a password. Or not. That’s it. You can also control whether or not your site gets indexed by Google (that’s in Site Properties).
We also offer subsites, which fits neatly into the website hosting model. With subsites, you can create a URL like you.phanfare.com/soccer and specify that certain albums are included at that URL. You can set a password for that subsite or leave it open.
When Phanfare was freemium, having a way to connect with other free users in Phanfare made sense. But Freemium did not work for Phanfare and we have long since abandoned it as a business model.
We plan to completely remove the friends and family features in a future release. They have outlived their usefuless. We now offer transfer to flickr and facebook for those looking for social networking. Most of your friends and family probably have facebook accounts, and if not, it’s free to join.
And yet there are those who love the friends and family features because they offer a form of access control lists (ACLs). We believe that you can essentially recreate this control using subsites. You can create a subsite called you.phanfare.com/friends and publish albums into that only friends can see. You can create a separate subsite password. We know its not exactly the same thing – all the viewers to the site share a viewing password and you lose some reporting granularity – but it’s close.
Phanfare groups are a different matter. They were intended to allow groups to collaborate and all contribute albums to a common group. But the reality is that 95% of Phanfare groups are controlled by one person and only one person publishes content to them. Hence, they too can be replaced with subsites.
When we remove the Phanfare friends and family features in a future release, we plan to make the Phanfare subsites feature available to all. We will also attempt to map your current Phanfare friends, family and groups to new subsites for you, and we will create contact lists of the members of these containers so you can continue to reach out to them when you add new content.
I wrote this longish post because I want you to understand how the system works today if you are a power user and to let you know where we are headed with it.
In design, less is definitely more, and if it requires a post this long to explain our sharing model, we know it has gotten away from us.
In the interim, we suggest that all customers stop using the Phanfare friends and family features. When you create an album, you just need to click Publish to make it available on your Phanfare site. Be sure to set a site password if you want to keep your site private.
Finally, you have always been able to get an isolated URL that shows a viewer only a single album with no links to any other content. That feature remains the same and its useful when sharing an album on a one-off basis with someone who should not see other content. Those links are not in your site namespace and don’t lead back to your site if the viewer manipulated the URL in their web browser.