Views from Phanfare CEO and Co-founder Andrew Erlichson

Link Print photos at home from your iPhone with Phanfare Photon

We are announcing today that we have updated Phanfare Photon for the iPhone to enable home printing to HP printers. The updated version of the iPhone app is available in the app store now.

We worked with HP to get this all working. We are the first app outside of HP’s iPrint Photo that will allow you to print directly from the iPhone via Wi-Fi.

For Phanfare customers, Phanfare Photon wirelessly syncs your entire photo and video collection to your iPhone, enabling you to print any photo.

Phanfare Photon also allows you to order prints by mail – but that has been true for a while.

Phanfare Photon for the iPhone is our sandbox for showing how we believe connected digital cameras should work in the future. Every photo and video you take automatically floats up the cloud and every photo and video you have ever taken is available for viewing on the camera.

Truth is, most of our customers have digital SLRs, so they are more likely to view their photos and videos on their iPhone than take new ones, but we find our customers do take a small percent of their photos using their iPhone. And it is nice to be able to get a print in pinch.

This release talks about home printing, but of course, if you have a network connected HP printer at work, it works there too.

Link Phanfare introduces RAW support, Drop Box and more

What did we do over our summer vacation you ask? Make Phanfare better of course. We are excited to announce that today we introduced a bunch of improvements to Phanfare spanning all aspects of our system. Many of these were top items on the Spring survey.

Welcome RAW files

Over 70% of our customers own a digital SLR and many report to us that they shoot RAW at least part of the time. Phanfare now accepts RAW files from Phanfare Pro customers. You can upload RAW files from Adobe Lightroom, Apple Aperture, the web, the PC client and the Mac client.

  • RAW files are limited to 100 MB each. Tell us if you need more.

  • Each RAW file must be associated with a JPEG image in your account. The filename is the key. If you upload an image to an album that has the same prefix as an existing image but a file extension outside of the ones we support for viewing, then it is assumed to be a RAW file. An example works best: If there is an image called IMG3433.JPG in an album and you upload IMG3433.CR2, then we assume it’s a RAW file. Any file that is not one of the core file types we support for regular upload (JPEG, TIFF, PSD and all the video types), is considered a RAW file.
  • Our RAW support creates a sidecar for the existing image. You can download RAW files right from your web albums. Of course, you can also suppress that option and control whether new albums get created with RAW download turned on or off.
  • The Lightroom and Aperture plugins were updated to support RAW and you can export JPEGS and RAW files simultaneously to Phanfare. Thank you David Holmes for updating the Aperture plugin.
  • RAW storage is not included in the Phanfare Pro fee. You must purchase 10GB RAW storage blocks for $24.99/year each.
  • Phanfare keeps RAW files the same way Phanfare keeps your JPEG images. Each RAW file is uploaded to Amazon S3, where it is replicated in multiple data centers, assuring that it will always be available.
  • To get started with RAW, purchase a RAW storage block by logging in at www.phanfare.com. RAW storage blocks are offered on the bottom left of your logged-in home page.

Your Own Online Photo and Video Drop Box, Available 24×7

The Phanfare drop box enables you to collect full resolution photos and videos from anyone, over the web, into your Phanfare account. The drop box is useful when your friends have taken photos or videos that you want to include in your Phanfare album. Normally, moving large files over the internet is difficult, but with the drop box, your friends can drop stuff off as easily as you can upload yourself. Here are the details:

  • Every Phanfare site has a dropbox at yourname.phanfare.com/dropbox
  • There is an icon that looks like a little inbox, next to the search magnifying glass on the top right of your web albums that links to the drop box.
  • The drop box is disabled by default. You enable it in site options from web, Mac or PC client.
  • Every Phanfare Subsite also has an optional drop box. For example, if you create a subsite yourname.phanfare.com/soccer then the drop box will be at yourname.phanfare.com/soccer/dropbox.
  • When someone drops off photos and videos, you will get email notifying you.
  • You have unlimited storage for drop offs.
  • When a person drops off photos and videos, Phanfare creates a new unpublished album for the photos and videos.

All Phanfare customers, Pro and Premium, have a drop box, but only Phanfare Pro customers have Subsites and hence drop boxes for Subsites.

iPhone 3GS Video

Phanfare now supports video shot with the iPhone 3GS. We know it’s been few months since that phone was released. Thanks for bearing with us. You can upload the video directly from the iPhone using Phanfare Photon or you can move the video to your computer and upload it with one of our other tools.

