Before the advent of digital photography, if you wanted to share your photos with your friends you either had to make lots of expensive copies of your prints from the the original negatives, or invite your friends over to look through your photo album, or even set up the slide projector and subject them all to a couple of hours of upside-down and out-of-focus holiday snaps. However in this modern age of wonders in which we live, it's relatively easy to share your photos with people from all over the world quickly and cheaply by using one of several services available on the Internet.
The basic idea is very simple. Rather than printing your photos out or emailing them to friends individually, you upload your photos to a website where they are displayed in an online gallery, and can be viewed and downloaded by other people. You then simply send your friends a link to the website gallery, which they can then visit to see your photos.
To use one of these sites you will have to register for an account, but in most cases you will get the basic service free of charge, although most sites offer premium accounts with extra features on payment of a fee.
As more and more people are getting hooked up to high-speed broadband Internet connections, and as bulk data storage gets ever cheaper, many websites have sprung up offering to store, display and share your photos, often for free or at minimal cost. At the moment the most popular of these is undoubtedly Flickr, a photo sharing site developed by Canadian company Ludicorp in 2004, originally as part of an online game that was in fact never launched.
Now owned by Yahoo!, Flickr has become immensely popular over the last three years and currently hosts over four billion images. Its popularity stems from being extremely easy to use, with a very simple interface that lets users upload, sort and share photos with anyone else in the Flickr community, as well as hosting images for display on other websites or forums. Uploaded photos can be grouped into sets and collections, and can be set to be private or publicly viewable. Text tags can be added to pictures to make searching for them easier, and comments can be added, either by the person uploading the photo, or in the case of public photos, by any other user. A recent addition is the ability to place photos on a zoomable map of the world, in what is becoming known as "geotagging".