Charles Forman. Stuff I write down.

March 22, 2013

Why I make Picturelife... 

Some words about why I do what I do.

Like most anyone else, I love my photos. They are incredibly valuable to me. Almost every other week, I hear horrible stories about people have lost their phones. The phone can be replaced but, the photos on it can never be. It's gut wrenching. Even worse, people's entire library of photos have been lost because their hard drive crashed. This should never happen to anyone.

Nothing puts life into greater perspective than looking at old photos. By looking at an old photo, suddenly, you remember exactly what you were thinking, who you were with, who you haven't thought about in a while, what was important in your life then, and what's important in your life now. It makes you a better person and allows you to appreciate life more.

My only regret in life is that I didn't take more pictures.

In 1994, I had an Apple QuickTake 100, one of the first digital cameras. It was able to take up to 8 photos! You could hook it up to you computer and downloading them only took about 25 minutes. I must have taken hundreds of photos with that camera. The problem is, I have no idea where any of those photos are today.

I always stored all my photos on the hard drives of my personal computers for the past 20 years. Every time I would get a new computer, I would copy all of my files from the old computer to the new, hoping I got everything. Unfortunately, I must have missed a bunch of files, because my oldest digital photo I have today is only 10 years old.

I would give anything to get those old photos back.

In the past 10 years, a few interesting technologies revolutionized photos. The first is photo library organization software like Picasa and iPhoto. This was really great to have quick access and an easy way to organize all your photos. The downside is that all your photos are on one computer. Posting photos publicly was revolutionized by Flickr and made truly excellent by Facebook. However, the idea that I will upload every photo I've ever taken to Facebook is unrealistic. Most of my photos are extremely valuable to me, and to no one else. I would never want anyone else to ever see them, but I would never want to lose them.

Simply, I want a service that stores all my digital photos and provides me ways to view and organize them that is just as good as software like iPhoto. Why doesn't this exist? The world needs this.

So we decided to take the great responsibility of building Picturelife. I guess the only way to predict the future is to build it.

The service would have to back up and store all of a person’s digital photos and video, and provide a beautiful way to view, organize and rediscover those photos wherever they are.

Honestly, that is just the trivial baseline of what Picturelife needs to do.

Outside of technically being able to support any source, any format, any view, any adjustment, or any output, there are some very difficult problems around photos that have not been solved, and many others that have not been attempted.

The most major problem is managing photos in families. It used to be that photos were taken on film. They would be printed at the drugstore. If you wanted to share your photos with family members, you could print copies. Photos were stored in physical albums, and could be viewed by anyone that was around the book. Now, mothers and fathers take pictures of their kids on their mobile phones. What if they want to see each others photos? What do they do? How do they send them to the grandparents? Who has access to them? I've heard a hundreds of ways families have hacked together solutions that range from plain not working to extremely frustrating.

This is a problem we will solve.

A picture is worth a thousand words. A collection of pictures is worth billions. Most people don't understand just how much rich information there is in a set of photos. For example, simply using image analysis to detect the difference between duplicates and similar photos, suggesting ratings automatically for easy filtering, knowing when you go on a vacation and automatically suggesting albums, suggesting to share 4 really great pictures of your kids to your parents.

We want to answer the question, "Wouldn't it be great if..?" with a feature that makes it happen.

As I'm writing this, I am syncing my latest 64,306th picture. Now that Picturelife supports video, my entire photo library is completely on Picturelife. I can access any pictures on my iPhone, on my iPad or on any computer, and it feels great.

What also feels great, is making Picturelife better every day.

If you feel as strongly about your photos as we do, I would love to hear from you. We want to make Picturelife the best photo service in the world. If you feel so strongly that you want to make an impact on Picturelife, we would love to work with you.


Hi! My name is Charles Forman. I love to make stuff I dream up. A while back, I founded a videogame company called OMGPOP that developed Draw Something, that sold to Zynga. Remember that? No? It's ok. I also co-founded Picturelife, a great place to store and organize all your private photos. I am originally from Chicago, and I've lived in Tokyo, Seoul, and New York City. I am currently living in NYC and I'm working on developing a movie.
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