Photo site Webshots comes under new ownership again, will re-launch as Smile

Believe it or not, Webshots, the photo company founded in the mid 1990s, is still hanging around, but soon its service will go by a slightly different name after another change in company ownership. Threefold Photos plans to announce Tuesday that it has purchased Webshots and will re-launch the product this fall, transitioning it to become a more modern photo experience called Smile by Webshots.

Threefold Photos (see disclosure below) has purchased Webshots from American Greetings for an undisclosed sum, and has taken investments from groups and individuals including Freestyle Capital, True Ventures, Chris Sacca, Biz Stone, Mike Hirshland, and others.

Smile will roll out a variety of features this fall, but core to the experience will be a photo stream aggregating user photos that are easily searchable and shareable, targeting a user demographic that might not always upload to Facebook or iCloud. However, it’s hard to say how a photo-sharing site can compete in the age of Facebook and Instagram, which dominate the photo upload and sharing experiences. Older photo sites like Photobucket and Flickr have certainly struggled to find new footing.

Webshots was founded in 1995, and by 1999 had moved the product into photo-sharing as well as the original screensavers and wallpaper. In 1999, the founders sold Webshots to [email protected] for $82.5 million in stock. In 2001 [email protected] declared bankrupcy, and the founders purchased Webshots back for $2.5 million. In 2004, CNET bought Webshots for $71 million, which sold it to American Greetings for $45 million in 2007. Former Webshots executives Julie Davidson, Narendra Rocherolle and Nick Wilder are now on the Board of Directors for Threefold Photos.

Beginning Tuesday, existing Webshots users will start receiving notices that their photos will be migrated to Smile, which currently has iPhone and desktop apps, with Android coming within a month. Rocherolle and CEO Mike Sitrin explained in an interview that they want Smile to be the easiest way to search and share photos, although they were light on specifics as they focus on transitioning existing users to the new service.

Disclosure: Threefold Photos is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.