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Facebook: Where billions of our images live

Updated on March 25, 2014

The web is our electronic bulletin board; home to tons of photos

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Photos. Pictures. Snapshots. Whatever you call 'em we take a slew of them.

Photo & Facebook Facts

• 3.5 trillion pictures have been taken since the first photograph.

• Every two minutes people take as many snapshots as the entire world took in the 1800s.

• 400 billion photos were snapped in 2013.

• 20% of all the photographs taken this year will end up on Facebook.

• More than 250 million snapshots are uploaded to Facebook every day.

• Facebook currently hosts 250 billion pictures.

• 76% of Facebook users visit the site every day.

• A typical user spends 8.3 hours a month on Facebook.

• 58% of smartphone owners reach for their phones when they want to take photos.

Sources are referenced throughout the main story. (Some Facebook stats are found here.)

The old adage is: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” With billions of photos taken and posted on social media sites, what's the value of a photo today?

Photographs used to be special.

We used to buy celluloid film, load it in our cameras, ready for the next “Kodak Moment.” Next, you took a few pictures and sent the exposed roll of film away to be processed.

Then, one day, the mailman delivered a yellow and red package from Kodak containing your photo prints. Opening that package and going through the snapshots was a special moment that allowed you to experience the event anew.

Today, pics are taken for granted and hardly ever printed. Using your ubiquitous smartphone you snap away during holidays, parties, concerts, vacation and other special times, then upload your digital images to Facebook or some other website.

More than half of the Internet users (54%) post their photos and original videos online, according to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center.

About 20% of all photos taken this year will end up on Facebook. On average, more than 250 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day by its 1.3 billion users. Facebook currently hosts 250 billion photos. That’s 7% of all the photos ever taken and more than 10,000 times the photos in the Library of Congress, according to TechRadar and Geek.com. (Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, has 16 billion photos and 150 million users and Flickr has 10 billion photos and 92 million users.)

Experts estimate that 3.5 trillion photos have been taken throughout time. That number is expected to grow because of the simplicity and convenience of taking smartphone pictures. We currently take four times the number of photos than we did a decade ago. Today, every two minutes people snap as many photos as the entire world took in the 1800s.

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The Brownie: Cheap & easy

Kodak marketed its first camera in 1889. It was a leather bound box camera with an expensive price tag of $25 ($610 in today’s money).

Kodak founder George Eastman and camera designer Frank Brownell worked on bringing down costs. ▲ In 1900, they offered a sturdy, cardboard box camera covered with imitation leather called the Brownie. It cost $1 ($27.80 today).

The Kodak Brownie came with a roll of factory-installed film. When the film was fully exposed the user mailed the whole camera to a Kodak plant for developing.

Throughout the years, Kodak used the name "Brownie" on 100 different camera models.

The technology that our modern cameras are based on was created several hundred years ago. The birth of photography can be traced back to the 15th century.

You need two things to produce a film photograph: light focused by a lens and a chemical storage medium (film) that captures the image.

Photography took many tweaks and turns as people experimented with chemicals to perfect a practical image capturing medium.

Then in 1885, bank clerk George Eastman created photographic film that opened the way to mass produce cameras as a convenient and inexpensive product marketed to families in USA and later worldwide.

Eastman’s process eliminated photo plates and cameras as large as microwaves. The affordable cameras and film produced by his company, Kodak, opened up photography to the average American.

Throughout most of the 20th century, Kodak continually perfected small, convenient cameras, which people around the world used to preserve memories on Kodak film, later on Fujifilm, the Japanese company that invaded Kodak's territory in the 1980s.

America loved the products developed by Kodak scientists and engineers.

By 1975, Kodak accounted for 90% of the film sales and 85% of the camera sales in the U.S. Until the 1990s, the Rochester based corporation was rated one of the world’s five most valuable brands.

Digial: • Kodak failed to adjust • Apple excelled with the iPhone

Then came digital photography and the good ship Kodak was too focused on film to successfully navigate through the uncharted waters.

