georges' blog

March 7, 2008

News Flash: Phanfare Sucks

Filed under: Technology — kendall @ 10:30 pm

The information in this post is no longer accurate. Phanfare has back-peddled on many of the lame changes they had made. I for one am very pleased about that and say as much in a follow-on post here.

I got this email today saying “Congratulations! Your Phanfare account has been upgraded.” Phanfare is guilty of misusing both the words “congratulations” and “upgraded.” Instead it should have said, “Aha! We got you. You thought we were friends. You didn’t see this coming, but we just [expletive removed] you royal! Ha, ha, ha, ha!”

Just wanted to go public on this one. Phanfare sucks. They’ve turned their backs on their loyal (and very happy) customers in order to try to grab a slice of the social networking and photo printing pie. I was one of those very happy Phanfare customers. Their ease of use was truly second to none. This was a choice feature. I wanted something that Claudia could use easily. It is important that managing your galleries is easy, so you keep them up to date. Phanfare’s client was a pleasure to use. It allowed you to edit galleries, descriptions, captions, everything while the pictures upload in the background. If you made changes on the fly. No problem, the client kept track of it. If you disconnected. It finished next time you’re connected. I wanted my galleries to be ad-free and require no login. They had it. I wanted unlimited storage and user access to my hi-res, full-sized originals. Check. If I wanted to use a custom URL, like, I could. Their only weaknesses were that their themes were a bit limited and thumbnails were cropped to a square. Other than that I was really content. I was also committed. I bought the $300 lifetime membership. Pricey, but it was supposed to be a lifetime. Little did know they’d pull the rug off from under me in less than a year.

Now they are requiring that your visitors also get free Phanfare accounts. They’ll need to sign in in order to view your galleries. You’ll be able to see their pictures as well, and keep up-to-date with any activity in their accounts. But this is not how I use my account. This is not how I ever intend to use my account. I’m not interested in trying to get all my friends and family on this service! I just want them to view my pictures!

Well, I’m done with Phanfare. I used to love ’em. Now I hate ’em. They betrayed me. I’m going to have to spend who knows how many hours getting my pictures moved over to a new service. I didn’t want any of my regular visitors to get sucked into Phanfare’s new scam, so I tried to move quickly. I got my smugmug account set up and a couple of my most recent galleries moved over. And I got my links at my website updated. All in less than 24 hours after receiving the bad news. Unfortunately, I wasn’t faster than my mom. She tried to check out our gallery today and was greeted with the “You must sign in to view this gallery” notice. So, she’s one of the new Phanfare 2.0 users. So Phanfare’s user stats are skyrocketing, but I predict it will amount to nothing. They’ll have 99% inactive accounts. What good is that?

Anyhow about smugmug. It has most of the features I want. And the price is essentially the same as Phanfare, only they don’t offer a lifetime membership. They have more themes and more customization. That’s good. But their user interface is not as great as Phanfare. Also you don’t get the custom URL unless you buy the $149 per year pro account. I’m not willing to pay $80 per year for that feature. You get a lot more features with the pro account, of course, but that’s really the only one I’m interested in.

Other disgruntled Phanfare users out there? You might also give a look. They have a lot of the same basic features as Phanfare, but the price is a lot more affordable–$19.95 per year. Again, like smugmug, their client is not anywhere as cool as Phanfare, but what can you do?


  1. howdy kendall… hope you guys are well. i’ve had a gallery on our site for a while that’s frankly a pain to maintain, so i want to switch to one of the hosted deals. in your research, why throw out flickr? for $25/yr, you get unlimited bandwidth/storage, plus it can sync with picasa/iphoto (including tags), looks to have nice integration with wordpress and other blogging utilities, no required user account for people to view, and the level of privacy control you’d expect. i guess maybe some downsides with flickr are that you can’t design themes and also that you can’t point your flickr account at a url that you own.

    while it’s nice hosting all my own stuff, at the end of the day, to me it’s more trouble than it’s been worth. the latest and greatest with using Gallery on our site is that if more than two people are on there at the same time, I exceed my server CPU quota and everybody gets kicked out for 60 secs until they overload it again. and, not to mention that to upload to gallery i generally ftp – not very sustainable.

    so i’m considering dropping our hosting, keeping a domain and just throwing up a single splash page that links to our free/cheap online locations. i’ve got friends who’d let me drop a single page somewhere on their server. so that saves me $100 a year plus the headaches of maintaining my own hosting.

    anyway, i’d love to know why smugmug or zoto won over flickr.

    Comment by d10 — March 28, 2008 @ 4:19 pm

  2. d10, thanks for the visit and the comment. I understand where you coming from with managing your own gallery and hosting etc… I was in the same situation a little over a year ago. I was running my own gallery with Coppermine. It was feature-rich and highly customizable, but it wasn’t totally user friendly. This is top priority if I want my wife to be able to upload pictures and manage galleries and not do it all myself. And like you’re running into, I was running into CPU utilization issues. I also had to get tech support to up the memory utilization for PHP because the resizing scripts were blowing the quota. That isn’t hard to do if you are uploading full size images at 8 mega pixels or better. Also the largest consumer of hard disk space was my pictures. I was going to have to either upgrade my hosting package or start making decisions about what pictures to keep at my site. Having full sized copies was also a priority, and that only exacerbated the space problem. So, when I switched to Phanfare, with unlimited storage, I was able to downgrade to the most basic hosting package with my host.

