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Dec 3, 2008

Tag That Image: Visual Bookmarking Sites Worth Browsing


Half the fun of surfing the Internet is stumbling across tasty little Web treats that you never would have thought to look for.

Traditional social bookmarking sites like Digg and Delicious are great for finding articles and other text that other Web surfers have tagged as interesting.

For the visually oriented, the pickings have been slim. Now, however, a handful of photo-oriented bookmarking sites are emerging to entertain the eye as well as the mind.

WeHeartItWe Heart It screenshot.
Enlarge This Image

The sites — We Heart ItFFFFound andVi.sualize.us — resemble constantly changing art installations. Similar to a white-walled gallery, they present their goods with little to no flourish: simple, clean interfaces are all that stand between visitors and eyefuls of color.

The sites work similarly to their text-based brethren. When members discover an image worth preserving, they bookmark it, either by right-clicking or using a site-specific browser button. Although the sites are still light years away from the popularity of their older siblings -– Digg alone boasts 35 million unique users per month and as many as 20,000 submissions per day -– they are steadily gaining a loyal following...

Photo world begins grappling with video SLRs

SLR video

This frame from Joi Ito shows how video from newer digital SLRs lets people blur backgrounds to emphasize a particular subject, something that's harder with conventional videocameras.

(Credit: Joi Ito (Creative Commons attribution))

The photography world is beginning to adapt to a new phase in the marriage of cameras and computing technology: the arrival of SLRs that can shoot not just still images but video, too.

The change began with the arrival of image sensors, the light-sensitive microchips that replaced film. Now two new SLRs--Nikon's D90 and Canon's EOS 5D Mark II--are taking another step away from the film paradigm, following in the footsteps of point-and-shoot cameras by recording continuous video and not just still images. Doubtless video will gradually spread to other SLR models and makers.

"This camera is the ultimate 'equalizer'--you no longer need half-million dollars' worth of high definition video cameras and lenses delivered by a truck with its own driver to shoot a high-definition film in low light--you just need a $2,700 camera and a few lenses," gushed professional photographer and Canon advisor in New York Vincent Laforet in a blog post about a 5D Mark II prototype.

But not everything will be simple for Laforet wannabes excited by the new possibilities. Hardware, software, Web sites, and perhaps most of all, technique all must catch up to the new technology.

Though how-to book authors have yet to weigh in, there are signs the adaptation has begun. Take the case of video hosting.

Canon's 5D Mark II

Canon's EOS 5D Mark Mark II.

(Credit: Canon)

SmugMug's 1080p offer
With the 5D Mark II now for sale, some people will be looking for a Web site that can share their videos in full high-definition 1080p glory--1920x1080 pixels. SmugMug, a subscription-based photo-sharing site geared for photo enthusiasts, wants to be that place. Chief Executive Don MacAskill and his father and fellow employee Chris MacAskill each got 5D Mark II SLRs, and now the company is testing full-resolution videos on its site for those with $149.95-per-year Professional-level subscriptions.

"If anyone else out there is shooting 1080p video with cameras like this and would like their SmugMug Pro accounts to allow 1080p video, let us know. That feature is currently in beta, but we'd love to get a few more people using it," Don MacAskill said in a blog posting.

High-definition video is starting to trickle onto the Web more broadly, though not generally at the aggressive full-resolution format. Vimeo hosts high-definition videos with some limitations on file size and uploads, and Google has begun experimenting with higher-resolution versions. But the network capacity challenges are formidable for both the site hosting the video and for those watching it.

More emblematic is Flickr, a popular haunt for photo enthusiasts who like to share photos with like-minded people. When Flickr added video support earlier this year, some photography purists made a big stink. Now Flickr looks prescient: SLR video brings new aesthetic possibilities to the digitally savvy photo buffs.


Stephen Shankland covers Google, Yahoo, search, online advertising, portals, digital photography, and related subjects. He joined CNET News in 1998 and since then also has covered servers, supercomputing, open-source software, and science. E-mail Stephen.
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