Web Business Focuses On the Big Picture

FRAMINGHAM (05/01/2000) - Within 20 minutes of his son's birth in 1997, Brian Dunham had digital photos of the newborn posted on his personal Web site. Over the next few hours, family and friends from all over the world were logging on to get a glimpse of the baby.

But what they couldn't get with the then-current VGA technology was printed photos, much less framed printed photos, for their living room mantles.

It was a light-bulb moment for Dunham, who five months ago launched Eframes.com Inc., a consumer Web site where users can upload digital photos, crop them online, try on different frames, choose one and then receive back a framed image for $12 to $40.

Now Eframes.com is going after the much bigger business-to-business market by embedding its online framing technology in other digital imaging Web sites that can sell it as a value-added service.

Sharing online capabilities is a growing trend among digital photo processing Web sites, according to Lia Schubert, an analyst at InfoTrends Research Group Inc. in Boston.

PhotoLoft.com in Campbell, California, for example, has partnered with about 80 community Web sites, including Backpacker.com, where backpacking enthusiasts can view and share digital photographs.

Widening the Lead

But in focusing on framing rather than on photo processing or sharing, Schubert and others said Eframes has gained a much-coveted first-mover advantage.

"It's hard to find people who own digital cameras," said Durham. "So we decided to leverage our framing engine and back-end fulfillment with people who already found people with digital cameras."

By franchising its service, it hopes to widen the lead even more, gaining much swifter access to the 4 million U.S. digital camera users who now process about 9 million images per year.

By 2003, the number of users is projected to more than quadruple to 16.4 million people processing more than 400 million images, said Steve Hoffenberg, an analyst at Lyra Research Inc. in Newtonville, Massachusetts.

"What they're clearly finding is that selling $20 worth of merchandise to one customer at a time is very tough," said Judith Hurwitz, an analyst at Hurwitz Group Inc. in Framingham, Massachusetts. "It's much better to create a channel where other companies can help propagate your product or service."

Eframes uses XML-based technology from Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based Bowstreet Software Inc. to integrate customized versions of its online framing processes into business partners' Web sites.

Using Bowstreet's Business Web Factory software tools, Eframes is able to embed into its partners' Web sites all of its processes for uploading, editing and framing photos.

In addition, it can ship finished goods and process billing for its partners.

All this information is stored in templates as XML data. So far, Eframes' partners include Zing.com and Photoactive.com, both digital photo processing Web sites, and eCircles.com, a community Web site for sharing digital photographs.

Quick and Easy

One of the prime benefits of the XML templates is the speed and relative ease with which Eframes can roll out new functions to its partners.

Rather than hard-coding changes to each of the partners' Web sites, Eframes creates a new XML template and sends it to partners, who can customize it for their sites.

In addition to embedding the technology in partners' sites, Eframes also posts it to Bowstreet's Business Web Exchange, an online library of XML-based Web services that developers can download and incorporate into their own sites.

Currently in beta testing, the exchange is scheduled to go live by early summer at www.businessweb.com.

Another Bowstreet user is Austin, Texas-based MoneyStar.com. The company is saving "hundreds of thousands [of dollars] in Web developer time" using Bowstreet's tools to build financial services templates, said Gary Epple, MoneyStar's chief development officer. The tools also reduce time to market.

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