We are working on re-converting videos files uploaded to us in the past few months to fix all known iPhone 3 GS videos.

The Phanfare Referral Program makes Friends with the Web

We announced the Phanfare 50/50 Referral program over the summer. To review, when you recruit a new Phanfare Pro member, you receive $10 in Phanfare credit and they receive $10 off the first year. For new Pro members, they get $20 off, and you get $20 in credit. To get the credit, the new member had to put in your email address when signing up or paying.

The Referral program still works with email addresses, but now each of our customers has a unique random referral code, which you can see here, that can be used in links to Phanfare while still giving the new member a discount and you a credit. Here are the details:

  • Your referral code can be found in settings,referral program on the web (link only works for logged in Phanfare customers).
  • There are two types of links that work, links to our home page and links to the signup page.
  • The link is formed by adding r=YOURCODE. For example, to drive someone to our home page, the link would be www.phanfare.com/?r=YOURCODE.
  • You can put your link right on your Phanfare web albums if you like.
  • Your email address is still a valid referral code, but you can’t use it in links to Phanfare.

We had quite a few requests to enable linking to Phanfare and referral credit. Both old and new ways have their virtues. It’s convenient that a friend signing up for Phanfare can put in your email, which they might know off the top of their head, and get a discount, while providing you credit. But you don’t want to put a link out there on twitter or on a public web page with your email in it.

Similarly, the random referral code is nice for links, but your friends surely are not going to know it by heart. Hence, we offer both.

Odds and Ends

We fixed some bugs in this release, including some bugs in the Mac Client.

We improved the contact manager to support contact groups. You can create a contact group and email everyone in the group at once.

Whenever you share an album within Phanfare, we now automatically add the recipients’ email addresses to your contacts.

We tightened up the look of the table of contents page for web albums . We made improvements to the Phanfare classic style, now called the Hardcover Book layout, and we the new layout, now called “Large Thumbs.” Most of our older customers don’t even realize that we offer 2 choices of layout for the Table of Contents. You can control which one is used in Website Options.

Link TechCrunch fooled by Facebook into posting a false story about Facebook

TechCrunch was fooled today into posting a false story that facebook now offers faxing of photos. It’s a funny story and well executed by facebook. But it also made me wonder if this would not have been successful against the NY Times or another traditional media outlet with a solid reputation.

After years of experience in the craft of journalism and the budget to create operating manuals, the NY Times learned how to fact check, calls sources and generally try to make sure that they were not getting “punked.” I fully realize that the traditional media is far from perfect. Whenever I have been close enough to a story to really know what is going on, I see how much of an approximation any reporting is. But combared to new media, The NY Times is generally much more careful.

In my mind, TechCrunch is a well run, mainstream blog. I don’t think many blogs do a better job of being journalists than they do. Nevertheless, they were fooled in a way that I think mainstream media would not have been.

I love new media. I love that information moves at the speed of light and there are many more voices. I love that the barriers to entry to becoming a journalist are practically zero and that all citizens are essentially now journalists through twitter.

But at the same time, it is clear that new media does not have the budget or inclination to do the type of carefully fact-checked investigative journalism that has traditionally made up the the 4th estate.

Maybe it does not matter; maybe first-party fact checking is replaced by the immediacy of online media. That the story only really lived for a few hours and hit much earlier than it would if it had been carefully confirmed may be good enough. Perhaps the Internet is just one big voting machine that collectively checks, edits, and rewrites what any one person says, much like wikipedia.

But if that is the case, then we as citizens must ready everything with just a little more skepticism. After all, maybe we are the first one to read it, and hence expected to correct it.

Link Is Twitter replacing RSS?

This idea came to me by way of TechCrunch, which covered the movement of Feedburner founder Dick Costolo from Google to Twitter. In the article, Mike Arrington references Steve Gillmor’s piece from May where he proclaims RSS dead.

RSS never really caught on with mainstream consumers as a way to follow news. But you can’t argue the success of RSS as a technology. Every blog and every major news website publishes an RSS stream. Those RSS streams, which are really nothing more than URLs where you can pull, via HTTP, an XML document with a list of recent headlines and often the full body of articles, make up the basis of news aggregation services like Google Reader, Google News and MyYahoo.

