Dropbox Acquires Snapjoy And Puts Photos Into Its Focus

Less than one week after Dropbox aqui-hired Audiogalaxy to beef up its cloud music ambitions, today comes news of another acquisition, this time focused on another form of media, photos: the cloud-storage giant is buying Snapjoy — like Dropbox, a Y Combinator-alum — which lets users aggregate, archive and view all of their digital photos from their cameras, phones and popular apps like Flickr, Instagram and Picasa, and then view them online or via an iOS app.

We first got wind of this deal via an anonymous tip — and then tracked down what was happening. The news has also been confirmed by Dropbox and Snapjoy themselves.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed — or, more precisely, in the words of co-founder Michael Dwan, the price was “A furlong of sunshine or a bucket of rainbows, whichever is less.” Dwan says other companies were also knocking on Snapjoy’s door — but declined to say who. Other investors in addition to Y Combinator included SV Angel, Quotidian and the Start Fund, along with Jawed Karim, Yael and Noam Shazeer and Garry Tan.

I asked Dwan why he decided to sell. The simple answer is scale. “The user experience we always wanted was limited by our development capacity and the economics of scale,” he told me in an email exchange. “Dropbox has some of the best talent in the world and is operating at incredible scale, so a lot of the barriers are removed. The equation in my mind is simple: (Mac + Windows + Android + iOS + Linux + Web clients) * rock solid infrastructure * 100 million users = infinite possibilities.”

Dwan declined to give any details on how many users Snapjoy has signed up, or any other usage metrics, or how many people have been subscribing to its paid tier versus only using the free service.

The move is a sign of how Dropbox continues to “move up the value chain,” extending its touchpoints and service offerings to customers beyond simple storage facilities. The move opens Dropbox up into being more of a full-service digital photo center, rather than just a place to store your jpegs as backup or when your own hard drive runs out of space.

It’s an interesting time in the world of photos — with companies like Instagram under the microscope over what it may or may not decide to do with its users’ data; services like Flickr extending its functionality as a place to create pictures as much as it is a place to store and share them; and Twitter also entering the fray. Snapjoy potentially gives Dropbox its own oar to dip into the stream. It will also put it into closer competition with Facebook Photo Sync. Right now the two partner on filesharing in Facebook Groups, but with moves like this into photos, a bread-and-butter area for Facebook, we could see that relationship changing.

Dwan tells me, and Snapjoy also notes in a blog post, that it will continue to serve its existing customers — a possible sign that the service will live on in another form as part of Dropbox — but for now it’s closing itself to further sign-ups. It looks like Dwan, who co-founded the company with JP Ren, and others are relocating from Boulder, Colorado, to San Francisco. Whether that will be the full, existing team of six people or only a part is still being worked out.

Just as the Audiogalaxy acquisition played to Dropbox’s existing popularity as a place to store music, this, too, could give Dropbox a chance to expand how its users make use of photos stored in Dropbox’s cloud — already a popular use of the service. Dropbox, interestingly, had previously extended its photo capabilities on Android; Snapjoy’s iOS focus, therefore, is complementary to that.