Everpix and Everyone

A bummer of a coincidence from yesterday: after using Everpix for several months and enjoying it immensely, I decided to pony up for the US$49 annual fee. Hours later, I happened to read that Everpix is shutting down. A note signed by the Everpix team said: “We were unable to secure sufficient funding in order to properly scale the business, and our endeavors to find a new home for Everpix did not come to pass. At this point, we have no other options but to discontinue the service.”

Possibly losing forty-nine dollars doesn’t bother me so much, since Everpix promises to refund all of its subscribers (they hope to do this by 15 Dec). It’s the fact that Everpix was a terrific product that in many ways fit the bill for what I think a modern photo experience should be: an inexhaustible storage locker in the cloud that effortlessly backs up my photos from every source.

Facebook, Twitter, Path, Instagram, my phone’s camera roll, even pics that people sent to me via MMS; Everpix comprehensively backed up all of these sources to the Web and made them navigable through an intelligently self-organizing and elegantly designed web interface. It was really a pleasure to use, especially its Flashback feature, which would send me daily emails to remind me of photos taken a year or two ion the past.

While I have no inside knowledge of what went wrong with Everpix (the writing was on the wall for a long while, apparently, and The Verge has a lengthy account of the wind-down), I have some guesses.


Fighting Free, and for Whom?

First, it’s incredibly hard to build a service that unseats an incumbent as entrenched as the iPhone’s Photos app. That is essentially what Everpix was doing with its own iOS app, which looked very much like a photo browser. Worse, what Everpix was actually competing on was superior cloud storage, putting it in the same game as iCloud, which of course is also free. So it was never immediately apparent to the average consumer why one would need Everpix if one had the Photos app and iCloud. Never mind that Everpix offered a stark advantage by backing up every photo you have while iCloud only backs up the last month or so; the distinction between the two services was fuzzy for those who barely understand cloud computing to begin with. (As an aside, I personally found iCloud and Everpix to be highly complementary, but then again I think a lot about having redundant backups.)

Absent a crystal clear value proposition, and apparently lacking the marketing budget to push its message far and wide, Everpix made the fatal mistake of trying to be a tool for everyone, or to be more accurate, marketing itself to no single customer base. The target Everpix customer, from what I could tell, was everyone, which is a fantastic aspiration for the team and a wonderful story for investors, but it presents a formidable challenge for a new business trying to crawl its way into the consciousness of consumers.

When you have a product for everyone, the old saw goes, you really have a product for no one. This is one of the most telling lessons I took away from my experience building Mixel. The notion of pitching something to “everyone” is simply too wide a net to cast.

Startups take on so many challenges on so many fronts, but they can compound all of them by not settling on a specific, narrow understanding of who their first customers are, and just as importantly, where and how they can be reached. When your audience is as broad and undefined as ‘anyone who takes photos,’ there’s no ‘there’ there in terms of a single venue where you can reach a plurality of them, or a means for you to aggregate them together and get them talking to one another, or a method for you to measure how well you’re converting them into customers.

It might have worked better for Everpix to have chosen a particular slice of the photography market — sports photographers, say, or family photographers — and focused solely on that audience. A choice like that may have forced the product to take on features or nuances that didn’t make sense for a mass market, but it also would have made the company’s job much easier in terms of finding specific cohorts of users, speaking to them in a relevant vocabulary, servicing their needs, turning them into effective evangelists, and then measuring their adoption.

The emphasis is on “might,” I suppose. All my speculation here amounts to an impolite brand of Monday morning quarterbacking. I guess I’m turning it over because I was such a fan of the service, and thought it represented something that really should exist in the world. I wish the team the best of luck, and I also hope someone else comes along to make something new from these hard lessons learned.

+

43 Comments

  1. I still can’t believe Everpix is going to disappear. This is (was) such an amazing service – it finally allowed me to share with my whole family all the photos that we have taken over the 13 or so years that we have been “digital”. Instead of things stuck on my external drive and having to hunch over my laptop, I shared the log in with my wife and kids and then they were able to browse whenever they wanted, and from their phones and iPads, etc. It also gave me a way to more easily develop some Instagram accounts I run for business. And the daily “Flashback” email – seeing birthdays, holidays, etc. going back year after year… wow. Just terrible this thing didn’t fly commercially – and I can’t believe that with the amount of $$$ Apple has in the bank someone there doesn’t/didn’t see the value in saving this thing or branding it and up-selling it to iCloud users… anyway. I am bummed. Everpix was really great.