Why didn’t RSS take off with the mainstream? I believe there are two fundamental reaons. First, discovering new content is hard with RSS and easy with Twitter. Second, because Twitter limits itself to 140 characters, the stream does not carry the full text of articles. Viewers are driven back to the publishers where they see advertisments and fully engage with the publisher’s brand. Hence, publishers love twitter. It brings them traffic to their website. Publishers have a love hate relationship with RSS.

Discovering New Content

Twitter is all about discovering new content. By default, you can see which Twitter users any given person is following and follow the same users. There is no central place to this with RSS.

Google has attempted to address this deficiency by adding features in Google Reader to share what you are reading and find out what popular people read via RSS. But these features are buried and only appear in Google Reader. They are not built into the RSS system.

Twitter has a short memorable namepace making offline communication of feeds possible. ABC news can put right on the TV that you follow them at twitter.com/abc. Twitter serves both the publisher of a feed and the consumer of the feed. RSS never had this. The closest thing we had was Feedburner. Consumers have no idea what feedburner is. It means nothing to them. It was glue technology between Google Reader and a Blog.

Getting Publishers on Your Side

Web publishers live and die by getting traffic to their website where it can be fully monetized via advertising. Twitter drives people back to the publisher. RSS takes the content and makes it available outside the source site. That is not publisher friendly.

I use Google Reader to follow blogs. It works amazingly well. Like most folks, I prefer blogs that publish the full article, not just the headline, so that I can stay within Google Reader rather than jumping to the source site to read the article.

By using Google Reader, I completely avoid the advertisements and I miss out on the comments (there are some ads in the RSS stream, but only a small % of what i would see at the publisher’s site). Publishers have a love hate relationship with RSS for this reason. it helps get them readers, but if everyone used RSS to consume the content, the advertising model falls apart.

Because twitter limits messages to 140 characters, putting the full text of articles into the stream is impossible. Instead, nearly everyone posts via a URL shortening service, driving the reader back to the source site. This is much better for publishers who then get to show ads. It’s arguably better for readers too, since they can engage in the comments.

Where do We Go From Here?

Looking at Twitter as a replacement for RSS, the average person, who mostly consumes content, would rarely post anything to twitter. So forget the long tail of people tweeting what they had for lunch today.

I don’t believe RSS will go away anytime soon. If nothing else, Google relies on it today to index blogs posts for search. But RSS will certainly be marginalized by Twitter. Twitter already enjoys much wider name recognition than RSS amongst consumers. I challenge to you find a person on the street who knows what RSS is. RSS will be relegated to being a glue technology on the web.

My belief is that twitter will evolve much like blogging. While there will be a long tail of personal streams that are read by nearly nobody, the vast majority of the traffic, as measured by publisher to subscriber messages, will be dominated by more mainstream publishers and bloggers who will be sending links to less personal and more news-like content. In the world of media, the vast majority of time spent by consumers is spent on media created by a relatively small number of talented content producers. While the web certainly lowers the cost of entry to becoming a publisher, most people still lack the talent to entertain a large audience.

Further, if Twitter is to replace RSS, then the importance of the twitter clients can’t be overstated. Hence, apps like Tweetdeck and Seesmic will shape our experience and be very valuable, just like Google Reader was. Expect Google to create or buy a killer AJAX twitter client to integrate into their suite of applications.

What’s interesting to me is that Twitter will likely win over RSS precisely because it brought together several important features that you need to cobble together using RSS: discovery, managing multiple subscriptions, and reading the streams. The accident of restricting messages to 140 characters so that viewers needed to go to the source publisher sealed the deal by making Twitter much more publisher friendly than RSS. Publishers were more interested in promoting their Twitter feed than their RSS feed.

I wonder what other services that are successful with the geek set but largely ignored by the mainstream can be popularized by fixing the deficiencies and integrating the various parts under one roof.

