Is Facebook the king of photo sites?

Post ImageI use Flickr to host my photos and I love it. I haven’t had any problems with the site, and I’ve been a happily paying customer for a couple years now. There are tons of photo sharing sites available though, and it seems Flickr is far from being the clear winner, despite having lots of positive brand recognition.

In fact, I think Facebook is probably the largest photo sharing site on the web.

Here’s what I have been able to find:

Notice how for Photobucket I said “images” – that’s because they host a lot of icons, graphics, and other kinds of items that aren’t really photos. There are a bunch of other sites that fall into that category as well. Another site that probably should be on the list is Zooomr, but I couldn’t find any stats for them. I suspect they are somewhere between SmugMug and Flickr.

Clearly, based on the number of photos stored, Facebook is the winner. They have incredible growth too (over 60 million photos added per week) as outlined in yesterday’s post. Certainly just hosting the most photos doesn’t make one site better than another, but it is still pretty interesting to compare. SmugMug’s Don MacAskill is always talking about speed and performance, and for good reason – SmugMug is the clear winner in terms of load times. There are a lot of other metrics that could be used to compare sites.

The one disadvantage Facebook has (depending on how you look at it) is that all the photos are behind their walled garden. Otherwise, you could almost consider them a photo sharing site instead of a social networking site!

For me, the most interesting thing is the total number of photos across all these sites – over three billion ignoring Photobucket, just from the sites I listed. I find it unlikely that there are many duplicates (ie, most users don’t post photos to multiple sites), so the number is particularly astounding.

Just imagine what the first photographers back in the 1800s would think of this photo sharing craziness!

UPDATE: Turns out my estimate for Zooomr was horribly off the mark. Don points out in the comments that they have 1 million photos – and that getting to the million mark is a big deal (Thanks Don for the info). I think I guessed so high because of the many TechCrunch posts covering Zooomr! Oh well.

14 thoughts on “Is Facebook the king of photo sites?

  1. [I’m SmugMug’s CEO & Chief Geek]

    Zooomr’s CEO, Thomas Hawk, was talking about the # of photos on Zooomr just yesterday while they were busy upgrading to Mark III.

    He says they have about 1 million photos. You could probably verify this yourself, he’s pretty talkative about his site. It’s possible I mis-heard him, but I think the number sounds about right. And before anyone poo-poos one million as being small, I well remember when we hit that number – and it’s a huge number. šŸ™‚

    Thanks for the mention and the link! Nice to see this info gathered in one place – I had no idea how many photos everyone else had.

  2. I am VP, Marketing for Panraven, still in private beta. We are a multimedia platform for people to express and preserve their memories and connect with others through powerful stories.

    Great post! I’d be interested in your thoughts on which companies are doing the most interesting things with all of those photos.

  3. Great post as the executives above also stated.

    I think the big difference is the quality of photo and the type of photos being uploaded at these places. Because Facebook is a social networking site it appears that most of the photos are people based whereas sites like Flickr and SmugMug tend to have more variety. Also, I think the overall quality of photos on Flickr and SmugMug tend to be better than on Facebook. Very rarely do you see cell phone pictures on Flickr but that is a common thing on Facebook. Yes, there are people who upload pictures to both sites using their 8MP camera but this tends not to be the norm. At least that is what I have tended to notice.

  4. Don, thanks for the comment. I admit I didn’t look very hard for Zooomer…I could have pinged Thomas Hawk too I suppose.

    Jon, sounds like an interesting thing you’ve got in the works. I look forward to checking Panraven out. And perhaps another post is in order šŸ™‚

    True Megan, but I think the reason is that Martin is right. Most of the photos at Facebook are of people. You just post and tag. Flickr, SmugMug, and the others have far more interesting photos. The only thing you said Martin that I might not agree with is the cell phone thing…I think there are actually a lot of cell phone pics at Flickr, relatively speaking.

  5. Interesting entry…

    I think Facebook has so many because it’s a social networking site. I like to put my photos on Flickr because anyone can access them, not just my friends.

    Nevertheless i’ve got lots of friends who haven’t heard of Flickr but joined Facebook because every man and his dog has an account. Now everyone throws all their going out photos at it. Which shows up in all the photos being of people.

    I like Flickr because i can browse photos and that’s just not possible on Facebook. Just depends on what you want from a ‘photo site’ isn’t it. That said, 1.7billion?! Any idea on MySpace?

  6. The concept of interesting is quite relative. While I truly enjoy Flickr for sharing pictures with my family, I actually have to double post pictures for friends in Facebook so that they will actually look at them. And while you won’t find stunning artistic shots on Facebook, you might find an incriminating picture of one of your friends, which could be far more interesting šŸ˜‰

    It all depends on the context. I wish Facebook would allow hosting larger sized pictures, with enough quality to be printed. And while I truly love Flickr, I seriously doubt my friends will be uploading their pics there.

  7. I agree with Irian.

    The only thing I wish about Facebook photo is that they preserved some more of the quality. It is slightly annoying when I take holiday snaps with my 10MP SLR and iPhoto and Facebook reduce the quality. This is probably due to bandwidth issues, plus it is a free service so I can’t complain. Like you, most of my friends do not even use Flickr, let alone heard of it. Maybe it is more popular in the US? What I do know is that 80% of my friends use Facebook (rough guess here).

    I think somewhere like Flickr is a great place for enthusiasts in photography, and I really enjoy going on there finding some absolutely stunning photos which I would never find from my Facebook friends. My main reason for putting my photos in the cloud though is to share with family and friends. If quality is an issue I can always upload it to my MobileMe web gallery (yeah yeah I know that has its problems). I don’t see myself renewing my Pro account on Flickr next year. I will just upload pictures that other enthusiasts will love. I don’t take too many of those kinds of photos, so a standard account will do.

    I use iPhoto to organise my photo collection on the Mac and ever since I discovered the iPhoto Facebook Plugin I have just used that ever since, it just makes it so quick and easy. For people who don’t like iPhoto or are on Windows then I believe Picasa has a similar Plug-in for both Facebook and Flickr. The only thing I wished it did was syncing, so whenever I added a new photo to an iPhoto event it would automatically sync it to Facebook.

  8. Most of my relatives use Facebook to share “some” snapshots of special occasions. But mainly, I’ve setup a network family sites to store/share photos – privately using Gallery, the open source web based photo album organizer.

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  10. All those big numbers sound great, but they do not mean everything. If it is quality, then the numbers will drop drastically. Just look at some of the photos people post of themselves. Can’t even tell who they are.

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