Review – Zoto

Up next in my short series is Zoto. I first heard of these folks at BlogOn 2005, when I met Kord (their CEO).  He gave me a quick demo of what they’re up to, and I got a coupon good for a free 5GB upgraded account.  Cool!

Here’s the now-dormant site I set up.

For those without a cool free-account coupon, here’s the deal.  Free accounts have 2GB of space, unlimited storage, and they don’t say there’s a limit on bandwidth.  Premium accounts ($44.95/yr) have 5GB of space, and special areas for private photos.  Seems a touch expensive, but hey – I wasn’t too worried about it, I had a free upgrade coupon. :-)

The site looks really nice when you first get in there, and there are some nice tools to help you.  I like the uploader application, which helps you batch-upload pics to the site.

So the first problem…the site seemed slooooooow.  Hopefully it’s growing pains – but I noticed over the span of a week that quite often I’d be looking at a page of photos, and a few of them wouldn’t load.  Or it would take a _really_ long time for some to load.  And it wasn’t just me – some friends who I sent my zoto URL to said the same thing.

Zoto has a cool gallery feature, where you can even choose the URL for your gallery.  You can add photos to it, and you can invite other folks to contribute to the gallery.  You can choose different templates for your gallery.  But there’s a problem.

The gallery templates all show thumbnails, which is good.  But the thumbnails are resized to 106 pixels on the SHORT side, and then cropped to 106×106.  Every thumbnail is square, and they are cropped.  I can’t live with that…I want uncropped thumbnails that retain the same aspect ratio as my originals.  I don’t care how small you have to make them – but don’t crop them.  And they’re showing the correctly-shaped thumbnails elsewhere – just not in the galleries.

But hey, I thought, this isn’t Flickr/Yahoo. ;-)  This is a small company, and I bet if I post on their forums, maybe someone would respond and there would be a magic fix loaded in a few days.  Or at least letting me know it was on the list.  Or telling me to go to hell.  Anything…but I was sure I’d get a response, so I posted on the forum, with some example thumbnails showing what I was talking about.  The example I posted was a picture of the Washington Monument – and the way it was cropped, you really couldn’t even tell what it was. 

So I waited.  Checked every hour or so for a while, nothing.  Ok, I’ll keep working with the site, and surely they’ll get back to me.  Waited a few days, nothing.  It’s now been 9 days since I posted that, and I’ve given up.  Hmm.

The private photos and galleries thing was, well, to be honest, I never figured it out.  Maybe my account wasn’t really an upgraded account (it kept telling me I had a 5GB account, but also asked me to upgrade now and then).  So I’ll refrain from commenting…other than to say it’s not a good thing that I wasn’t sure if I even had the account level that would let me protect photos and galleries from the public.  It could be I’m just a bonehead and didn’t find it.

I’m also a little worried about the main screen GUI that visitors see.  When I send a friend or family member here, and I say “check out my new animal pictures”, it’s unclear exactly where they should go.  You need to click on the “Galleries” link – but that’s not obvious, and I can imagine people might never notice that link.  Especially when it says “His Views” – not clear at all that’s somewhere I should go.  And I don’t really want other ads on my page (Google ads below the “His Views”) – if anyone’s going to have ads, it ought to be me.  Unless, of course, I really am on a free account, in which case zoto can have the ads…but I’d rather pay and get rid of them.

There were a lot of things I liked – in the photo view, you can download lots of different sizes of images (including user-specified sizes), and they surface the tags you’re using and a feature called “similar photos”.  They expose EXIF information in a nice way (although one example shutter speed was 3125/1000000 sec – couldn’t you maybe reduce that to 1/320 for me?).  And I liked that they linked to Slide – this is a pretty cool site I didn’t know about before playing with Zoto.

In summary, I really wanted this site to work for me.  But the combination of the generally slow performance, the critical (to me) thumbnail problem, the fact that no one seemed to care about my thumbnail problem, and the general GUI issues, led me to move on.

7 thoughts on “Review – Zoto

  1. JT

    Isn’t this an oxymoron: “2GB of space, unlimited storage”? How can I have unlimited storage yet limited to 2gb of space?

  2. Ghosh


    As you have access to Zoto’s CEO, why dont you discuss these privacy violation issues with him personally when you next meet him.

    I had been a Zoto user for about a year and was impressed about this site until I found out two things:


    Zoto feels themselves free to use any photo belonging to any user, without bothering to ask for permission, to be displayed in a slideshow at No need for any login anywhere – anyone just having the userid can see them.


    The above slideshow can include ALL pictures handpicked by zoto from your collection without you knowing it, including pictures tagged as “private” and pictures that you have ALREADY DELETED.

    No – that wasn’t a typo – zoto probably maitains a cache of all the pictures somewhere, including deleted ones, and is lending/using these to serve their own end. The photo I deleted in April ’96 (my daughter in white pyjamas) from my collection can still be seen in the slideshow of my account (

    An urgent email sent to their customer service on 25th August 2006 has been stonewalled till now.

