April 19, 2012 6:00pm
500px has become the de facto community for professional photographers. With an iPad app, excellent OS X plugin compatibility with apps such as Lightroom and Aperture, and a dedicated Mac Uploader program, the company is expanding extremely quickly.
Started by two friends in 2003 as a Livejournal community for sharing the best photos around the web, it grew into its own site five years later, in 2008. The founders, Oleg Gutsol, CEO, and Evgeny Tchebotarev, COO, began by curating photos individually, and then by committee, often slaving for weeks over which to finally post on their growing community. When it got too big to do by hand, Oleg developed an algorithm to sort the wheat from the chaff, and the rest is history.
Last year the company, which is boasting some unbelievably impressive usage statistics, released an iPad app to allow viewers to check out the best photos on the service. It was a simple affair: Editor’s Choice, Popular, Trending categories; comments, metadata; and of course, the photos themselves. Oleg told me, when I sat down with them in their Toronto studio, that users spend on average of 42 minutes within the iPad app, often after work or before bed. Evgeny mentioned that in some communities, like Indonesia, users spend more than three hours per viewing session, something most app developers couldn’t even dream of.
With the launch of their Android app, which is designed specifically for tablets but works on high-resolution smartphones, the company aims to further its mobile proliferation and move onto more screens in the process. Sure, the Android tablet may not have the same user base as its Apple equivalent, but that’s not important to Oleg. He seems 500px as a consumer platform that should users should be capable of, and comfortable, enjoying on most platforms. Asked whether this means we can expect an iPhone version in the near future he declined to comment, other than to say they are feverishly hiring iOS developers.
The Android app has all the capabilities of its iPad peer, including all the aforementioned categories such as Editor’s Choice and Popular. You can search the full 500px catalogue by name, or filter by specific category. You can sign in to your account and view (but not upload) your own photos, your friend’s shots, and favourites. One of my favourite features — being able to view EXIF data of each photo, in addition to comments — has made the trip to Android as well.
The iPad app has received a significant bump too, today. Retina graphics have been added to the mix. In-app purchases of specific photos have been added, too.
500px is a great success story, one that originated in Toronto and has stayed here. The team has no plans to move to San Francisco, or to take on New York, at least for the moment. It’s a testament to the growing startup culture in the city — and the number of hungry entrepreneurs — that businesses like 500px can grow assuredly and still attract venture capital.