    In any case, why smugmug over flickr? I think flickr has improved a lot since I first took a look at them a little over a year ago. It seems that there are a lot more and easier ways to upload your pics now. But in any case, there are two main reasons I’m with smugmug now (these were also in the mix when I originally went with Phanfare.

    1) I’m wanting to customize the theme to match the rest of my site. This is a priority for me. Frankly smugmug does this better than Phanfare. There is one customization I’d like to do and that is to be able to drop the smugmug logo from my gallery. This is a negative true of flickr as well. If I’m paying $59 per year, I should have no ads at all even for the host.
    2) I am also looking for a host that is as concerned about preserving my photos as they are about displaying them. Smugmug keeps four backups of my photos in three separate states. I keep local copies of my pictures, and I do regular backups, but it is nice to know that I’m not likely to lose the photos I’ve uploaded.

    As far as Zoto goes, they seem to have these two features going for them. And they are cheaper. But I was not as impressed with their uploading options. I don’t use iPhoto for organizing my photos (this may change). But I don’t think Zoto has an iPhoto plug-in. Smugmug does.

    Anyhow, hope that helps. The bottomline is you have ought to try them out. Both smugmug and Zoto let you try it out for a limited time. You’ve got to try out the upload options and the organization options. I’d be lying if I said that the user experience didn’t play a major part in which photo host I chose. Try ‘en out and go with the one that feels right.

    Comment by kendall — March 28, 2008 @ 11:08 pm

  3. I concur. I feel betrayed also and I hope when their business goes under, they will realize that cutting off service to paying customers may have been a bad idea.

    I was a happy paying loyal customer for like 2.5 years and got some friends to even sign up for lifetime service. I told them that their new site is not going to work for me, and they said too bad and they expected that from some people. I hope these idiots go out of business. They are not getting a penny more from me for the bullcrap that it has turned into. Trying to get people to register is like trying to sell them AMWAY. No thanks.

    Comment by Michael — April 20, 2008 @ 1:19 am

  4. Thanks for the comment, Michael. I knew I wasn’t the only disgruntled Phanfare user out there. And like you, I think that their new business model is destined for failure as it is misguided, unoriginal, and frankly late. I have a feeling it is going to be a real blessing for smugmug and others. I don’t wish them evil, however. I understand that they’re driving that ship and have to do what they believe is in the best interest of the owners. It’s their backside on the line not mine. I was pretty upset at first, but now I’ve made my move to smugmug–a company that is already turning a profit and unlikely to cut off their loyal customers.

    Anyhow, thanks for the visit and the comment. Good luck as you make your exodus from Phanfare.

    Comment by kendall — April 20, 2008 @ 3:34 pm

  5. isnt this the truth.

    I just visited my “new & improved” phnafare site and god does this S U C K

    “web 2.0” – what a joke. If i wanted a social networking site I woulda paid $60 for one.

    I want my goddam money back.. this is worse than a ripoff, as theyve STOLEN all my time and effort in setting this up.

    I hope they get sued and go chapter 11

    Post a url to your galleries on smugmug- id like to check it out, as a need a new photo place now..

    Comment by prior phanfare user — May 8, 2008 @ 7:18 am

  6. Nice write up. i too was surprised when I logged on to see my family and friends would have to register. Seems like a greedy move that will not pay off in the end.


    Comment by Jeremy Enke — May 10, 2008 @ 5:21 am

  7. I agree, Phanfare does suck! I am a photographer and loved how Phanfare had passwords for protected galleries. It was easy to use, really easy. Then I got the email about the upgrade, now everything has gone to hell. All of my clients are pissed that they can’t get into their galleries unless they register. That is total BS. I have never heard of such a useless system. Not only that but I have gotten 5 or so friends and fellow photographers to sign up too! They’re pissed also! I have been looking around and Zenfolio seems to be the answer. I have a free trial so we’ll see how that goes. Anyways, Phanfare you should be ashamed. Trying to make a quick buck while just sweeping your loyal customers under the rug. Phanfare sucks!!!

    Comment by Julianna — September 19, 2008 @ 12:04 am

  8. For those of you still following this thread…

    Phanfare has brought back the one feature that Kendall was griping about. You no longer need your visitors to register to see your photos. You know have the best of both worlds. You can set an album to just your registered friends, or you can publsih your album for the world to see.

    It took a year, but I’m glad Phanfare listened to its users and brought back the ability to share photos and video with anyone.

    Comment by S. Inoue — August 5, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

  9. Thanks, S. Inoue,

    I was aware of this, I just hadn’t updated this post. I had posted a follow-on though. The link to that is now at that top of this post.


    Comment by kendall — August 15, 2009 @ 8:29 pm

  10. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

    Comment by sandra742 — September 9, 2009 @ 7:20 am

  11. What a scam… great product though…. they suck you and then make it hard to say goodbye… they keep doubling up on the price to be profitable… wish I could get such good raises.

    Comment by Scott` — July 6, 2010 @ 3:51 am

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