New Japanese photo sharing community site (Zorg.com) February 24, 2006Posted by fukumimi in IT, Japan.
I wrote about a new Japanese photo sharing community site called Zorg.com in a previous post (in Japanese) and thought it might be worth covering the topic in english.
The photography market is pretty healthy in Japan, even though silver halide technology is quickly disappearing, with a new generation of photographers (who probably have never used a film camera) (Yomiuri article in English) and older users rediscovering the hobby triggered by the convenience of digital photography buoying the market.
The dynamics of the photography market have changed, however, with new entrants not traditionally associated with photography taking significant market share (Sony, Panasonic, Casio, for example) whilst established camera brands have had a mixed experience in transitioning their camera business into a consumer electronics business.
Futher, many mobile phones have mega-pixel resolution cameras (3M+ rapidly becoming the norm, some phones even have anti-shake technology which promises less mistakes) which allow decent images to be taken and sent extremely conveniently.
In this climate, there have been several attempts to foster an on-line community of photo enthusiasts, and Zorg.com is a “Web2.0” attempt at this market in Japan.
Launched (at the end of Dec 2005) by a couple of guys who apparently spent way too much of their time on Flickr, it incorporates proven features and functionality seen in earlier (overseas) attempts at this market. So basically it has community features, indexes photos using tag based folksonomy and community feedback, and has the requisite use of Ajax in the UI and RSS functionality (the latter to come imminently) in the feature set. Easy access and uploading from mobile phones will also be supported. Individual URLs for photos hosted on the site are available. EXIF information can be uploaded with the photos.
Blog functionality is also promised. Zorg aims to be an open social networking site (the largest SNS communities in Japan, Mixi.jp and Gree.jp are both by-invitation-only communities) focussed (at least initially) on people for whom photography is a hobby. (Either taking photos and showing them off, or appreciating pieces produced by others) Other normal SNS type functionality (calendar, etc) is also in the pipeline.
An interesting feature which awaits release is easy tagging of photos with creative commons copyright notices. CC is yet to receive widespread recognition in Japan, this site and others like it may change that.
Why does the Japanese market need this site? There are many Japanese Flickr users who, whilst finding Flickr useful, were held back by the English UI and the fact that the community language is English. For a community to thrive, communication is key, and for many Japanese users it is just a lot easier to communicate in a forum where Japanese is the common language.
For the people behind this project (both are keen amateur photographers), the photos had to take center stage, so the UI is understated using a white background and understated fonts, no bold colours or pastel shades adorning the background potentially clashing with the photos.
The site is expected to be ad supported when it is opened up, and premium subscription is available for enhanced storage and other functionality.
The photos uploaded by the users (currently in the low thousands) are impressive, as could be expected by hard core hobbyists and professional/semi-professional photographers comprising a signifiant number of the initial population.
Currently in an invite-only alpha release, Zorg.com is targetting the photo community space in the domestic Japanese market.