Focus on film spelled "The End"

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In 1975, Steven Sasson, a Kodak scientist, invented the first digital camera. With Kodak having a 90% share of the US film market, company executives weren’t excited about this new technology. As Sasson recalls, “It was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was: ‘That’s cute, but don’t tell anyone about it.’ ”

While Kodak marketers didn’t see the value in going digital, Kodak researchers continued to develop digital photography. Over the next two decades the company was awarded over 1,000 patents for its digital-imaging inventions.

Throughout most of the century, film sales fueled Kodak’s growth. It sold affordable, quality cameras and relied on its customers to buy lots of expensive film. That marketing model obviously didn’t work with digital cameras. Unable to deal with this paradigm shift, the company’s market share plummeted.

The death knells started to sound as the new millennium began:

  • In 2002, digital cameras outsold film cameras for the first time.
  • in 2004, Kodak stopped selling film-based cameras.
  • In 2009, they retired Kodachrome, the 74-year-old iconic color film – once Kodak’s most successful film product. This slide film was THE ONE chosen by numerous professional photographers, including those at National Geographic.

They took my Kodachrome away

Then in 2012, this once proud corporation, so deeply rooted in the past, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Many business experts have examined the unbelievable bureaucratic implosion that occurred in Kodak's corporate headquarters, including Robert Passikoff in Forbes.

He wonders how the Kodak whizz-kids could be blind to this new method of photography. "Digital remained an afterthought. Well, it’s not an afterthought any more.

"Analogue photography," Passikoff explains, "became a piece of nostalgia. And nostalgia turned into something old-fashioned. Old-fashioned became unfashionable. Digital became more (and more) state-of-the-art, and by then Kodak couldn’t get consumers to believe that they could successfully play in that arena, whether they had been there first or not."

the color drained from Kodak while iPhone put a special shine ON ApplE

As Kodak was slowing sinking in a sea of red, a flood of green flowed into Apple's coffers, generated by the 2007 launch of the iPhone with a built-in camera. Three years later, snapshots exploded after Apple unveiled the iPhone 4, equipped with both a high quality camera and a front-facing camera for taking self-portraits.

iPhone caused cultural changes

Steve Jobs with his revolutionary iPhone
Steve Jobs with his revolutionary iPhone | Source

“The iPhone helped kick off a revolution that not only changed the way we take and view photographs, but changed the way we view the world.” explains commercial photographer James Bareham in The Verge, a technology website.

The photographer says the use of social media to display photos on smartphones has placed modern photography on a different plane.

“The differences between those photographs taken on a smartphone and those taken on regular digital cameras have become far less apparent,” Bareham said. He maintains that’s because the “vast majority of imagery is now seen in the exact same places: on smartphones and tablets, via apps such as Pinterest, Facebook… and Instagram. At 1024 x 1024 pixels, who can really tell whether a photo was taken on an iPhone or a Canon 5D? More to the point, who cares?”

The dramatic increase in smartphone camera use is illustrated by two Vatican photos taken 8 years apart during papal appearances

Crowds at the Vatican after the elections of Pope Benedict (top) and Pope Francis.
Crowds at the Vatican after the elections of Pope Benedict (top) and Pope Francis. | Source

Because of the proliferation of smartphones more people are taking photos, more often. Many seem to be documenting their lives on social media. Close to 400 billion photos were snapped in 2013, according to industry estimates.

Once the average Jane captures an image she uses an app on her smartphone to edit it and then shares it on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter all in a matter of seconds. Smartphones are more practical, discreet and more readily available than film or digital cameras.

A majority of smartphone customers now exclusively use their phone to take snapshots, according to a 2013 Suite 48 Analytics study. Specifically, 58% of smartphone owners reach for their iPhones or Android phones when they want to take photos, compared with just 37% in a study conducted 18 months ago.

Click the image ▼ to enlarge

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That fact has caused a ripple effect in the digital camera market. Digital camera sales fell by nearly a third in 2013, with smartphone sales increasing by nearly an equal amount.