  2. > Everpix offered a stark advantage by backing up every photo you have while iCloud only backs up the last month or so

    Obviously this is “advantage” was unsustainable. So it seems unfair to trumpet it against competitors that are, in fact, sustaining themselves.

  3. Greg – when you say “Obviously this is “advantage” was unsustainable.” – I am a little lost. Look at what happened to Twitter today – a company with 500 million in sales is worth 25 BILLION dollars on paper. Don’t you think that if Everpix just got themselves better funded (being underfunded to me seems to be the biggest reason they failed – not their product) and were still operating (albeit at a loss), with such a great product that eventually they could have matured and become profitable? Tumblr didn’t have any earnings before Facebook ponied up a billion dollars, did they? I think these guys had it all right – but just ran out of cash. What competing services offer what Everpix does? Are you talking Flickr and Picasa?

  4. In some ways, the fact that Everpix chose to charge for what they offered was a fatal mistake. That took them out of the realm of revenue potential and into revenue reality. For many investors, if you are actually generating money but not hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth, that is a red flag.

  5. Khoi, I think you make a mistake in thinking that Everpix was targeting ‘everyone’ as their potential audience. This ties in with your comment on how it didn’t hold an obvious appeal for iCloud users. Yes, anyone who only takes pictures on their iPhone wouldn’t see the great appeal. Everpix’s potential users were ‘anyone who has pictures stored in multiple places’. Everpix’s genius was pulling all the pics together into one online system, available wherever you had internet.

  6. > Never mind that Everpix offered a stark advantage by backing up every photo you have while iCloud only backs up the last month or so

    Unless Everpix required zero work from the user iCloud has Shared Photostreams that offers each iCloud user storage for up to 500,000 photos.

    Each user can have 100 shared photostreams and each of those can contain 5000 photos and none of this counts towards your iCloud storage cap.

  7. As I just emailed John Gruber:

    For me the biggest benefit of Everpix was that it collected all the photos off the phones and computers of me, my wife, and my son, and consolidated them into one, safely backed up, shared photo library—without anyone having to do anything! How great is that?

    I have marveled for years that it has apparently never occurred to anyone at Apple that the members of a family might like to keep their photos in a shared library.

    Even if you go through the pain of using iPhoto Library Manager to consolidate your various libraries onto, say, a NAS server, you’d better not have more than one computer try to access the library at a time, or you risk damaging it.

    How dense do you have to be not to understand that this is a huge use case?

    I will sorely miss Everpix—it was a revelation to find it, and I have no idea what to do to replace it.

  8. I’ve been using Everpix for quite a while and it was absolutely the perfect solution for what I needed: An effortless backup storage locker of ALL my photos available on ANY of my devices.

    I think Everpix didn’t need to focus on a specific market. It truly was a product for everyone. It wasn’t a replacement for iPhoto. It wasn’t a replacement for iCloud. It was a complimentary backup tool that integrated with both.

    If anything Everpix should have played up the security and backup aspect of things and used that as a selling point. A lot of people don’t realize just how fragile digital photos are and how most of them are just one mishap away from losing ALL of their digital photo memories.

    I don’t know about you, but once I started shooting with a digital camera… I never used film again which means it’s been a long time since i’ve shot any film. With film you could always squirrel away your negatives so that if you ever lost a print, you had the negative to fallback on. Problem solved.

    With digital photos, if you don’t have a great backup plan in place then you are pretty much screwed if things go sideways. You could lose an entire kids lifetime worth of photos very quickly. Gone. For good.

    I didn’t just rely on Everpix for this, I have multiple backup solutions, but Everpix was so perfect because not only did it provide me with an additional backup solution… but it allowed me to access those photos from all of my devices.

    iCloud? Until Apple enables users to backup ALL of their photos is pretty much useless as a backup solution. A backup solution is exactly what it is NOT as far as photos go. It’s just a quick and easy way for you to see the last X number of photos on your Apple devices and share them if you’d like.

