Everpix, The Rise of Centralized Cloud Photos, and The Decline of Flickr

Everpix-web

I signed up for Everpix last night and have been thinking about it all morning, even as I’ve yet to get my photo collection uploaded to it.

In essence, Everpix is an online repository of every digital photo you’ve ever taken, supported by a background Mac utility that keeps it in sync with your iPhoto/Aperture/Lightroom, and an iPhone app that syncs your Camera Roll, and allows you to view your library in the cloud. Crucially, it also syncs with your online photos on Flickr, Instagram, Google+/Picasa, and Facebook.

Every photo is private by default, and making an album (called a Moment), or part of it, public, gives you an obfuscated URL that can be shared with others. You can also publish photos ‘offshore’ to Facebook Albums, Twitter, and possibly other destinations.

Philosophically, this is almost everything I want my Flickr account to be right now, but that they are so, so far away from achieving. I signed up for Flickr Pro to have an online backup of all my photos, with the ones I want to share set to ‘Public’ visibility. In the past few years, the internet has moved on, and we now share photos on other stickier social networks. There’s been a fair bit written in the past week about Flickr’s decline as a destination, and it’s because photographers at all levels are getting more views and feedback through Facebook, G+, and even other photo sites like 500px and Smugmug.

Adobe had a go at cloud photos with a product called Carousel that was recently renamed to Revel (why?), but that effort tried to be an entire workflow, with a desktop photo management app that had half-baked Lightroom editing tools built in. Adopting a product like that involves a complete change of tools. Good for beginners, but bad for anyone comfortable with what they have.

Everpix promises to meet us halfway. Use whatever you’re used to, and have all those photos in the cloud, with easy publishing to any and all online destinations through beautiful web and mobile apps. All publishing actions take place between Everpix’s servers and the other web service, so the user experience is simply that of instantaneous uploads. It’s the best of both worlds: backup and effective sharing.

You can tell this is an important facet of the service because one of their core features is “Auto Curation”. Click a button, and the service picks what it thinks are your best photos, with clear faces, even exposure, and other secret sauce traits. Another click, and those are shared online.

More than just disrupting Flickr, it also shows us what Apple’s iCloud Photo Stream could be, but understandably isn’t just yet. Rolling out free, unlimited storage and access to millions of iOS users would test their billion dollar war chest; the inevitable failures, their invaluable credibility. Everpix is a small startup in beta that I’ve decided to entrust with access to all my photos; I’m hoping their pricing structure, when revealed, will be reasonable enough to pay for.

Shadow Cities: The moment a location-based game surprised me

Seth Schiesel’s effusive review for the New York Times:

If you have an iPhone, you simply must try this game. Shadow Cities isn’t just the future of mobile gaming. It may actually be the most interesting, innovative, provocative and far-reaching video game in the world right now, on any system.

I looked up at the sole approaching man, and he looked back at me. I couldn’t believe the first thought in my head: “Could he be one of them?”

I was walking up the street to my home, and had just been playing Shadow Cities when that moment, an experience of virtual world crossover that no other game had ever produced before, hit me. There are few truly new sensations in gaming each year, and that was a whopper. Giving another person in real life a nervous glance, wondering if they’re a player too, sounds like the kind of crap you might put in an ad (sure enough, it’s in Shadow Cities’ trailer), but there it was, happening to me. Sure, the Nintendo 3DS has its StreetPass feature, but the mechanics there are like a coin toss, and largely irrelevant to the games you play on it.

Shadow Cities is a freemium, competitive, GPS-based game of global warfare on a local scale. Essentially, all players are divided into two factions. After picking a side in this MMORPG-style game, you see your surroundings in the form of a glowing map; a parallel world of magic. Your goal is to work, with others if possible, to gain control of territory and harvest energy to put your faction over the top. You’re not limited to where you actually are, either. Creating a beacon will allow friends from around the world to temporarily visit your area.

The side that I picked, the science-based Architects, are total underdogs right now, forced into playing guerilla tactics against a more powerful enemy. All day, my similarly low-ranked colleague (@jeanfinds) and I had been running away from hopeless battles, trying to eke out small victories.

At the aforemention moment when I was walking home, I’d just placed two towers in the neighborhood that would help generate energy as long as no one disrupted them. I needed to protect them. When I looked up at the other man, I could feel my lizard brain actually priming itself with a fight-or-flight cocktail of apprehension and aggression.

But I won’t lie: the game has a steep but short learning curve. I installed it last night at a company dinner party at Jean’s suggestion, and only managed to fully understand its menus, unique vocabulary, and mechanics sometime this afternoon with her help. But it’s worth it. Every gamer and designer remotely interested in multiplayer experiences should try it for at least a couple of days. Level up past 5, and play it with a friend or two (I’m going to convince my office to get together and dominate the central business district), and see where the bar is for location-based games on any platform, free or paid.

There’s a lot of polish in this Finnish game. Unlike other freemium MMO titles, there aren’t long load times between views. It renders its smooth 3D graphics quickly while loading network data secondarily, much like how the iPhone appears to launch apps instantly by going straight to static screens that look like running apps. It’s all quite impressive, and I look forward to getting further with it.

Visit www.shadowcities.com