PhotoZou – a new photo sharing SNS from Japan

I have been using PhotoZou for a while now. PhotoZou is a photo sharing web service by Unoh, a Tokyo-based web venture. Recently, they released the English version (now open beta) of this service.

PhotoZou - top page

At the bottom level, it is a photo sharing web service, like Flickr et al. You can upload the photos and share. You can tag your photos, and you can use it in your blog posts. You can specify the Creative Commons level, and there is a built-in Google Maps mush up, where you can map where you took the photos. However, its direction is slightly different. Where most photo sharing services are directed towards “sharing your photos with everyone on the Internet”, PhotoZou has taken more of SNS approach of “sharing your photos with your selected people on the Internet”.

10000 photos

PhotoZou - edit page

When you sign up to PhotoZou (its free), you can upload up to 10000 photos or movies. Yes, the number of the photos are not limited by its file size, nor per month like “Up to 1mb per month”. Each uploaded photos are re-sized on PhotoZou’s server, to a size that is more suitable for viewing. Only if its too large, of course. This approach of “how many” is perhaps more user friendly than “how much size” approach. When its uploaded, you can add the titles, turn it around, tag it, map it, etc. There is also a software you can download, called HaruZou. It has uploading functionality, as well as basic image editing feature. For the movie, its up to 100mb in size.

PhotoZou - GoogleMaps mushup

I did realised a downside of this though, after using it for a while. The majority of the digital cameras are now 5 mega pixels or over. Each photos could be several megabytes in size. If you try to upload 10 photos of 3mb each, that’s 30mb in total. It will take much longer time to upload. Considerably longer in some cases. Japan is a broad-band heaven. The downstream and upstream transfer will be much slower in the U.S. or in the Europe. Whether you fell slow or fast will varies from a user to a user, but I have a feeling that some users might get frustrated with that. The solution? Re-size it locally first, or just wait until faster broadband reaches you.

Albums

PhotoZou - albums

The uploaded photos can be sorted into different folders, or “Albums” that you can make and name. You can set the level of openness to the each Albums, such as “Open”, “Friends”, “Family”, and so on. You can set other specific PhotoZou user as your friend. This could be your friend from the real life, or some one you met on PhotoZou via sharing the photos. (It is SNS after all !). When you register other PhotoZou users as your friend, you need to See the “Friends Group”. For Example, “Family”, “Colleagues”, “College”, “met on PhotoZou”, etc. By assigning these factors to the Albums and to each friends of you Friends list, you can create sets of flexible photo albums: an album to share with everyone on the Internet, an album to share only with your family, an album to share with your colleagues only, an album to share with your college friend, a specific album with flower photos to share with everyone on the Internet, and so on and so on.

Having said that, currently you can only assign a single friends group to a friend. You might have a friend who is your school friend, but also a work colleague. But you can only assign either “School” or “Colleague” groups. Not both. I think generally, users would like a bit more flexibility.

SNS interaction

PhotoZou - post to the blog

As I wrote, PhotoZou is photo sharing in SNS direction. So there are some SNS features too. You can keep a simple diary. You can add a comment to the photos. You can send messages to other PhotoZou users, and get to know more, or ask to be on the friends list, for example. There is a log, which keeps who viewed your photos. These features are only usable, and viewable to the registered PhotoZou user.

Other notable features

You can upload photos directly from your mobile phone. Each album has its own e-mail address, where you can attache and send from your phone. I am not sure though, whether phones in US or EU are able to do.

Also, for the technical note, PhotoZou was first released in Japanese, but it has been developed with English release on its road map. Japanese version has .jp domain, and English with .com domain, so at a first glance, all looks same but with different content, photos. But the content is all the same, just the different in language used. I am not a programmer, nor a developer, but perhaps it is something interesting for internationalization of the Web2.0 services.

So is really any good?

In my honest opinion, I think PhotoZou is not bad at all. But I don’t think it yet has a cutting-edge feature that stands above its competitor, especially in outside Japan. Whether they like it or not, any new photo sharing services will be compared to Flickr. There are now many alike services out there, but really, only few stands out that has a potential to gun down the Flickr. Riya, BubbleShare, Zooomr, Yahoo! Photos to name a few.

I think “10000 photos” and its “controlled closed sharing” are perhaps two features that has potential to stand out from the rest. Will need to be honed up though. What do you think ?

I realised that there are quite few translations that are not right. My admin panel is in Japanese, so I am yet to see the English admin panel, but the users seems to think it “hasn’t gone too smoothly“. Also, I think, will need to research and exploit the differences in culture. The needs for controlled sharing many be the same, but for example, what people in USA thinks “cool” isn’t always same as what the Japanese thinks “cool”.

Not as many as US, but there are quite few good web services in Japan. So I am interested see how PhotoZou do outside Japan.