LOS GATOS, CA—With millions of images to choose from, the new online service Netpix—which allows users to receive up to three pictures at a time for a monthly fee—has quickly become the most popular photograph-rental company in the country.
Launched in April, the new service offers a wide array of photos and genres, including pictures of sunsets, images of friends sitting around picnic tables, grisly crime scene photos, the complete works of Ansel Adams, snapshots of Carol and her dog, and recent portraits from Tanya Kohler's baby shower at the Treehouse restaurant in Manchester, NH.
"It's so convenient. You get a photo in your mailbox, look at it for a while, and then drop it in the prepaid envelope and send it back," Houston resident Jonathan Collins said. "I'll never look at pictures the same way again."
The company was founded by computer programmers and photography buffs Wallace Lockhart and Kurt Griggs, and has already amassed nearly 50 million users.
Immediately after signing up, subscribers can begin adding images they wish to look at to their rental queue. They then receive an e-mail notification indicating that the photos have been shipped from a nearby distribution facility and will arrive by mail within three business days.
"Our members can keep photographs for as long as they want without ever having to worry about late fees," said Griggs, the company's president, adding that Netpix is much simpler than trying to pick out pictures to look at at the local photo store. "We have something for everyone. Whether you like extreme close-ups of flowers or candid shots of Dave passed out on the couch, it's all here."
According to company CEO Lockhart, Netpix provides personalized recommendations by using an algorithm that analyzes recent rental activity and then makes suggestions based on a member's picture-viewing habits.
For instance, if a user enjoyed viewing the "Stoddard Family Trip To South Dakota," the site might suggest he or she rent "The Ziegler Family Vacation To Six Flags," or perhaps even "The Stoddard Family Cookout, 2006."
"I really enjoy photos of maple trees, but then Netpix recommended that I look at a picture of a birch," Utah resident Sheila Cox said. "I couldn't believe I'd been missing out on such a great tree all this time."
In addition to the computer-generated recommendations, Netpix also features an online community that allows members to connect with other photo fans and discuss their praise and criticisms of recent images they have seen.
"I must say, 'Eric Foster Blows Out The Candles On His Birthday Cake' was completely overrated," read a recent user review on the Netpix website. "Is this really what passes for entertaining photography these days? I barely got halfway through that photo before deciding to mail it back."
"If I wanted cloying sentimentality, I would have just rented 'Katy Ross Opens Her First-Ever Christmas Present' instead," the review added.
Despite the ease and convenience of the service, some Netpix members admitted that the company's distinctive red envelopes often sit unopened in their homes for weeks on end.
"Last month I ordered a picture of a building, because at that moment, I really wanted to see a picture of a building, but when I got it, I just wasn't in the mood," Jane Fairchild of Boston said. "Plus, with my husband working long hours at the office, it's hard for us to find a night when we can both sit down and look at a picture together."
Netpix officials are expected to announce plans next week to debut a new "view instantly" feature, giving customers with the necessary system requirements the ability to watch their favorite photos online.