Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Time Inc. and Getty Images Go Back to the Future With Life.com

cassius-clay-beatlesHere’s refreshingly retro take for a Web site launching in 2009: One that only features photos. Lots and lots of really interesting photos.

Meet the new Life.com, a joint venture between Time Warner’s (TWX) Time Inc. and Getty Images that launches today.

This one doesn’t need a whole lot of explanation. Time Inc. stopped publishing the legendary Life photo magazine in 2000. Now it’s trying to revive the brand online.

Last fall the company worked with Google (GOOG) to host a huge image catalog on the search engine; today it wants to drive traffic to its own site, where it will feature seven million photos at launch and promises to add 3,000 a day. Life.com is a 50/50 JV with Getty, which built the site, will run it out of Seattle and will be providing it with new, exclusive images; Time Inc.’s people will sell ads.

There are a couple bells and whistles in the works, like the ability to order up books of prints you see online. But compared to the dizzying, iPhone feel of Microsoft’s (MSFT) Wonderwall project, the site is almost stolid–in a good way. It just relies on arresting photos grouped into interesting categories.

Celebrities? Sure. And the site’s SEO-savvy editors are clever enough to feature a photo of Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton at a Perez Hilton party on day one. But they’ve also given us “The World’s Weirdest Beards” and a collection featuring Cassius Clay in the early 1960s, before he changed his name to Muhammad Ali (see the photo at top right of the boxer and the Beatles during their 1964 trip to the U.S.).

Maybe I’m just a sucker for cool images, but this one sucks me in. I think the Time Inc. folks are onto something here: While Web publishers are quite sensibly trying to figure out how to handle audio and video, it’s worth remembering that photos are powerful, too, given the proper showcase.

My favorites so far? This odd collection of glamour shots of David Letterman, circa 1984. Click through for pensive Dave, undressing Dave and Miami Vice trucker hat Dave.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik