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Thursday, June 28, 2007

New Corbis Microstock Debuts

The beta version of SnapVillage — Corbis' long-awaited foray into the microstock arena — debuted a few days ago. I've done quite well online with some of the other microstock sites, so I was curious about how the traditional stock photography giant might approach the business of microstock. They had, after all, been slow to acknowledge the seriousness of the mounting competition coming from this quarter.

So far, I'm colossally unimpressed. I uploaded half a dozen images over a week ago, and as of this writing they still aren't processed. No acknowledgment at all.

Worse, the site times out quickly after the upload completes, so that if you do not immediately enter descriptions and keywords (that's right, the site doesn't support embedded IPTC information), you're bounced out, and you have to RE-LOAD everything all over again.

I was not impressed with the lack of support for IPTC data, which is pretty standard in the industry, as is the ability to upload via FTP. The site is still in beta, so one can only hope these features will be coming shortly. If they don't, SnapVillage will fail to attract professional photographers who have come to rely on such functionality at other microstock sites.

The quality of the existing images is poor, but then — in fairness — I guess Corbis faces a bit of a branding dilemma. They need to somehow differentiate this site from their costly "high-end" site. Unfortunately for them, some of the other microstocks have really raised the bar. Sites like Shutterstock, iStockPhoto, and DreamsTime feature excellent photographers and many professional quality images.

Corbis is late off the mark, and disdain virtually oozes from this site. It's evident in the name they chose — snapvillage — the word "snap" more than a little denigrating in its suggestion of casual snapshots rather than serious photography. It's almost as if they're targetting the Flickr amateur shutterbug crowd. Indeed, some of the images look like they came straight from the worst of Flickr.

All in all a failing score. One would expect more from a company backed by the Corbis brand and bankrolled by Bill Gates.