Gallery: Online Photo Album

The free Web photo software is one of the Net’s more popular tools to post pictures on your Web site.
Posted November 14, 2007

James Maguire

James Maguire

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When Bharat Mediratta’s wife came back from a trip to India, her camera was stuffed full of pictures. Bharat (pronounced “Bart”) wanted to post them online, yet he ran into a minor obstacle: he didn’t like any of the photo posting solutions.

This was the year 2000, before Flickr. But that type of site didn’t appeal to him at any rate. He wanted to post his family photos on his own site, not an external host.

So, being a techie – Bharat now works as a software engineer for Google – he wrote a script for an online photo album. The program, written in open source code, was “a real simple script,” just kind of a fast, off-the-cuff effort.

bharat mediratta, free online photo album

Bharat Mediratta, Gallery founder

“It was so crude that I tinkered with it every day, making it better and better,” he recalls. People liked the way it looked on his site. One of his visitors e-mailed him, asking, “You’ve got something that looks a little nicer on your site to publish photos. Can I have a copy of it?”

That prompted him to get serious. He began tweaking and tweaking, constantly. “Soon, I realized I was forking this thing and it hadn’t even been released yet.”

To complement his coding skills, he found a collaborator, Chris Smith, who is adept at user interface design. They began pinging versions back and forth. Soon, their budding creation was too big to be hosted on their desktops.

Like many open source projects at the time (and still today), they started hosting it at SourceForge, the code repository site that offers free versioning software. Naturally, when Bharat registered at SourceForge, he needed to name the project – it still he had no formal title.

“Well, it’s a photo gallery so I’ll call it…‘Gallery,’” he recalls.

He quickly discovered that there was major demand for online photo software. “A few weeks later I got this e-mail from this guy who said, ‘I’ve been following along, and here’s 10 features I’d like you to add.”

Then the deluge began. By 2001, Gallery was being downloaded 1,000 times a day, Bharat says – with zero marketing. It helped that he used a neat trick of viral marketing: he embedded a link to the project into the software, so suddenly thousands of Web sites were linking back to the Gallery page. (The link can be removed, but many people don’t.)

As the popularity zoomed, users began to take ownership – and not always in gentle ways. “People started sending me flame mail – ‘You need to work harder on this. You’re screwing us up horribly. Get to work!’”

The Gallery Photo Album

Developed under the GPL, Gallery remains free to download and use. It’s been installed on more than 150,000 Web sites, and its download statistics show it’s now being sucked onto desktops about 4,000 times a day.

Gallery has an intuitive user interface that allows you to control your images in myriad ways. For instance, you can set a default for quality and size, so that any uploaded images automatically conform. You can show or hide the album tree (the full list of photo collections), set up slide shows, allow comments (or not), and publish with RSS.

Gallery, open source online photo album organizer

The look of your Web photo album is highly customizable – the software includes plenty of pre-built “themes,” and you can create your own. Though it’s not blog software, some bloggers use Gallery to display the photos with their posts. The software is available in more than 30 languages.

open source Gallery, Web photo album

Next page: Life as an open source project

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