Mike Isaac

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Facebook’s Latest Photos Update Dings Smaller Album-Sharing Startups

Shared-Album-ScreenThey say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But it may feel slightly different if you’re a small startup whose marquee feature was just cloned by a major tech company.

I’m speaking, of course, of the latest product iteration from Facebook. In an interview with Mashable on Monday, the company announced a new shared-photo-albums function, which allows up to 50 users to contribute photos to a single photo album. The new feature lets the creator choose who can contribute to the shared album, and also lets them set the level of privacy (public, friends of contributors, and contributors only).

If it sounds even the slightest bit familiar, that’s because you may have heard of similar functionality in smaller photo-centric apps like Cluster or the recently revamped Albumatic.

The main draw of these startups is essentially the communal photo-sharing function, limiting albums only to those involved in taking the pictures and “clustering” them together. It’s basically the whole point of installing the apps on your phone. Facebook’s folding the feature into its site makes the need for an additional app much less compelling.

To be fair, there are a few caveats: For one, Cluster auto-syncs your photos around certain events based on time stamp and location, making the selection process less arduous. And, for now, Facebook’s feature is desktop-only, though the company hopes to bring it to mobile soon. It’s not exactly apples to apples.

There’s a counterargument to be made here, too: For one of the biggest repositories of user-generated photos in the world, album sharing across users just makes sense. Even Apple has plans for it. Perhaps there’s more value in folding in this type of feature to a large network like Facebook’s, rather than downloading an entire single-serving application to carry out the task.

The Monday rollout of the new feature will be small and limited to some U.S. users, with a wider release to come in the near future.


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