James Bareham isn’t the only professional photographer or photo journalist who is incorporating the latest smartphone technologies into his work. “In fact, Time magazine used Instagram to cover Hurricane Sandy,” reports The Daily Emerald, a University of Oregon digital newspaper. And iPhones have produced quality images that have appeared on the front page of The New York Times.

“Smartphones are able to capture and transmit in breaking news situations now more than ever,” University of Oregon photojournalism instructor Sung Park told The Emerald. “In those situations, a smartphone allows you to respond quicker and distribute images immediately.”

Selfies are the current rage in space, Hollywood and Main Street

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Ellen DeGeneres didn’t win an Oscar, but she should be given "The Selfie of the Year" award for the selfie (or self-portrait) she arranged during the March 2, 2014 Academy Awards.

As part of her Oscar hosting duties, Ellen posted a selfie of a dozen Hollywood stars on Twitter. It crashed the social network for a while as the photo was re-tweeted more than 1.8 million times in the first hour and over 3 million times in 24 hours.

Photographic self-portraits are not new, but they have exploded in the last couple of years, so much so that "selfie" was recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary, which designated it 2013's "Word of the Year."

It used to be "selfie-holics" were limited to pop stars; now everyone from the pope to the Obama girls has been spotted in one.

Famous British selfie inventor

The selfie was born in 1839, when chemist and photographic pioneer Robert Cornelius took a picture of himself outside his family's Philadelphia store.

Over the years, there have been many photographic self-portraits taken facing a mirror with the camera next to the photographer or by mounting the camera on a tripod and triggering the shutter remotely.

Another notable selfie was taken in space by Aki Hoshide during a 2012 spacewalk. He used a specially designed camera mounted on his space suit to take pictures during his International Space Station mission. In the Hoshide selfie, the astronaut appears with the black expanse of space behind him, while his large reflective visor reveals a portion of the space station. The photo went viral when fellow astronaut Chris Hadfield uploaded it to Twitter.

The selfie really boomed after the invention of the compact digital camera and later the iPhone 4, with a front-facing camera that allows the user to easily line-up a self-portrait. The iPhone or a smartphone equipped with two cameras invites the user to take a selfie on the spur of the moment, simply by holding the camera at arm's length.

Selfie Debate: Growing narcissism or a means of communication

People have uploaded millions of selfies on social media websites. A recent search of Instagram’s photo sharing app found that 34 million photos were uploaded with the hashtag #selfie. The top ten selfie related hashtags have a combined total of 40 million photos, according to The Huffington Post.

Selfies: All the time; everywhere

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With so many people taking and posting selfies on the Internet, there’s a debate about whether our society is becoming more narcissistic or whether this opens up a new communications avenue, which allows us to connect with others on a different level.

On one side is writer John Paul Titlow, who describes selfie-sharing as "a high school popularity contest on digital steroids." Titlow maintains, according to The London Guardian, that selfie users "are seeking some kind of approval from their peers and the larger community, which thanks to the Internet is now effectively infinite."

On the other side of the issue is Dr. Mariann Hardey. The popularity of the selfie, she told The Guardian, "is it is an extension of how we live and learn about each other and a way of imparting necessary information about who we are.”

Hardey, co-director of the Institute for Advanced Research in Computing at the University of Durham, England, says she sought face-to-face solitude after her father suddenly passed away, but posted a selfie on Instagram that communicated on a couple of levels.

"I couldn't bear the conversations, but one way to prove to friends that I was OK was to take a picture of myself," she said. "That revealed something very important to my friends – one, that I was still functioning and, two, I was out doing stuff. An image can convey more than words." –TDowling

© 2014 Thomas Dowling

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    • TDowling profile image
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      Thomas Dowling 3 years ago from Florida

      Sorry for my late response I've been unplugged for awhile, vanitha.

      I appreciate your positive feedback.

      Peace,

      -TD

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      vanitha 3 years ago

      This is very useful information.Thank you for latest publishing.

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      Thomas Dowling 3 years ago from Florida

      Thanks for the positive feedback, GreenPrince.

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      Prince Edike 3 years ago from Philippines

      This is a very informative hub for photo and social web enthusiasts...well done TDowling.