    Thought you would like to know where the money for these “free’ coupons are coming from.


  3. Kord Campbell


    First off, we only allow Slide to pick up photos that are on your RSS feed. If they *are* able pick up photos, then those photos were not privatized at the point they picked them up. Feel free to privatize a photo and then logout and check your RSS feed. Those images won’t show up in the feed.

    If the privatization of the photo was done after Slide picks up the photos, there is nothing we can do on our end to get them to get rid of them. We do not continue advertising the photo to them, nor do we allow those photos to be seen in your list of photos on Zoto after that.

    We have tried several times to get Slide to do updates based on new feeds for users, but have met with limit success with them doing that. Regardless, with our release in November, we are ditching any association with them due to the ongoing bugginess they display with yanking feeds. No dig on them, it’s just hard for them to attend to the various feeds they draw from in a sane matter at all times.

    I might point out to you that your account on Zoto is FREE and that we clearly show RSS feeds as a feature. As RSS feeds are designed to be used by other people and services for redistributing your data on your account, I’m not sure how we are “using” your data in some harmful way, outside expectations. If you had privatized them from the beginning, they wouldn’t have show up on the feeds, and wouldn’t be on Slide.

    As for the caching issue, with Zoto 1.0 and 2.0, we do keep all images intact on the system regardless of the status of the image (deleted, banned, etc.), but we DO NOT show them on our pages, or cough them up via pages/feeds. We have addressed this issue a couple of times by explaining that the URL for the photo is not publicly known if it is privatized right off the bat. If it never gets published, the MD5 will never been seen and thus viewers won’t be able to see the photos.

    Regardless of whether we continue to serve the image data after the fact, in this case that isn’t really at issue. What the problem is is that you uploaded some photos to Zoto and Slide picked them up off the RSS feed. They then downloaded copies of those images to their servers, where they now sit. You then (I guess) privatized the images in an effort for them to hide them.

    After you made them private, we no longer showed the images to anyone looking at your account pages/RSS feeds. However, Slide didn’t respect the updated RSS feed, and continued to keep the images on their server.

    After you noticed that Slide still had them you (I guess) deleted the images from Zoto, which again had the effect of removing them from ALL of our lists of image MD5s we had for you. While the image could still be pulled up via the URL with a .jpg ending, the viewer would need to know the MD5 for the photos to get to the image. Again, Slide didn’t respect the updated feed, and continued to show the MD5 (and their copy of the image) to people. Not good.

    It remains that regardless of what we do (or did) with your photos (which was hide the MD5 from users), that Slide still had a *copy* of your image, which again we have no control over.

    I’ll agree that it would be better to stop serving the images on our system once they are deleted, but we made this decision based on users complaining that the images they were using were unavailable externally after they privatized them. On Zoto 3.0, we have decided to completely remove the image, regardless of whether it is being used on your blog or website – based on the fact you deleted it.

    As for trying to contact us, I went back through the database of support emails and the only email I see from you was back in February asking about a separate incident. While I’ll admit web form emails aren’t the best way to contact someone, I will say that we are diligent about answering both our support mail and our forums. I know Greg posted something in our forum for this article, and got a slightly delayed response, but he really didn’t try to contact us via email or our web support form or try to contact us again after I fixed the issue that he was complaining about – a fact that has irritated me since he posted this, FWIW.

    You can email me directly at with any further issues, or use our support form at If you will tell us the account (or accounts) you want removed, I’ll make certain the images are removed permanently from the system. However, there is little to nothing I can do regarding the copies Slide keeps. You’ll need to take that up with them, although I’m willing to pitch in my two cents if you need help with them.

  4. Kara

    Hi Greg,

    I work for Zoto and we have released a new version of our website along with new HTML and Flash albums. I hope you will drop by and take us for another test run. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

    Kara :)

  5. Jay Davidson

    Zoto sucks — they suck so much that they bought the rights to the url Anyway — A friend of mine turned me on to zoto and I really liked everything about their service — hey 2gb of pictures hosted for free — not bad. So I upload A LOT of photos and linked them different blogs and messageboards and websites. Then out of the blue they decide to stop offering free accounts….. I thought sure current users would be grandfathered but NO! So they zipped my files and sent them to me — all my blogs / messageboards/ websites had to be relink . They basically wasted a bunch of my time. Live and learn — Thanks for nothing Kord


  6. David

    Whoa, this page has it all: user-tested critique, long-winded message from CEO, cautious invite to Version 3.0, and an insane rant from a user who doesn’t visit the site or read his email.

    Sorry Jay, but you’re miles off target. I’m a zoto subscriber and I recall seeing the notices a good five months before switchover. Which can only mean that the legions of bootleggers who complained after the fact just weren’t paying attention.

    Anywho, I invite you to come by and visit where you’ll currently find millions of photos and no word from the staff about anything. If you want to see the sad story of a good outfit floundering, check out the user forum.


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