    Some will say Everpix wasn’t a true backup solution either as they may not actually keep the original source file, i’m not 100% sure, but it was close enough that they could have gone in that direction.

    Everpix was easy to use and did require practically zero work from the user. All they needed was an Everpix account and to tell it to go to work and it would synch their iPhoto library, iPhoto camera, iPad camera, etc. It was a pleasure to use as a user.

    I’m very sad to see it go and can’t believe a large company with the funds to either purchase it outright, or provide it with more funding didn’t materialize. Just this week i’ve read about X company getting funding or Y company getting funding and I think to myself… wow that company is a pretty stupid idea and is never going to work. Meanwhile fantastic solution such as Everpix are left to die.

    That’s the tech world we live in. Pretty sad state of affairs.

  9. James – iCloud Shared Photostreams won’t automatically sync new images, nor will it pull from various sources and consolidate dupes like Everpix did. You also have to manual create each separate stream just to get around all its various limitations. Shared Photostreams is great, but not really a replacement for what made Everpix unique.

    Carl – Everpix did in fact store the original images (you get them if you download). I have my entire digital library—200GB worth going back to 1999—in it right now.

  10. Steve- Everpix does *not* keep identical originals of photos, and explicitly says that if that’s what you want, you should also use a separate back-up system.

    “Every time you sync a photo to Everpix, we make a full-resolution copy of the original. We then run the copy through an image optimization pass while preserving all the embedded metadata (EXIF, XMP, IPTC, color profilesЁ).
    We use a very advanced and proprietary image optimization algorithm that preserves maximum quality even when viewing photos at 100% or printing them. This optimization provides significant advantages:
    Sync to Everpix your thousands of existing photos, and all the new ones you’ll take in the future, in hours instead of days.
    Everpix apps use a lot less network bandwidth, both at home and on your expensive cellular data plan.
    Everpix’s subscription comes with unlimited photo storage at a very competitive price.
    When you re-download photos we convert them back to JPEG for maximum compatibility. Although the photos look the same as the originals (on your computer screen or when printing), the file sizes may differ.”

  11. I’m going through the various stages of grief about the Everpix situation. At the core of my frustration is the sentiment you expressed at the beginning of this article —аthat Everpix is a service that _needs_ to exist.

    For the first time (ever?) my family and I were really _enjoying_ our photos, especially through the Flashback emails. What a great way to start the day.

    I wonder what would have happened if they’d opened up to their users about their financial situation? I for one would have paid a lot more for the service, as delight is scarce and valuable.

    Looking for a replacement, there’s Loom — which having signed up for two days ago, I’ll be canceling later today. The experience is just awful; evidently they didn’t feel it was necessary to engage designers. Whereas the Everpix message was “Enjoy your photos, finally!” the Loom headline in their app description is “Regain disk space!”—everything derives from that. (I tweeted that they should hire the Everpix designers ASAP, so their engineers can get back to engineering.)

    Apart from Loom, there’s PictureLife, which, as far as I can tell, are trying to replicate either iPhoto or Aperture in a web browser. Not what I’m after.

    What about Flickr? It seems they don’t have an auto-uploader, and the FlickrUploader Mac app looks like an afterthought.

  12. Matt, the search for a replacement for Everpix – which I _loved_ – is exactly what I was looking for in comments to this article.

    I’m going to try Flickr, too.

    And what about SmugMug? Did anyone try it? Looks promising but it doesn’t go into details without actually trying it.

  13. Matt H – I’m testing Picturelife right now. Yes, it has a lot more going on than needed, but the core functions—autosyncing, hiding duplicates, flashback-type section—seems to work reasonably well. Apparently they’re overhauling the web UI, which for me is the biggest liability.

  14. Steve —аThanks for the info about PictureLife. I may give it a try.

    Something that Everpix had going for it, was that the founders had deep interest and experience in image processing. I understand that they both (a) applied some image enhancements to your upload photos, and (b) algorithmically tried to determine “best” photos to show you (in collections, flashbacks, etc.)

    I wonder if competitive services like Loom and PictureLife have that kind of expertise available (and implemented)?

