It can be easy to overlook the importance of online image sharing in an age when other media, like streaming video , is increasingly capturing consumers' attention. Yet the fact remains that more than 3.5 million digital photos are shared online every minute. Demand for platforms that allow users to upload, distribute and store digital images remains huge.
For years, however, the image-sharing and storage segment of the digital media landscape has seen little innovation. Platforms designed specifically for image sharing, such as Flickr and Instagram, have changed little in recent years. And the photo-sharing services that are integrated into social networks like Facebook and Twitter haven't evolved much either.
Entrepreneurs in the image-sharing and socializing space hope that they can use blockchain technology to restore innovation to this market. Here's a look at what blockchain-based projects are doing to bring new features and opportunities to image-sharing platforms.
The Basics of Image Sharing
Some photo-sharing platforms are integrated into broader services, like Facebook. Others are stand-alone websites dedicated specifically to storing and socializing images. Wikipedia lists two-dozen active image-sharing websites in the latter category alone.
Whatever their scope, most image-sharing platforms offer the same core set of features. They allow users to upload photos, comment on them, share them with others and store them in the cloud.
Excepting sites like SmugMug, most of these services typically come without fees. The platforms make money through advertising and sometimes by collecting data about users.
All of the above adds up to a photo-sharing market that has a number of contenders, yet little real differentiation between them. While the platforms vary somewhat in the specifics of the software tools and interfaces that they offer, they all do the same basic thing. And they have been doing it in the same basic way since the mid-2000s, when sites like SmugMug and Flickr debuted. There has been little meaningful innovation in the market since that time.
Several startups hope that blockchain technology can jump-start the stagnating photo-sharing market. Their efforts center around several distinct areas of innovation.
Rewarding Photo Creators
Some of these platforms hope to use blockchains and cryptocurrencies to enable rewards systems for people who share photos, a feature absent from conventional photo-sharing platforms.
Examples include Selfllery , which allows users to earn cryptocurrency for sharing photos and participating on the platform in other ways. SteemPhotos, a photo-sharing service integrated into the Steem platform, provides similar revenue-generating opportunities for photo creators by allowing viewers to reward the producers of photos they like. SocialX , a decentralized social media platform that includes image sharing and socializing, also provides rewards opportunities using cryptocurrencies.
Purchasing Print Photos
Postalgia is using digital tokens for a different purpose. The platform allows users to purchase physical prints of photos that are stored on their mobile devices. Postalgia uses cryptocurrency to enable the payments.
The project also hopes to eventually use a blockchain to store digital photos permanently, but it is unclear when that feature may be rolled out.
Storing and Registering Images
Another startup, KeeeX, is already using a blockchain to store photos and metadata related to them via its Photo Proof app . The company says its goal is to enable users to "certify" their images by creating an immutable record of when and where they were created and by whom.
Po.et , which allows any kind of digital asset to be registered on the blockchain, serves a similar purpose.
Combatting Image Theft
Meanwhile, Kodak, the major photography company, is now using the blockchain as part of its KodakOne platform. KodakOne allows photographers to register images on a blockchain; then it uses web crawlers to identify unauthorized reproductions of those photos on the internet.
There are now more than a half-dozen platforms that use blockchain technology to create innovative new features for users to share or store digital photos. Conventional image-sharing services outnumber these projects, but that may not remain the case for long. Traditional image-sharing platforms do not have a strong record of innovation in recent years, and projects that can use a blockchain to introduce new features, like revenue generation for users or the management of photo attribution rights, stand to become quite attractive to the hundreds of millions of people who upload and share images each day.
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