Oklahoma City Internet picture service prepares for the future

Thursday, October 13th 2005, 12:06 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- An executive of an Internet photo service says he's preparing his company for the day when children start getting digital cameras in their Happy Meals.

"It's not that far-fetched," Kord Campbell, Zoto.com founder and chief executive officer, said. "Digital cameras have become a common possession, but what do you do with all the pictures you've collected over the years? That's where we come in."

From snap-happy new parents to professional photographers, picture-takers who don't want to overwhelm their PCs with excessive photos can store about 2,000 images on the Zoto Web site for free.

The privately owned corporation, which is based in Oklahoma City, makes its money by charging a fee for picture storage above two gigabytes and by allowing advertisement on the site, Campbell said.

Zoto was conceived after a friend approached Campbell wanting software that would allow him to put his 13,000 photos on the Web. Campbell partnered with friend Trey Stout and together they created Zoto.com. Zoto currently has more than 10,000 customers in the United States, Africa, Brazil, Japan, Venezuela, France, Germany, China and South Korea combined and has more than 100,000 unique visitors a month.

"We want to be the ultimate mainstream Web site for the public to share photos," Stout, Zoto's chief technology officer, said.

Photos placed on Zoto can also be tagged so that users can quickly identify who is in a photo, the occasion and where and when it was taken. The year-old company has made its mark among competitors for its vast storage abilities and unique "smart tags" system, Campbell, 38, said.

Through a cross-reference search, Smart Tags allow users to quickly identify who is in a photo, the occasion, when it occurred and where it was taken. Tags on competing sites are often used mostly for naming photos, Campbell said.

"Zoto is a new type of company on the Internet," he said. "We are giving our members new, fun things to do with their photos."

One of the latest projects of the company is creating an index of the United States using photographs from every square mile in the country.

Participants of Geo Project USA are asked to photograph minute confluence points -- the locations where whole-numbered longitude lines intersect whole-numbered latitude lines. The 4.5 million points form a one-mile by one-mile grid across the United States.

Participants then post their photographs on the project's Web site, where the images are plotted on a display map allowing visitors to zoom in on any state, region, city or neighborhood.

The project is ideal for hikers and real estate agents, Campbell said.

Zoto, which allows its users to privatize as well as share pictures, is invaluable if anything should go wrong with a member's PC, he said.

"We've had a few customers whose computers crashed," Stout, 27, said. "They were glad they had stored their photos on Zoto, because we were able to send them copies of all their pictures on DVD."

In addition to offering innovative ideas for digital pictures, Zoto hopes to become "the photo bank of the world," Stout said.

"Just like you have a bank for your money, we want to be the bank for your pictures," he said. "We want to be the spot where you take your pictures from your digital camera and your camera phone."

The company hopes to delve into photos with video by next year, Campbell said.

"We're motivated to do this because we're hungry and we're good," he said. "We were put on the planet for this.