Tuesday, October 3

What happened to Fotolog: the social network that baptized and then traumatized an entire generation of millennials

It sounds like a computer Pleistocene, but in 2002, when “selfie” or “influencer” still sounded like strange foreign words and Mark Zuckerberg was taking his first classes at Harvard, the Internet gave birth to a social network that, for a time, seemed unstoppable: Fotolog. If you were a teenager 20 years ago, when O-Zone or Aqua hit hard, you will surely remember it. If not, nothing happens. Fotolog is easier to explain than most current networks. It was basically a blog where you posted photos to wait for comments or at least see how the hit counter went up.

It sounds simple, and it was. So much so, in fact, that unless you subscribed to a paid version, the platform originally allowed you to upload a single photo a day and receive 20 comments. If you scratched your wallet and accessed the “Gold” account, the margin was extended to six images and the interactions were multiplied by ten. No more no less. Today it sounds strange; but in its day Fotolog captured the interest of a legion of fans and partly prepared the ground for the networks that would come later.

In a way, it was the “baptism” of a generation on social media.

From meteoric growth to oblivion

His success was resounding and made him a phenomenon, especially among teenagers. The kids of the first decade of the 2000s uploaded photos of their vacations, party nights, excursions, montages made with Paint to congratulate birthdays and “selfies” taken with the help of the mirror in the living room – the front camera it was not worn yet—… Until shaping, over the years, the visual memory of an entire generation. Perhaps the most curious thing about its history is that some time later, when those users were already in their thirties, Fotolog became active again and revived all those images. To the longing of some. For blush of the vast majority.

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Today Fotolog is little more than a memory. His mark remains, yes; but if you go to the domain or download the app you will see that they have little to do with the network from the 2000s.

What happened to Fotolog?

Its history goes back almost 20 exact years, to April 2002, at the hands of Adam Seifer and Scout Heiferman. His idea was simple: create a platform where you can share photos at a time when digital cameras were widely used and mobile phones were beginning to incorporate their own lenses. His proposal, simple, with a controlled use, was liked and in a matter of five years the website had more than 20 million users and was among the 20 most visited on the Internet. According to data from Alexa, in 2005 it added 750 million monthly page views and its growth was so rapid that it had to limit the number of registrations it could process per day and country.

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His dynamic was very similar to the blog, with the plus that it was based on images, it was much easier to generate content and facilitated the creation of communities and interaction between users. The tool worked especially well in South America. In 2008, recalls La Tercera, Chile alone had 4.8 million users. Despite this growth – in 2013 it reached 33 million accounts – the platform failed to adapt to smartphones or generate enough profits, a problem that was added to an ever-changing online scene and the arrival of other platforms without the restrictions of Fotolog, such as MySpace, Facebook or Flickr or Instagram.

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Its drift throughout the second half of the decade is marked by several milestones. In 2007 the French group HiMedia bought Fotolog for 90 million dollars and in 2012 it tried to reconnect with the public and head off the competition from Instagram —launched two years earlier— with a design change. It was of little use. After a long period of falling into oblivion, at the beginning of 2016 its official website stopped responding and its apps disappeared from both Google Play and the App Store.

The network with which a good part of the millennials had been released in the online arena had disappeared. And in an unexpected, silent way, without emotional farewells or warnings so that former users could rescue their photos, a gesture that generated quite a few criticisms. Perhaps the best sign of the change in times was that #Fotolog became a trend on Twitter, with nostalgic messages, but also from people who lamented not having had the opportunity to rescue their memories. Others, directly, wondered about their fate.

That however turned out to be more a “see you later” than a “goodbye”. A year later Fotolog announced that it was working to renew its platform and two years later, in 2018, it surprised former teenagers, then already with jobs, a car and in some cases a mortgage, returning with their old “treasure” full of youthful selfies and photomontages . Just like a lost album that one fine day reappears at the bottom of a drawer. Its objective: to stand out from the rest of the social networks. To achieve this, it even brought back its old rule of allowing only one daily publication.

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Whoever kept their old email account could access their Fotolog profile again and rediscover images they hadn’t seen for years. For those who had lost their passwords, the company had another solution: fill out a form and pay a fee of three euros. It also launched an app. In total, he calculated that he still had two million users spread over 100 countries, the same ones that were still active in 2016; but his return did not allow him to recover the golden stage that he had lived a decade and a half ago, during the first years of the 21st century.

What happened after? On the Fotolog.net website there is still an entry from September 2019 in which it is explained that the domain, along with that of Fotolog.com, had been acquired by the firm Thinking Different to incorporate it into its portfolio of domain name. If today you consult the Fotolog.com website you will find a magazine on entertainment, games and travel, among other content. The same one to which the main application that you can download in the Play Store derives.

From what was the Fotolog of the early 2000s, what remains is the basis that propelled us towards new networks and, who knows, a blushing book of adolescent photos that maybe one day it will emerge.

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