The high-profile photo organizing app, Carousel, was discontinued by its developer, Dropbox. By next March, the iOS and Android app will no longer function (although users’ photos will be safely stored in Dropbox.) In a blog post, Dropbox declared users data will remain secure, but many of the features that attracted users to the product – shared albums, Flashbacks, etc. – will stop functioning.
This is part of an on-going trend where app developers have summarily discontinued valued apps, either after they are acquired or have failed go gain traction. Carousel was among many photo apps designed to crack the code for photo organizing and storage, but this has become a losing business proposition. Last summer, pro photography site Pictage suddenly shut down; one of the reasons provided was the ongoing technical challenges for maintaining customer photos. More recently, Adobe Revel, an online photo storage and viewing service, was shut down weeks ago and integrated into the Adobe Creative Cloud Plan. Apple has attempted to solve the issue with iCloud syncing with Photos but many Mac/iPhone users have balked at Apple’s premium storage pricing.
Like many apps, Carousel itself wasn’t designed to be monetizable, but to drive the core business, which from a Dropbox viewpoint, is to provide greater photo functionality for its freemium storage service. This seems like a great idea, at the time: As MIT Technology Review pointed out in its 2014 app review: “Dropbox has 275 million users, plenty of whom are already using the site to store at least some photos. A standalone photo app could encourage a lot more of these uploads, and might convince some people to upgrade from their free Dropbox accounts to paid ones. It also makes sense for Dropbox to offer more services to help organize and make sense of the growing mountain of data it stores.”
But, after a initial flurry of initial interest, Carousel began losing steam. Despite those 275 million Dropbox accounts, apparently this isn’t enough maintain developer interest in the app. In the past 90 days, the app wasn’t even listed among the top 200 photo apps, according to analyst firm Suite 48a Analytics.
Output to the rescue?
Millions of users for an important service: What went wrong? Long-term photo storage is not something mass-market consumers are willing to pay for. Consumers have more images than ever but often lack the discipline or desire to back them up. Add to this the troubling problem, even as online storage has become increasingly cheaper for service providers and for vendors, it’s very difficult – if not impossible – for online firms to monetize them.
Fortunately, universal cloud access can also lead to a solid monetization strategy through printing. Photo-printing services no longer have to be primarily concerned with hosting images, since Google Photos, Amazon Photos and other storage services have provide open access to stored images. By providing an opened solution that can connect on-demand to these photo services, we are allowing printers, retailers and content owners to simplify management of the images increasing scalability and cost effectiveness of their product personalization offering.
The cloud means there’s no waiting to get the images needed to finish a photo book or to create a personalized photo gift; everything is at their fingertips. While not as scalable as an advertising-driven social network, printing of images is a proven way to generate revenue and happy customers.