Category Archives: Photo Sharing

2015 Review of Open Source Media Sharing Software

Open source software rules the internet. The majority of website are supported in some form by open source: be it linux, apache, or some open source library or language.

Surely, then, we could find an open source alternative to social media websites like Facebook, instagram, and Flickr… right?

Here are my requirements:

  1. Server-side import. I have a huge set of media that increases weekly. I need it to be automatically imported – so something server-side must work.
  2. Multi-user. I am hosting storage space for several of my family members. I need a way to have separate logins, preferably with some level of permissions. I don’t want search engines crawling it so “unauthenticated” users should be rejected.
  3. Ability to accept comments. If people have something to say about I photo I want to hear about it.

Here are the options I found:

  • OpenPhoto. So much potential. A Yahoo engineer decided to quit and work on this around 2011 or so. The goal was to provide an open-source alternative to Flickr or Instagram. The project was eventually renamed Trovebox. Even after kickstarter funding, and $1M of additional funding, the project never reached critical mass and was shut down in 2014. It has limped along but really was inactive as of 2015. The details of the venture are given on the OpenPhoto creator’s website.. Huge amount of promise, sad to hear it failed.
  • Piwigo. Looks old school but has impressive lifespan: over 10 years and still in active development. The featureset is correspondingly fairly good and mature. It has support for batch uploading, all kinds of plugins, themes, etc. There are apps for uploading through android and apple. I installed it and think I dislike it least. My only complaint: why does it feel so clunky?! Also, I had to modify my php.ini to include my locale in order for a bunch of errors (which were spewing to the webpage) to go away. I like how you can associate one photo with many albums. It has extensive plugins, including one that lets users add tags to photos. Lots of options for user management, really easy-to-use server-side import.
  • ZenPhoto. Like PiWigo ZenPhoto has been around for a while. It seems to have a lot of the same stuff, and seems slicker, but didn’t have a good comment system (the comment UI took a note from webdesign from some earlier decade. It has like 6 fields to post a comment. I think I could open a home loan with the same detailed form. What happened to single field comment boxes?) and batch import didn’t seem easy or possible. That said its install was vastly superior to Piwigo. Very nice install.
  • Lychee. Looks super slick. Extremely bare bones. New. Unlike zenPhoto and Piwigo, Lychee appears to follow the look and feel of the modern Internet. Work to support commenting and multiple users appears to be underway (and going slowly).
  • ownStagram. The idea here is to replace instagram. It looks like capable software. Not sure how it fares on comments, bulk upload. The UI isn’t that sleek – weird looking ripoffs of instagram images. I didn’t try this one as it didn’t look compelling from the UI standpoint (and has no documented featureset, and only two contributors on github). It does have an android app though!
  • MediaGoblin. I have no idea what is going on here. The concept is cool: federated media sharing. Media includes audio, pictures, movies, etc. I installed it and found that to even get it work I had to deviate from the install instructions and use an older version of flup. Once that was installed I found I was able to upload photos one at a time. No real support for server-side importing (some ideas in the works). I was left scratching my head. I did a quick LOC count – 36k lines of code to do single-photo uploading? I couldn’t get PDF or MP4 uploads to work. A lot of the unit tests weren’t passing. Augh GNU.

Given the state of things, I’d say Lychee is my first pick, were it not for missing multi-user and comment features. For now I’m sticking with Piwigo.