Link Introducing the Phanfare 50-50 Referral Program

I am pleased to announce the immediate availability of the Phanfare 50-50 referral program. The Phanfare referral program rewards existing customers with Phanfare “store credit” when they refer new customers to Phanfare. New customers receive a discount of the same amount. It’s a 50-50 split of the bounty between the new and existing customers. Here are the details:

  • A Phanfare customer who refers a new Phanfare Premium customer gets $10 in store credit. The new customer receives a $10 discount on their first year of Premium service, making the first year $39.99. Subsequent years are $49.99.
  • A Phanfare customer who refers a new Phanfare Pro customer gets $20 in store credit. The new customer receives a $20 discount on their first year of Premium service, making the first year $79.99. Subsequent years are $99.99.
  • You must be a paying Phanfare customer in good standing to receive the credit.
  • Store credit in your account is automatically applied to renewals. To use it for merchandise, you must explicitly choose to redeem the credit.
  • The new customer must use the email address that the existing customer has on file with Phanfare.
  • The new customer can put in an email address of an existing customer who referred them either at the time he signs up for trial or the time he puts in a credit card and signs up for the first year.
  • No limit to how much store credit you can earn.

The referral program has been a popular request among our customers for a while. We had one a few years back that was successful as well. We removed it when we tried out offering freemium because it made little sense. We are excited to be able to offer it again.

With the holiday season coming up in the fall, you can essentially earn your way to lots of high quality merchandise through this program. If you have not tried our books, this is a way to do so for free!

Link Apple responds to the FCC – 11.2 minutes to review an app

Apple responded to the FCC’s questions today about the rejection of Google Voice. It’s an interesting read, especially for Apple watchers like us. Apple loves secrecy and the letter is surprisingly open and forthright.

The details of why the rejected Google Voice are not all that surprising and will certainly be discussed by everyone endlessly. I am more interested in the review process since we go through it regularly.

In their response, Apple discloses that there are 40 full time reviewers dealing with 8500 new apps and updates per week. If you assume that Apple is neither falling behind nor catching up, that means that they spend 11.2 minutes reviewing each app (40 people working 40 hrs per week processing 8500 items per week – the average wait time of 14 days is not relevant to the calculation of throughput if my recollection of queuing theory is correct).

Apple said that every app is reviewed by two people, so that means that a reviewer has about 5 minutes to review an app. If true, the level of quality in the app store is remarkable since it takes us a lot longer than 5 minutes to QA an update of Phanfare Photon before we send it to Apple. It also means that Apple certainly relies on some degree of automation to test apps and make sure they conform in various ways. For example, I would guess that they check for the use of undocumented frameworks programatically.

Apple also states that they have reviewed about 200,000 apps in a little more than a year. But at 8500 apps per week, they are on a run rate of 442,000 apps per year, so the number of app submissions is accelerating.

Link Praise for Phanfare Photon for the iPhone

We have had our app in the iPhone store for over a year now. The reviews have been consistently positive, although the average rating is only 2.5. Seems like 1/2 the people delete it from their phone, write no review, and give it 1 star. The other half of reviewers give it five stars or close to it. Those reviewers are also more engaged and are the ones writing the reviews for the app. I know you all don’t spend your days refreshing the review page, as we do. Here are few recent reviews:



Link Introducing the Phanfare Affiliate Program

We are pleased to introduce the Phanfare Affiliate Program. Under the affiliate program, publishers are paid commissions on sales for referring people who become Phanfare subscribers. Commissions start at a whopping 40%.

The affiliate program is described pretty fully in the above link. But to get started, here is how it works:

  • Read the details of our program to make sure its a fit for you.
  • Become a publisher in the Commission Junction network if you are not already. This will also start your application to become a Phanfare Affiliate.
  • Get links and advertising creative from Commission Junction and deploy those.
  • When someone coming through one of your links becomes a Phanfare customer, you earn a commission, starting at 40% and going as high as 53%. When someone joins and becomes a Premium subscriber, you earn $20. When someone becomes a Pro subscriber, you earn $40.
  • You get checks directly from Commission Junction, who administers our affiliate program.

Affiliate marketing has evolved into two distinct channels over the years:

  • Traditional web publishers with traffic and pageviews. These publishers place Phanfare ads on their sites and get paid when the people clicking through subscribe to Phanfare.
  • Search marketers who buy traffic on Google and other search engines and redirect that traffic through affiliate links to earn commissions on sales.

We allow both types of affiliates. Our main restriction is that we don’t allow affiliates to bid on our trademark, our URL or misspellings of either.

