This Thursday we plan to remove the Phanfare Social Network, the ability to add friends, family and create groups within Phanfare (read just the bold parts of this post for the Executive Summary). We are doing this because the social network never really caught on, is a bit confusing, and requires viewers to maintain registration with Phanfare that offers them nothing more than the ability to see your photos and videos.
As part of this release, we are offering Phanfare Subsites to all Phanfare customers. Today, Phanfare Subsites are available only to Pro customers.
With each Phanfare account comes your own Phanfare site, located at you.phanfare.com, where you is whatever you want it to be. You can designate any subset of your albums to appear on your site. All well and good.
But what about when you want to share albums with a different interest group? For example, let’s say you take photos at your kid’s soccer games. You want to show those albums to other parents, but you don’t want to expose them to all your personal photos. Enter subsites. You can can create a subsite called you.phanfare.com/soccer. Within Phanfare, you can designate which albums are published to the soccer subsite.
An album can be in multiple subsites and/or in your main site. You can publish the soccer-related albums to your main site and the soccer subsite, and you probably would if the soccer photos are of your own kid.
Each Phanfare site or subsite can optionally be protected by a password. Hence, you can lockdown your main site but decide to keep the soccer photos open for the convenience of the parents. You might decide to also suppress google indexing of the subsite so that random people are not likely to find it.
But wait, you say, one of the things you loved about our Social Networking was the automatic notifications out to your network when you created new albums (we know, we just did a survey and of the 8% of our customers who will miss social networking, 80% say what they will miss most is automatic notifications).
We are going to solve that for the release this Thursday. We are adding back in automatic notifications for those who want them. The Phanfare contact manager enables you to create groups within it. You will be able to specify that any particular group of people be automatically notified when you publish content to particular sites or subsites. For example, you can create a contact list called “family” and have them get an update whenever you publish an album to your main site.
Because nearly all viewers come through email messages that are generated by Phanfare, either automatically or on-demand, viewer reports will mostly work as before. We click-track when viewers click through and report on who clicked and what they viewed.
So what’s the difference between using subsites versus our old social networking features?
- With social networking you had to get the person to accept the invitation, create an account and remember his password in certain scenarios.
- With social networking, you could disconnect from a single person without any disruption to the rest of your viewers.
- With social networking, to move a person from one group to another, you had to remove them, add them to the new one and wait for them to accept the new invitation to join. (And since mom does not even realize she is registered for Phanfare, good luck with that!)
- With Phanfare groups, you could create a collaborative group where everyone could contribute content (although only 5% of groups were used this way).
- With subsites, to turn off a single viewer, you need to change the subsite password. But for many situations, simply removing them from the list of people who get notifications might be enough. For example, you don’t want to notify someone you have fallen out of touch with when you add new albums but don’t care if they proactively seek to look at your photos. And since our notifications just work on clickthrough, most viewers might not notice a change of subsite or site password.
- The site hosting model in general works better for offline to online. For example, you can create a subsite called you.phanfare.com/holiday and have it be some highlights from the last year. Print that on a holiday card with a subsite password and recipients can find the online content. This is simply not possible with social networking since recipients need unique registrations.
Subsites are also useful for project work. If I want to host an album of photos showing storm damage for my insurance adjuster, I can do it using a quick subsite. I create the url: me.phanfare.com/storm, publish the storm album into it and send a link via email.
On thursday, customers who regularly use the Phanfare social network will receive a note pointing them to a wizard to migrate over to the use of subsites. For friends, family and each group they maintain, we will suggest a subsite, and automatically publish the appropriate albums into the subsite. We will also create a contact manager group and give you the opportunity to specify that recipients should receive automatic notifications when you add albums to the subsites.
For your viewers, not much will change. Instead of receiving an notice from Phanfare daily with all the new albums created by their connections, the viewer will receive one email per album published, with the From address of the email being from you. One nice benefit: the recipient can reply back to the email to reach you. The recipient won’t need to know any passwords (we encode them on the clickthrough) and the recipient will see only your albums when they click.
These changes don’t affect your ability to send isolated links to single albums that live outside your site structure, or transfer albums to facebook.
With the removal of the Phanfare social network, we complete the migration back to our roots of being an asset manager and publishing service for photo enthusiasts and pros. We have no plans to offer a free version of Phanfare, and we don’t need or want the viewers of our customers to register with us.
We hope the product is just that much easier to use and reason about for our customers and that we will have more resources to bring to bear against the problems that all of you have told us are your higher priorities for Phanfare, including but not limited to: keyword tagging, faster search and wider mobile integration.