Dropbox announced today that it will shut down its Carousel photo syncing app as of March 31, promising that key features of Carousel will make their way into the main Dropbox app. This follows in the footsteps of Adobe Revel’s demise announced just three weeks ago.
The bottom line: like Revel, Carousel didn’t get much traction. In the past 90 days, it didn’t even make it in the top 200 free photo apps in the US iOS and Google Play app stores.
Dropbox’ expectations were certainly different. Just a few years ago, when Dropbox came to realize that storage-hungry file types such as photos and videos were prime drivers for their freemium storage business model, it was no surprise that Dropbox acquired three photo startups (Snapjoy, Bubbli and Loom). With the acquired technology and human resources, Dropbox developed an app that directly targeted any-device photographers: rather than displaying photos through an unattractive folder structure, Carousel showed users’ photos through a visual timeline while enabling the users to also tag their photos (“albums”).
A great idea at that time.
So what went wrong?
- No matter how attractive a visual interface, the number one concern of photo-taking consumers is a safe backup of their photos. In our The Dispersed Photo Challenge Study we reported that 77% of the respondents found it valuable or very valuable to be able to backup photos that are dispersed among multiple devices – more than any other photo use case (such as access on multiple devices, searchability, sharing, collaboration, or unified browsing).
Cloud-based syncing solutions are simply not well suited for backup. For consumers, it is difficult to understand what happens when photos are deleted from one device – are they still in the cloud and if so, for how long? Adobe Revel and Apple’s original iCloud Photo Stream faced the same challenges.
- The world has moved on: there is no shortage of cloud-based photo syncing or aggregation solutions, and photo timelines and manual tagging options are now a given. The ones that differentiate are those that make it truly easy for users to find the photos that matter (such as through face clustering, face identification, emotion detection, image recognition, aesthetic selections, deduplication or removal of undesirable mundane photos). Or they pleasantly surprise users by aggregating and presenting photos in unexpected ways, such as through photo stories, animations, or collages.
Of all these innovators, Google Photos stand out most, as it not only uses a central aggregation model but also has superb image recognition technology that pro-actively creates “photo stories,” and is, in essence, free for all but the highest resolution level photos.
But there are many other innovative photo storage and organizing approaches, as we’ve extensively described in our recent Photos at your Fingertips report.
With so much acquired photo expertise in-house, we look forward to Dropbox developing solutions that leverage their cloud infrastructure in innovative ways that address both their users’ photo backup and their ever-growing photo organizing needs.
Author: Hans Hartman
Hans Hartman is president of Suite 48 Analytics, the leading research and analysis firm for the mobile photography market and organizer of Mobile Visual 1st, a yearly industry conference about mobile photography.