  15. Regarding PictureLife, even the 100 GB plan costs more than Everpix did, and they do not offer an “infinite storage” plan. 100 GB might be enough for personal photos, but the service also accepts videos and even the 300 GB plan might not be sufficient in this case, I’m afraid. The “infinite” feature is very attractive in this kind of services…
    SmugMug, as far as I can tell, costs less and has no storage limits.
    But I suppose they must be tried to really test all features like sharing etc.

  16. Matt – PL has a timeline view that does a “best picture” thing for a primary shot, and a “Discover” section which is a bit like Everpix’s Explore. They’re both pretty well done, but hard to get its full scope with my roughly 1,500 photos in the free maxed-out space. I had my 40k+ photos going back to 1999 on Everpix, which made for a slightly better sampling :)

    Marco – Yeah, the price tiers are a bitter pill, one I’m not sure I can get past. My photo library is about 200 GB, so that would be $150/year. Eesh. One intriguing feature is you can opt to use an s3 bucket for storage, making PL totally free. Of course s3 is pricier, but if you already have it, it’s nearly a no-brainer.

  17. Steve —аThat’s interesting that PL allows you to use your own S3 bucket for storage. You’d also think these services could simply let you connect them to a particular folder in your Dropbox. I would have paid Everpix $4.99 a month just for their service; they wouldn’t have even needed to _store_ my photos. (Mind you, that comment is made with zero knowledge about any dependencies their system had on physically maintaining your photos…)

  18. So I’ve cancelled Loom, and am in the process of installing PictureLife. The first little flag is the presence of the “Show Weather in the Menu Bar” setting in the Mac app preferences. Here’s to hoping the company can maintain “focus”.

  19. Hah. I’m in the feedback forum for PL, and the weather widget *on the website* was one of the first things that came up:

    Link

  20. Jeez, this is funny —аI just installed the PL iPad app, and tapped on a random image.

    When the image opened, I thought, “OMG, they have copied Everpix pixel for pixel!” I was stunned. Unbelievable.

    Then I realized that the image I was looking at was an Everpix screenshot I’d taken earlier this morning (for UI reference).

  21. The iOS apps are better than web—and they say they’re aligning the web more to iOS, so that’s a hopeful sign.

  22. Everyone will have their own opinion, but I’ve checked out Picturelife, and while they are trying to do something very similar to what Everpix did, they don’t do it nearly as well. I’ve had all kinds of issues with their uploader/syncer, I don’t find the iOS app nearly as intuitive as Everpix, etc. If they were the *same* price as Everpix I might give them a shot, but being much more expensive for what right now is a poor product, I can’t do it.

    Smugmug has some nice features for an online photo site (I’ve been a member for a couple years, but honestly haven’t touched it since I discovered Everpix) but it doesn’t have *any* autosyncing features. There are third party software and plugins, but I’ve found them to be unreliable and problematic. In my opinion it’s a completely different type of service, but since I’m already a member, it’s what I’m going to use in the meantime.

  23. Has anyone tried this Cooliris

    Doesn’t look like a back solution – but – if you have all your photos in Dropbox (or other places) it does look like it lets you see all your photos and share them to a degree…

    As to just backing up – I guess with Everypix closing I am going to have to use this

    Backblaze

    I just went through a hard drive crash, and even though I had everything backed up and was using Time Machine the restore was a disaster, took forever, and I did end up losing images via corruption on the external drive that was holding the back up…

  24. Fascinating post and discussion. Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t seen anyone comment on the maths Everpix posted. If I did the maths right, customers were paying $50/year and Amazon was charging $61/year for that storage. Hard to scale that.

  25. I’m theorizing a grand unified theory that Apple is preparing to create an iCloud version of iPhoto. Everyone knows photo stream is a useless mess. 1000 latest images pushed up to the cloud and then back down as local dupes? The hell?

    with iCloud iPhoto, iOS photos will shoot right up to the cloud, images loaded into OS X iPhoto will do the same. Photo streams will be gone—sharing will be ad hoc on albums. Whether it would have dupe detection, “flashback”, etc, I don’t know, but im fairly convinced the basics will happen. Evidence:

    1) Apple is building a massive data center in Nevada
    2) iOS7 “Moments” organizes images by location—an abstraction from the normal date/album metaphor.
    3) Shared photo streams is clearly positioned to see how iCloud can handle a MASSIVE influx of image data. The tightly controlled limitations are certainly a safeguard, but could (and I think will) slowly be loosened to the point where you can effectively have your entire library in iCloud (even if it currently doesnt auto-sync).

