Who Has The Most Photos Of Them All? Hint: It Is Not Facebook

Photo-sharing on the Web keeps getting more popular as people transfer more of their digital photos from their the black holes of their computer hard drives to social networks where their friends and family can actually see them. Although Facebook Photos has emerged as the largest photo-sharing service in terms of users and is one of the fastest-growing of any size, it is still not the largest by the sheer number of images that it stores.

That honor, for the moment, goes to ImageShack, which currently hosts 20 billion images, I’ve confirmed with the company (for more background on ImageShack, read this post). Facebook holds 15 billion photos, according to a spokesperson there. But it should catch up by the end of the year. Facebook users are adding photos at a rate of 850 million photos a month, compared to 100 million photos a month by ImageShack users. Good thing Facebook just fixed its storage architecture to be able to handle the bigger load. Clarification: The numbers used in this post are for unique images. Facebook actually has 60 billion image files because it stores each image in four different sizes. But it stores 15 billion unique photos. The 20 billion Imageshack figure is also for unique images but ImageShack founder Jack Levin says that it is an estimate and there could be 10 percent duplication. The Flickr and Multiply numbers below I’ve also confirmed are unique numbers.

After Facebook and ImageShack, the third largest image warehouse on the Web appears to be News Corp’s PhotoBucket, with 7.2 billion photos. And then Yahoo’s Flickr comes in at 3.4 billion, which also includes some videos. Interestingly, coming in right behind Flickr in the photo count is social network Multiply, with 3 billion images. Multiply’s photo=sharing options are one of its main strengths, which make sit attractive to its core demographic of families and moms (an area where Facebook is still struggling). Picasa is probably up there somewhere, but Google won’t get any more specific than “billions” of photos have been uploaded “and millions of photos are uploaded every day.”

In fact, with the exception of Photobucket, none of these services publicly discloses its latest image count. I had to ask each company individually. Some companies like Shutterfly refuse to disclose their numbers, and they are a publicly traded company. I am still waiting to hear back from Kodak about KodakGallery..com, but the trend lines of these older photo storage services are not encouraging (see second chart at the bottom of the post). Below are the figures I was able to collect directly from each company:

Image Warehouses On The Web (numbers are total images stored)

    ImageShack: 20 billion
    Facebook: 15 billion
    PhotoBucket: 7.2 billion
    Flickr 3.4 billion
    Multiply: 3 billion
    Picasa “billions” (?)

While Google chose to be vague, Yahoo was completely transparent. It provided the following additional stats on Flickr:

    Photos/videos uploaded daily: 3 million (implies 90 million a month)
    Photos that are public: 50%
    Photos that are tagged: 30%
    Geo-tagged photos: 110 million
    Number of unique tags: 38 million
    Amount of traffic that comes from search engines: 75%

And Multiply shared with me the fact that its 12.5 million registered users are uploading an impressive 75 million photos a month. That comes to six photos per day per registered user, which is actually more than Facebook. Since Multiply encourages high-resolution uploads, it is handling 2.5 terabytes per day in image uploads. A little under one percent of its users, or 10,000 of them pay $20 a year for premium services such as unlimited storage and photo album backups. The one percent of premium users accounts for between 5 and 7 percent of all uploads.

If you look at comScore numbers, however, it is clear that Facebook is gaining the most usage overall, with 161 million unique visitors worldwide in February. Flickr is a distant but strong second with 76.5 million visitors. Photobucket is at 58.6 million uniques, Picasa is at 39.9 million, and ImageShack is at 33.2 million.