Saturday, June 2, 2012

Picplz Shutting Down, as Free Services Often Do

Picplz is a photo/image editing and sharing app/service that has been compared to Instagram and long referred to as the Android alternative (Instagram didn't support Android until recently).

At 10:17pm EST on a Friday night (last night), June 1, Picplz sent out the following cryptic tweet:

Even though I hate shortened-URL-only tweets, Picplz doesn't tweet often so I followed it to read this in the brief blog post:

On July 3, 2012, picplz will shut down permanently, and all photos and user data will be deleted. Until then, users may download their own photos by clicking on the download link next to each photo in their photo feed.

And that's it. Just about a month before it's gone. Just over 30 days to manually download each one of my photos.

My take? Oh well. It's a free service that just saw the darling of the photo manipulation and sharing space (Instagram) get bought up for an absurd amount of money. I suspect Picplz just gave up. I knew going into it that at some point I'd have to pull my stuff out (hence my regular requests on the support forum for an RSS feed of my full history).

In December 2010 I wrote about our reliance on and sense of entitlement to free services in You Get What You Pay For. This is the same thing. It's a perfect example of how you need to be prepared from the start that your favorite free service will change or go away. When it does, don't expect great (or even good or maybe any) notice or customer service.

Years ago I started using Brightkite to post images (and track my travels, share them with Twitter and Facebook, live as an online gallery, feed to mapping services, etc.). When Brightkite went away I dabbled in Gowalla and sensed its demise, so tried out Plyce, which also changed direction. I found Picplz and still dabbled in others just in case Picplz went away. Now I just need to choose my next photo posting platform and hope I can get a couple years out of that one, too.

In the meantime, I will be writing a script to wade through my 1,400+ Picplz photos and pull down all my images, descriptions and geo-data. Considering I paid nothing to use the service for over a year and a half, I think this is a fair cost to me.

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Update: Sunday, June 3, 2012

This post got a lot of traffic overnight and didn't realize why at first. It seems I scooped the regular tech news outlets and so for a while this post was the only one out there. Cool. These other posts have popped up since then:

Interestingly, less than two months ago Lifehacker ran the article Don't Bother with Instagram; Here are Five Better Alternatives for Android. Of those five, Picplz is going away and Lightbox Photos got gobbled up by Facebook.

Update: Sunday, June 3, 2012, 11:20pm

Earlier tonight Picplz tweeted out some hope for those of us with lots of photos who don't really have the time to download each photo individually:

Update: June 15, 2012

Picplz notified users (via another cryptic tweet that led to a blog post) on Wednesday that it would make each user's photo archive available as a download. Users would be notified via email when their archives were ready. I received my email late last night and am in the process of downloading my 1.5GB archive now (so I have no idea the formats of anything).

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for your article. Thankfully, I have used picplz sparingly, so I don't have many photos to recover.
    Considering the experiences that you have had with defunct providers of comparable services, what would be your suggestion for relatively novice smartphone (Android) users who enjoy posting snapshots in their social media accounts?

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    1. Dennis,

      Both Instagram and Path post to Facebook and Twitter as well as Foursquare. Foursquare posting is a requirement for me. Both Instagram and Path lack a web view (which I use to let my non-smartphone parents see my photos) and I haven't found RSS options. Steamzoo looks promising, but has no Foursquare integration. Via.me and Tadaa are iOS only. Pixlr-O-Matic has no sharing. Lightbox Photos got gobbled up by Facebook. Hipster has no Foursquare integration and its name prevents me from using it.

      So, yeah, I'm stuck right now.

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  2. Just yesterday I was reading Jason Scott's "FUCK THE CLOUD". If you haven't read it, basically he explains that you can't trust the cloud. You can't trust free services, and you can't even trust a number of paid services.

    But you already knew that.

    And, what would you have done if instead of giving you a month Picplz gave you three days? Would losing all those 1400 odd photos and associated data be worth the year and a half of use? In your last post you said people need to keep backups, have you? If so why do you need to download those photos etc.?

    Personally I don't use free services (beyond two Yahoo email accounts that I've had since 1998 or 1999, and which I no longer give out (but some people still use) on the net. Yes I miss out on some of the social aspects of things like Flickr that I'm sure I would enjoy. Yes, hosting my own stuff costs money. But ultimately, for me there are two things more important.

    1) Control. I control my website, with my own domain, etc.
    2) Ownership. I own my website. I own my content. I don't give permission to marketing scum to save, share and sub-license in any medium. (Well, I do. But I choose to do so, using a Free content license. I can also choose to continue to put content up, without that license.)

    Oh, and that reminds me. What is it with websites driving people to Facebook and Twitter, and not the otherway around (using Facebook and Twitter to drive people to the website)?

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    1. Michael,

      I do have back-ups of the photos, but the associated linked venues aren't part of my photos (EXIF data). For example, photos from trips are associated with places. The photos on their own don't include those places, though my auto-tweets, auto Foursquare posts and auto Facebook posts include it. I'd just like to get static versions of the pages as well with the little maps and venue name. If Picplz just shut down with no warning I'd be annoyed, but that's about it.

      As for sites leaning on Facebook and/or Twitter logins, it's partly laziness and partly hopes they can get information about you that you have shared on these other platforms (and use you to cross-promote their own products). It's nonsense and I generally refuse to use sites that use those logins.

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  3. I've been using picplz for two years and dread manually downloading my photos (not a coder), but I definitely don't want to jump on the instagram bandwagon. A friend saw my complaint about the closure and suggested Streamzoo. You can't check into foursquare locations, but you can tag your photos and include geolocation like flickr.

    The community over there seems huge, so I'm going to try it out for a few months.

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    1. Annette,

      For not being a coder, you may have an option to still get all the photos without having to manually grab each one. WinHTTrack is a web site downloading utility that can crawl all the links and pull down all the files. It may take some time to get the settings right, but it may help you out without needing to know code -- just some interwebs lingo to configure it.

      I signed up for Steamzoo last night. It's interesting and I plan to play around with it, but of the 2 photos I posted, one didn't make it to Facebook. The URLs are also rather long. The lack of Foursquare support is a bit of a deal killer for me, though.

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