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It’s Time For The Concept Of “Photo Albums” To Die. Everpix Debuts What Comes Next

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The idea of organizing photos by hand into online albums is passé. It’s a concept that’s a holdover from a time when our photo collections were in physical format, and therefore more limited. That’s long since changed thanks to an explosion of smartphones, allowing us to now continually record our lives through photo and video. For two years, a photo organization startup Everpix has been building a platform to change the way we manage our photos, and today it’s launching version 2.0,  a major upgrade to the product which introduces new features like highlights, flashbacks and more.

In the revamped Everpix, a feature called “Highlights 2.0″ allows users to visually search through their photo collection more quickly by picking out the best photos to represent an important moment, like an event you attended or a place you visited, for example. When you switch these on in the app, you no longer have to scroll back through the hundreds or thousands of photos you took in a given year, but can instead tap into the selected photos to be transported to the collection of photos that item represents.

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That’s not to say that a single “moment” will only be represented by one photo, however. In tests, a handful of photos from any given moment were chosen to become the “highlighted” ones for easy scanning. That being said, they were generally well-chosen and simple to recognize at a glance.

Also new in Everpix 2.0 is “Flashbacks,” a concept which is somewhat reminiscent of the nostalgia-focused efforts from a startup called Timehop, in that it’s also a way to dig into your past. But while Timehop takes the “this day in history” approach, Everpix Flashbacks does that, too, plus offers a section that lets you explore photos by category, including categories “food,” “nature,” “city,” “people,” “animals,” as well as by clicking the serendipitous discovery feature “shuffle.”

It’s an interesting idea in theory, but in practice, needed a bit of work with food shots appearing in “city,” people in “animals,” etc.

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The company’s mobile apps were also refreshed today to offer continuous scrolling through photos, and improved image analysis, as well as to integrate the new features. The end result is a more enjoyable photo browsing experience, and one which feels more modern than the dated concept of moving through – or worse, having to create – traditional photo albums.

But Everyone Does Automatic Collections Now

However, Everpix still has challenges in terms of the increasing competition from not only other photo-sharing startups, but now the giants, too.

When Everpix first launched at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2011, it joined only a handful of other startups which were trying to make sense out of our ever-growing number of photo uploads. Instead of acting as a photo host, like Flickr, Everpix smartly grouped photos into “Moments” – automatic albums based on time and location, which also detected bad and blurry photos and hid them from view.

Since then, that concept has been repeated time and again in a number of apps, including those that have come before Everpix as well as those that launched after. Apps like Moment.me, flayvr, Tracks, Cluster, Story, Flock, Photoful, and others offer their own take on location-based and automatic photo organization, while others like ThisLife have exited, and, in the case of aggregator Snapjoy, have since shut down post-acquistion.

More importantly, though – and perhaps more worrisome for startups like Everpix – are the moves that companies like Apple and Google have now made to offer similar capabilities to their users. When Google introduced its revamped version of Google+ Photos at its I/O conference in May, for example, it demoed new features which allowed it to automatically filter out duplicates, highlight your best photos, auto enhance them and more – even turning a series of images into animated gifs, no less!

Later, at WWDC, Apple introduced its latest mobile operating system, iOS 7, which now offers a feature that automatically organizes photos into “Moments,” by day or location. Users can also zoom out on those moments to see all photos taken that day, or even that year.

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Though Everpix offers a different feature set, Apple and Google are making their tools free to users. Plus, Flickr also recently revamped its plans to offer a terabyte of storage for free. Now it’s only a matter of time before Flickr starts to make its photo streams more intelligent, too. (Perhaps through the acquisition of a startup with the smarts to do just what Everpix does, in fact. And Yahoo is shopping).

Meanwhile, Everpix’s business model relies on converting free account holders to subscription plans so they can view all their photos through the beginning of time, instead of just those taken in the past year. Co-fonder Pierre-Olivier Latour says declined to reveal user numbers, but says half of free users are monthly actives, and the company has “double-digit subscription rates significantly higher than typical freemium rates.”

As much as I love what Everpix offers, I’m itching for something like this to be combined with one or more of the photo hosting, automatic upload, and social photo sharing services I already use: Flickr, Google+ Photos, Facebook, iCloud, etc. It’s hard to entirely abandon these larger services because of the way they’re connected to our devices through auto uploads, our social networks through easy sharing tools, and more. That leaves Everpix with a service you have to remember to use for specific needs – organization and discovery – as opposed to one that can do it all.

The new Everpix is available here.