AOL Pictures goes social and it's not pretty

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The new version of AOL Pictures came out of beta today and it’s thoroughly underwhelming. The new features are basically all the social things that are standard from a Web 2.0 perspective – Public galleries, Ajax, tags, comments and subscriptions – but none of them are done particularly well. They are getting shown up badly by Yahoo!, Webshots and Photobucket.

The new AOL Pictures offers a picture editor but only for Windows, the Ajax response time feels slow, tags are supported but not in a meaningful way (it’s really still all about folders), photo galleries can be named but only and the site is basically no fun to use. The service probably should have stayed in beta for awhile. Did I mention that it’s not very pretty to look at?

The new Yahoo! Photos came out last month and is better, but Flickr is much better still. If you’re going to follow Flickr’s lead, as everyone appears to be doing – at least do it well. Or acquire someone who’s doing something really interesting. Online video editing is the most obvious next direction for video sharing and Yahoo! just bought Jumpcut this morning. There are any number of interesting little photo sharing sites that are at least doing a better job at the state of the art than AOL Pictures. Two off the top of my head are Photoblog.com and BubbleShare (who are doing some very cool stuff). Zooomr is apparently on the market as well.

AOL Video is far more interesting than this, with its mix of commercial and user generated content, long list of movie studio partners and Viiv deal.

Perhaps many AOL customers don’t want anything fancy, but this looks like a half hearted effort to catch up to competitors that I’m guessing won’t be well received.

Update:
That the service offers free unlimited storage should have been mentioned here. It was overlooked in my frustration with the UI but it is important.

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