  26. I also liked Everpix, but I never signed up for a paid account mostly because — despite everyone talking about how comprehensive the service was — they never supported PNGs. I liked the service so much I emailed them to ask if they were planning on PNG support in the future and they said that is was not on their roadmap. I work with PNGs a lot, so this was a deal killer for me.

    I’ll add that there are actually a ton of competitors in this field, among them Google. Google’s offering is incomplete and flawed in many ways, but it’s free and has unlimited storage, and it does a ton of cool stuff. I think that anyone who isn’t offering significantly more than what Google offers will have a tough time, and I’m leery of investing in any of these small startups for this reason.

    That said, the best of the bunch to my eye seems to be PictureLife, though I’ve only have a free account. It is much like iPhoto, yes, but to me that’s a good thing. It does much of what Everpix does and supports many formats, including PNG.

  27. Mike- Google gives you 15GB free, to my knowledge. Beyond that you have to pay.(I’m a regular user) and only offers sync options through picasa, as far as I know. on top of that, I find their web interface a complete mess.

    so (for me at least)it’s *nothing* like Everpix

  28. Matt, I agree that Google’s interface is extremely inconsistent and it certainly bugs the crap out of me. But Google does, in fact, offer unlimited storage for photos of “standard size” (2048×2048). They also have Google+ apps that will sync your iOS Camera Rolls to the service sans Picasa (which I do not use, because, OMG). Or you can use a browser.

    Google’s service also offers great search (of course) and a bunch of other neat processing tricks, as well as image editing and video. All of which were absent from Everpix’s product.

    More info here.

    To be clear, I never said Google’s offering was anything like Everpix, but it is certainly competing for the same business. If you’re happy with Google’s feature set and content with their limitations — and I suspect that very many people are (myself included), especially considering the cost — then Google will beat a company like Everpix every time.

    It’s sad. I liked Everpix, and the idea of Everpix. And I don’t think Google gets it completely right by any means. My point is that it’s a very crowded field full of giant players —аGoogle, Apple, Yahoo. An Everpix will really have to knock it out of the park if they’re going to survive.

    And PNG support would’ve been nice too.

  29. Mike- can you point me to somewhere on google that shows they have unlimited storage of photos?

    again, I’ve been a long time google user and looked through all the settings on my account before posting. If that’s true, they are going out of their way to hide it.

  30. Anthony, Cooliris might be interesting, thanks.

    Regarding plain backup solutions, I didn’t know Backblaze, but I’ve been using CrashPlan for some months now and I think it works great. Looks like it costs a little more, but they have different feature sets. First CrashPlan highlights which come to my mind while reading Backblaze features are: unlimited file versions, Linux and Android apps.

    Mike, interesting info on Google. Anyway resizing all photos to 2048 pixels is some sort of “partial” backup… well maybe you could use Google for low-res sharing and a backup service for backup. But I liked the fact that my friends could download the original resolution from Everpix (sigh!).

  31. Marco, I think you’re right: Use a backup service for backup (I’ve used CrashPlan and it works great, though: ugh, Java), and a photo sharing service for photo sharing.

    Google’s sizing practice is certainly a shortcoming, but for me Everpix’s lack of PNG support was a bigger one: half my images — mainly drawings and comics I’ve made — are output as PNGs.

    If anyone’s interested, I’ve done a ton of research on the topic of cloud-based file and photo sharing services. I went ahead and put my notes up on my blog:
    http://malcontentcomics.com/systemsboy/2013/11/8/online-file-and-photo-services

    There are lots of options, and maybe this will help some folks find an Everpix replacement. My two cents: right now anyway, PictureLife is your best bet. I think their service looks really good. But they’re young and may not be around after a year or two either. So caution is recommended.

