TC50: Fotonauts Is a Gorgeous Photopedia

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Jean-Marie Huillot wants to create “a Wikipedia of pictures,” a Photopedia, if you will. The former CTO of NeXT and Apple’s Applications Division launched Fotonauts today at TechCrunch50. Fotonauts helps photographers organize, upload, synchronize, and share their photos. But it does more than that. It adds data from Wikipedia, Google Maps, and other places to photo albums and then publishes those albums as Web pages with one click of a button.

You can add photos from your desktop or the various existing photo-sharing services such as Flickr and Picasa or add Creative Commons photos taken by other people to each album. There is also a social element in that you can follow other “fotonauts” or specific Web albums via an event stream.

During the demo, Huillot created an album from photos he took on a recent trip to Nepal. He selected some photos from Katmandu, toggled over to a Wikipedia article about Katmandu within the app, found the name of the temple that he visited (Pashupatinath Temple), and added that as a tag to all the relevant photos. He then added photos he uploaded from an Internet cafe to Picassa.

But when he went to Boudhanath, he forgot his camera. “Fortunately,” says Huillot, “there are people on the Web smarter than me. When they go to a place as interesting as Boudhanath they don’t forget their camera.” And some of them take better pictures. Fotonauts also lets you search for photos under Creative Commons licenses with similar tags and add them to the album. All the photos are geo-tagged and placed on a map, which is added to the page. And content from relevant Wikipedia pages are also added below the photos.

Web albums can also be built collaboratively. And that is where the Photopedia concept comes in. Photographers can add photos and other data on specific places and topics, all smartly tagged and organized by Fotonauts. And best of all, all the photos in Fotonauts are synchronized with existing photo services. So all the tags and metadata that you add in Fotonauts automatically is added to all of those same pictures in your Flickr or Picasa albums. Huillot concluded:

With Fotonauts, keep looking at Picasa, Flickr, we synchronize your photos wherever you like. This is the first step to creating the semantic web for pictures. Distribute your creation everywhere, your website, your favorite event stream, wherever you want.

Click here to watch a video of the Fotonauts demo.

Expert Panelists

Robert Scoble: “It is really cool. I want to try it when I get home. It is Flickr done right. It makes the photo much more social. Where is the business on this though?”

Huillot: “On the business side maybe surprisingly we are in a good position. We are not like Flickr or Photobucket, We are not just storing your photos. We are more in a Wikipedia situation. Our users are creating content that is useful to the whole community.”

Sheryl Sandberg: “I think it is an interesting technology and a great service. The advertising applicability is hard. This has been tried in different ways. There is the question of intent when people are looking at pictures.”

Bradley Horowitz: “It does seem like tagging has always happened in a closet. This socializes that experience. This is an unmet need. I share some concerns about how you monetize it, but those are allayed by a feeling that you have created something that could become a phenomenon like Wikipedia.”

Huillot: “That is what my investors are telling me.”

Fotonauts has raised $2.3 million from Ignition Partners, Paris-based Banexi, Jeff Clavier’s SoftTech, and Joi Ito, Reid Hoffman, and Ron Conway.

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