French startup Jolicloud announced a new service Monday that will allow users to access through a single interface the content they have published on various photo sharing sites and social networks.
The move marks Jolicloud's effort to enter the emerging field of "personal cloud" services that offer users access to all of their data through a single finder. The company already offers a browser-based desktop and a cloud OS for low-cost computers.
Called Jolicloud Me, the new service links to the other online services a user subscribes to and creates an index of all the images, documents and other files that are stored there. It also sorts those files automatically by type.
The user can then search in one location to find an image or other document that is stored in one of those other services. Jolicloud says this is useful because people subscribe to so many services these days they often can't remember where things are.
The service works initially with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Picassa and Flickr, and the the company says it will add Tumblr and Instapaper in the future.
Jolicloud Me is currently in closed beta and the company didn't provide a date for a wider launch. People who want to take part in the beta can register to do so online.
"After listening to our users, we discovered that their biggest frustration was the feeling they are losing their lives on multiple competitive services," Tariq Krim, CEO and founder of Jolicloud, said in a statement.
The service also lets people sort their files into collections, so a user can create one folder to access all the images of a particular event that are spread over different social networks, for example.
Jolicloud, like some other offerings, integrates content from a variety of different online services. But the "holy Grail," according to Patrick Moorhead, principle analyst of Moor Insights and Strategy, is a platform that integrates online content as well as files stored locally on PCs and other devices.
Analyst Chris Silva with the Altimeter Group said the market is immense for services that bring together a user's content. "Anybody who's using more than one or two social networks or other public services where information is stored or exchanged would be fair game as somebody who'd be interested in this service."
Subscriptions for personal cloud services brought in US$600 million last year, according to Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research. By 2016, he predicts, they will bring in $6 billion.
But Jolicloud will face significant challenges if it is to claim significant market share, analysts said. Moorhead explained that personal cloud "is a concept that people have to be taught, so it takes a big name to really get that out there."
"I do give them credit for zooming in on personal search as a problem that needs to be solved," Gillett said. He added, "They need to better address the [device] part of the problem, but it's a first step."
Cameron Scott covers search, web services and privacy for The IDG News Service. Follow Cameron on Twitter at CScott_IDG.
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