  32. So for my case I am going to go with this new set up -

    Flickr account for my pictures – I made a new Yahoo account, made it private, and shared it with my family. Then I began the process of uploading photos from my 20 odd iPhoto libraries.

    Maybe use Cooliris or not depending on whether I really need too – at first I thought it was part of the puzzle, but the 1 TB Flickr account and being able to either share it with my family, or give them the log in info seems fine.

    Plan to open a Backblaze account ASAP and spend the $5 a month or whatever it is to get all my data off site -

    The main thing I will be missing here – edited photos won’t update/sync to Flickr unless I do so manually. The changes will update to Backblaze.

    Hmm – this app seems to do that for PC users: http://www.flickr.com/services/apps/72157624948354629/

  33. I guess this conversation has evolved into general backup practices. So, my setup for the last 5 years or so:

    1) Backblaze for entire HD
    2) Nightly CarbonCopyCloner of HD to local external drive
    3) Time Machine

    Everpix for me was never about backup (although it passively worked that way). It was purely for the amazing way it enabled my family to experience our history of photographs, dating to 1999.

    I continue to be impressed with the Picturelife team—they seem well aware of its problems, and have already rolled out a solid update to the iOS app, and a complete web refresh soonish. Not quite ready to drop money on them, but it’s getting there.

  34. Steve —

    PictureLife has now imported 12k of my 24k photos, and I’m also definitely warming up to the service. As you said, the iOS app is getting good, as is the website. Just today I discovered the “name the person in this photo” feature of the website. Let’s hope they make money!

    Regarding backups, I used to use Backblaze, but later discovered CrashPlan. Using CrashPlan, I was able to implement both a local and cloud-based backup, allowing me to even drop Time Machine. It’s a thoughtfully designed system, even emailing me weekly with a status report of all my Macs, as well as alerts when any Mac hasn’t been backed up in the past three days.

    I wrote about the setup on my blog, and I couldn’t be happier with CrashPlan:

    http://www.dafacto.com/2013/01/18/my-simplified-backup-system-using-crashplan/

  35. Thank you Mike for the great blog post.

    I agree on the “ugh” for Java, but it’s good to see some nicely developed Java apps – as far as possible – from time to time.

    Anyone, regarding Flickr: does it allow sharing photos/sets with anyone by a public URL, just like Everpix did?

  36. I was a paid subscriber to everpix and picturelife is the WORST alternative. I paid you guys recently – full year of service in advance. Picturelife asks you to connect your flickr, facebook etc accounts which we did. Its been over a month and not one picture has been backed up from those services. In addition, their desktop application is horrendous. It will randomly stop uploading photos and then refuse to open ever again. Multiple support tickets (search their support site) and a temporary solution was found which as of last week broke down as well. So essentially you PAY then nothing happens. They don’t “backup” as they say from other services. Their desktop app does not upload photos so what use is Picture life then ? Sorry but PLEASE remove Picture life from the above list. Absolutely horrendous service.

  37. This is all very top of mind as we prepare to launch Arcivr’s first public beta in 11 days. We were Everpix fans and have worked hard to fill the void they left while adding quite a bit of functionality. Arcivr is web-based (for now) so automated syncing isn’t quite possible. But, it’s intuitive, private and collaborative. There are no ads and it’s free until next April when the full version launches. After that it will be $5+/- per month. FYI: we’re working on an Everpix uploader now. I’d be curious to hear what this crowd thinks of it…

  38. Photofeed has creГated a tool to help forГmer Everpix users. We’ll import your phoГtos from Everpix into a new account for you— I know transГferГring phoГtos can be a hasГsle, so we’re tryГing to make it as easy as posГsiГble. We’d really like to help you out— let us know if you’d like to give Photofeed a try. Some of you might be interested in our automatic uploading and timeline/album organization, multiple device uploads, etc. Here’s a link to our blog in case you want to read more about our quick import tool and the deal we’re offering Everpix users: link.

  39. I’m an iOS developer at Picturelife. @nzakir I’m really sorry to hear about your poor experience. That’s certainly not typical. Media from your social networks should start importing immediately when you connect them, and you shouldn’t ever have to worry about the desktop app. If you’re still having problems, please email us support@picturelife.com and we’ll get everything sorted out for you ASAP.