Link Phanfare Photon update has hit the Apple App store

Wow, it’s been nearly three months since the last update to Phanfare Photon for the iPhone and iPod touch and hence this version has so much good stuff that there is not just one major feature. Here are the highlights:

  • Video is now synchronized to the iPhone over the air and will play offline in airplane mode.
  • Properly supports the new Phanfare Site features, including sending sharing invites to Phanfare sites and publishing an album to your Phanfare site.
  • Supports changing album properties under iPhone OS 3.0.
  • Fixed the bug that prevented associating with a facebook account from Photon.
  • Better support for album sections. You can see and edit album section descriptions.
  • Support for shooting and uploading video from iPhone 3G S phones. Note that we are still not converting iPhone video properly on the service but are working to address that.
  • Supports assigning albums to Subsites for Pro users.
  • Follows the convention of other Phanfare apps (Mac,PC and Web) in showing an album as private (ghostbusters icon) if the album is not published to your Phanfare site.
  • Deprecates the Phanfare social networking features. New albums are created with friend & family visibility turned off. Friends and Family features are off the main tab bar and appear in the “more” area.
  • Numerous small bug fixes. For example, deleting the last image in album does not crash the app.

You will also notice that our extensions the camera view are gone. They were touch-anywhere-to-shoot, image-stabilization-assist and self-timer. These features were disallowed by Apple when they released the 3.0 version of the iPhone OS. The good news is that we believe that we can put these features back in using a future version of the iPhone OS.

Our data shows that more than 90% of photos taken using Photon don’t use the camera within the app. Most people prefer to take photos and videos using the built-in camera app on the phone, saving them to the roll. Then they import the photos and videos to Phanfare Photon.

The built-in camera still has a much shorter shot-to-shot time than the camera within Photon. This is due to limitations of the iPhone SDK. We recommend that all users shoot with the built-in camera. We would pull our camera control out but we are leaving it in since we believe we will be able to provide the camera extensions in a future release. Let us know how you feel about having it in.

Link Introducing Phanfare Pro

I am pleased to announce the introduction of Phanfare Pro. Phanfare Pro is targeted at prosumers and professional photographers who want a fully customizable archival photo and video hosting solution. With Phanfare Pro you can:

  • Create your own website of your photos and videos without Phanfare branding at yourname.phanfare.com
  • Create up to 1000 subsites, each one with a URL of yourname.phanfare.com/subsite. This is great for photographers who do work for clients and want to create a site for each client. Each subsite can have any subset of your albums and be optionally password protected.
  • Customize colors to match other websites that you might maintain
  • Customize the header and footer of album pages in one of three ways: with custom HTML; with a custom image; or by including an HTTP pointer to a third party page that contains the markup you want to include.
  • Customize the background image that is tiled across your Phanfare web albums
  • Use your own domain name through a CNAME record.
  • Host up to 20 minute videos

Phanfare Pro also includes all the standard features of Phanfare Premium including

  • Storage of full size originals
  • The peace of mind of knowing that your images are stored in multiple data centers in multiple locations through Amazon S3.
  • Non-destructive image editing. You can always revert to your uploaded original.
  • Full control over whether viewers can download originals, buy prints and see EXIF data.
  • Our intelligent video streaming that measures viewer bandwidth and CPU speed and delivers an appropriately sized video.
  • Integration with Aperture, Lightroom, PIcasa and iPhoto.
  • Integration with facebook and flickr.
  • Integration with the Eye-Fi wireless SD card for photos.
  • Full screen slideshows with music.
  • iPhone integration. Synchronize your photos and videos to your iPhone via Phanfare Photon for the iPhone.
  • Optional password protection on your Phanfare sites
  • Detailed visitor reports with the name and email of each person who clicks through a sharing invitation sent from within the Phanfare system. Perfect to verify that a client viewed the images that you sent.
  • The ability to use filenames as captions on images, useful for proofing.

Pricing

Phanfare Pro is $99.99/year for 20 GB of storage. Additional 20 GB storage blocks are available for $49.99/year.

Upgrades for Existing Customers

Phanfare Lifetime customers are now Phanfare Lifetime Pro customers. We have not offered Lifetime accounts for over a year. This is for legacy Lifetime customers.

Phanfare Premium customers can upgrade to Phanfare Pro and get credit for the remaining time in their Phanfare Premium account. Phanfare Premium customers with unlimited storage (accounts created prior to Aug 1, 2009) will retain their unlimited storage after upgrade.

Our customers have been asking for a Pro offering with more customization for a long time and we are excited that the day has finally come. Phanfare Pro is not “done.” Let us know in the comments what additional features you would like to see.

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