It’s quite probably that sometime in the next few days I will hand my public photo hosting entirely over to Flickr or Picasa, quite belatedly compared to most people I know. I wanted to document some self-hosting problems:
- Self-hosted photos are isolated, because there’s no subscription standard for photos. RSS and so on aren’t ideal because each application decides how to embed the thumbnail and so on in the content, meaning that you can’t cleanly aggregate images from all different software for easy viewing. I really think this is a big deal in uptake of self-hosting: you can’t let people pull your new photos into their own app of choice for viewing. (Same problem for blog comments, by the way, although I realise people would then want a ‘make a comment’ API and the spamming gets even worse.)
- Gallery 2, which I started using in 2007, has been end-of-lifed in favour of Gallery 3, which is effectively a new project. Gallery 3 is still under-themed (and all of the themes look like a big ad for Gallery 3) and its new upload API isn’t supported by local clients yet. Plus, importing and re-linking everywhere (sure, they support redirects… if you weren’t using clean URLs and never hotlinked the thumbnails anywhere) is enough hassle that I’m not willing to do it every three years, and a project that has had a clean re-write twice is likely to do it again.
- None of the big free gallery software projects (Gallery 3, Zenphoto, Plogger, probably Coppermine but I haven’t looked) support importing from the others well. You’re supposed to start afresh, or use a Perl script that has the stability status of "worked for me, more or less."
- If you do switch, there’s terrible support for HTTP redirects of either photo pages or thumbnail hotlinks.
- The usual web-app sysadmin problems, in which you’re supposed to make everything world-writable, and you upgrade by downloading a ZIP and unpacking it and opening a special file, and just copying a few things, and and and.
- If photo locking is available at all, it’s way complicated, it requires people subscribe to your (well, my) dinky little photo site, there are no guest passes, etc etc. This is important to me as the parent of a baby.
- They are feature-chasing, not leaders in features, especially usability.
I stopped enjoying doing this kind of thing for fun many years back. (You know what software thing I’m looking forward to? Learning R. You know what doesn’t resemble learning R? Writing web apps.)
PS: if you email me to suggest that I try self-hosting apps I haven’t tried, I very likely will not try it for lack of time. You would need to put serious work into the sales pitch, up to and including describing a great workflow for my particular needs and offering to migrate my database for me. I could be surprised, I guess.