August 26, 2005 1:25 PM PDT

PayPal co-founder readies photo-sharing service

It's been awhile since Max Levchin's job forced him to pull an all-nighter.

But the co-founder and former chief technology officer of PayPal has found himself working around the clock lately to launch his new Internet company, Slide. The San Francisco company, which he started last year, is Levchin's first big plunge into an Internet start-up since cashing in on eBay's $1.5 billion purchase of PayPal in 2002.

The free service, which the 12-person company plans to open to the Web-surfing public on Monday, CNET News.com has learned, combines aspects of social networking, photo sharing, Web syndication and e-commerce. At the heart of Slide is a downloadable desktop program that indexes all the photos on the user's hard drive and creates a slide show at the edge of the screen.

From there, members can invite family, friends and other Slide members to view and save the member's photos and join Slide as a "friend" in the member's network. Members can also add one another's images to their own slide shows and alert one another to new albums. A set of access tools lets users publish their photos to as few or as many people as they wish, and subscribe to other people's photos.

Slide builds on several trends du jour, including digital photography, personal publishing and Web syndication. But the company has a lot of company in this intersecting market. Yahoo, News Corp.'s MySpace and a number of others are developing services that tie blogging, social networking and photo sharing together. Flickr lets users subscribe to photo feeds using the Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, protocol made popular by blogs. Imeem, a start-up that launched last week, is adding instant messaging to the mix.

"Consumers are learning to do more with digital content than just print out pictures and paste them into an album," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at JupiterResearch. "Tools that let them edit, crop and share information and online content are coming into play, making it easier to get their stuff out."

Yet Levchin, who just turned 30 and has invested $1 million of his personal funds in the company, may have hit on the right way to make Slide stand out. He claims Slide's publish and subscribe tools are easier to use than other services, which require some technical know-how and a familiarity with RSS. The general public, including people like his mom, need simpler tools, he said. Jupiter's Gartenberg agrees.

"The key to taking it to the next step is getting to the point where you don't have to know what RSS or other technical concepts are," Gartenberg said. "You want to get to the point where you can just invite your grandpa to subscribe to your photos and all he has to do is click a few buttons."

Slide's "playback," or slide show, feature is unique too, Levchin said. The desktop toolbar looks like a strip of film with different photos in each frame, and it continually scrolls through a trove of stored images that people would probably rarely view otherwise. When consumers mouse over a particular shot, the slide show pauses and enlarges the image. The program gives people the option of e-mailing the photo from there.

Slide

The company plans to let members incorporate video, text and news headlines with photos too, creating multimedia "channels."

"I want it to be the preferred way people share digital media with each other," Levchin said, describing his vision for Slide.

For now, Slide works only on Windows computers, but the company is working on versions for the Macintosh.

Slide's business model is another distinguishing feature. Advertising is the main source of revenue for most competitors, but Slide plans to sustain itself on commissions from facilitating online shopping. It has already inked agreements with online shoe store Zappos.com and designer-clothing outlet Bluefly. The Web stores have agreed to maintain a Slide photo gallery of their products with links back to their stores. Slide members can subscribe to the photos, and whenever they purchase something, Slide gets a cut of the transaction.

The fact that Zappos is one of Slide's first partners is no coincidence. Levchin came up with the idea for Slide while watching his girlfriend browse for shoes online. She spent so much time scrolling through pages of shoes at Zappos that he offered to write her a program that would do it for her.

"The idea was to encourage her to spend more time with me and less time browsing for shoes," he said.

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5 comments

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Desktop Marketing Bonanza
While this product is very niche-centric it does illustrate quite clearly that Desktop real-estate market continues to grow in value almost daily.

RSS is and will be the big buzz from 2005 to 2007 I suspect.

Free web services and products such as Slide.com and immem.com are all examples of the innovative ways to market end-users via Internet enabled desktop applications.

At our firm, Desktop Alert Inc. ,(<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.desktopalert.net" target="_newWindow">http://www.desktopalert.net</a>)we have seen a steep rise in orders for customized content management systems that employ and manage:

-RSS
-Secure Instant Messaging
-Contextual Ads
-Desktop Alert Software
-Blogs

The only thing that is different about each one of these new products is the creative juices illustrated by the applications founders/authors. Open source has also proved very crucial to the growth of such applications. We have all witnessed open source projects like Jabber, Firefox and Open Office flourish from rapid industry and private sector adoption.

The real evolution of the desktop is happening NOW. It now engages and participates with the Internet in what can only acknowledged as a historic event. Beneath our very nostrils is the biggest and most important aspect of the Internet is now underway.

Firms propagating identity federation technology (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.pingid.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.pingid.com</a> and <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.digitalidworld.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.digitalidworld.com</a>), security (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.jabcast.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.jabcast.com</a>) and biometrics will eventually eliminate most risk/security related issues which are currently hindering Internet growth.

I applaud this and many new Internet enabled desktop applications which are now arriving almost weekly in what I see as the New Desktop Revolution.

Regards,

Howard Ryan
Desktop Alert Inc.
Posted by Jabcast (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
wow
Nice plug their, Howie. Nobody cares about your stuff.
Posted by David Dudley (446 comments )
Link Flag
Your a Dud
You said nice try "their", wight?
OK. Let me try again in a way that works better for you and your ilk.

"hewhoah. how awe you toooday. wee awe bery bery hert dat u tink we do dings like dat Dudley. Tanks for making our day!"


"hewhoah. how awe you toooday. wee awe bery bery hert dat u tink we do dings like dat Dudley. Tanks for making our day!"
Posted by Jabcast (5 comments )
Link Flag
Old idea well worked....
... by Apple, Yahoo, MS and others, with only limited success at
best. PLus, any one with even minimal web site skills can create all
sorts of photo albums readily accessible to anyone else on the
Internet.

I think that this concept has some nice gimmicks, but I don't see it
still being around a year from now. Other people, however, might
adapt the better gimmicks for their own use.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It will be gone soon enough
Seriously, Google could wipe this out with a bit of tweaking to Picasa.

Nice try, but this Slide software gets in the way, is altogether useless and is *only* good for sharing photos. And even then, who cares? It's like these guys missed the clue train and didn't see that social networking is more than just about sharing pics with your friends.

Anyhow, I tried it and uninstalled it within a few minutes. Maybe I am not creative enough, but really.. what's the point of this versus any other photo sharing web site that already has a ton more users? And this has NO CHANCE of ever getting any kind of critical mass - EVER. EVER. Looks like the ex PayPal guy ran out of ideas.

Where's the email address for getting uninvited from Slide?
Posted by David Dudley (446 comments )
Link Flag
 

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