Phanfare Says Rich Internet Applications Are Best

Photo and video storage and sharing service Phanfare has offered a downloadable desktop client for Windows and Mac since early 2005. It’s an impressive tool – but the company found that people wanted access online. Today Phanfare launched a simple version of its desktop client on the web, called My.Phanfare. It’s an interesting case study in support of what are being called Rich Internet Applications – a cross between web and desktop apps with some important processing being done on the client side.

Phanfare offers unlimited storage of both archival and web quality photos and videos up to 10 minutes long (and an impressive 1.5 GB in size) in monthly, yearly and lifetime plans costing $7, $55 and $300 respectively. CEO Andrew Erlichson’s last company, Flashbase, was acquired by DoubleClick in 2000. They face competition from a number of other companies, including the well funded Sharpcast and Fabrik, a company with a Maxtor/Seagate hardware partnership.

The Phanfare desktop client focuses on offering a smooth workflow and at that it is successful. From an intuitive display of all your photos at once for rapid-fire captioning to doing the bulk of the upload in the background of the app – there are things that Phanfare on the desktop can do that web services generally don’t and in some cases can’t. It’s a powerful, responsive system but that alone wasn’t enough.

The company has always offered simple, ad-free web pages to display publicly posted photos, video and slideshows set to music. They provide secure storage online and can quickly repopulate a local cache of media. The company found though that people want to be able to upload, edit and delete photos from the road, from multiple locations and from the browser. Customers are now so accustomed to web access, the company says, that they frequently get confused trying to login to the desktop client through the web browser.

Though web based photo sharing is all the rage these days, Phanfare points out that most of the company’s customers show their media to less than 15 people and almost no one stops using their desktop photo organizing tools. Without a desktop client, customers can’t work with photos offline, media can’t be automatically imported from hardware and the workflow is simply not as fast. But without web back up then files are as impermanent as any individual piece of hardware.

It’s a good combination, heavy lifting from the desktop and agile access from the web. Various companies are recognizing that valuable middle starting at different vantage points but Phanfare’s new web access underlines that even a very good desktop client is no longer enough.