I read the recent news of my favorite general photography Website, Photo.net, was recently sold to a domain management company - called a "digital real estate" company, as noted in the news release. There are two sides to seeing this as either good or bad for the owner and the members.
On the side of the Website owner, it's their Website. They built it and have the right to sell it. They've invested a lot of resources in time and money to make it work. To build the user community, develop the Web pages, and establish the reputation. They have the right to capitalize on their endeavor. It's their choice and no one can really say much against it. Or can they?
On the user-member side, we've invested a lot of resources using it and making it better with our words from our knowledge, understanding and experience and with our gallery of images. In short, without the user community the Website wouldn't be what it is, and worth the value the buyer is willing to pay. And many photographers have volunteered their time along with the dues many members have paid to support it.
So, it's not clear it's an either-or situation. And that's the issue. If you follow the history of small Internet Web companies which provide similar services, they usually get bought by other Web companies, rebuilt and resold to even larger ones, like dejanews sold to Google and e-groups sold to Yahoo. Each of these offered the three things buyers want: content, members or users, and technology.
These Websites offer the framework which appeals to companies wanting to expand members or users to other similar Websites, especially to attract ads and marketers. They offer tons of user content which companies can use to attract new or other users. And they offer technology they don't have, and often unique to the Internet, to integrate into other Websites.
And Photo.net offers two of the three, 600,000 members and 2.5 million high quality images. So, this is bad?
Well, to many serious, professional and commercial photographers, it may since Photo.net is the best photography Website of any size for this group of photographers to share their knowledge and experience. Adding hundreds of thousands of casual or less serious photographers will increase the number of "newbie" questions and images and the dilution of real professional help.
There aren't many Website anymore for serious, professional and commercial photographers from around the world to share at a level their comfortable with sharing. And many use a Website like Photo.net for their image gallery because of the ease and professionalism of Photo.net over larger image gallery Websites. While not a professional or commercial photographer I use Photo.net for some of my galleries and to see better images to learn.
If Photo.net becomes diluted with less than serious or professional image galleries, this means many members may simply walk or drift away taking their images with them because of the new photographers, which defeats the reason(s) for the purchase. Photo.net could become another common photography Website with lots of amateur photographers and the usual overkill of ads.
So, what's going to happen? No one really knows except the new owners who make the decision about the changes Photo.net will go through to become the Website and Web company they want. My personal view is that it's an interim situation, where it will be rebuilt to expand the users and members, add to the image stock, and be offered to larger Web companies wanting to have an on-line photography Website presence.
Lest we forget, it's all about money in and from the Internet anymore. In many ways I hope I'm wrong. It's a great Website for the serious, professional and commercial photographers, and for the photographers like me who can find help, inspiration and wisdom. If it changes from that, it will be a sad day in photography for me, to leave and take my images with me.