So, ipernity is finally out of beta and have launched their new service. Overall,I appreciate the new design and functionality. The cleaner, simpler look is a definite improvement for me and I like the way "documents" are automatically filtered and grouped from the photos and videos.

Much of the hoopla amongst some of my fellow ipernity users centers around the limitations you now have on the level of customization you can do to your home page and the coming restrictions to the "free" accounts. These are all legitimate complaints, because for many people, change is very difficult thing to accept. When you get accustomed to a way of doing things and take resources for granted, it's not easy having to do without them. But, I can also understand that, in order to keep afloat, ipernity has to make some changes to their services.

It's difficult for many non-technical technology consumers to understand how much effort and resources it takes to provide services, like those offered by ipernity and many other social web providers. I run my own home server and I know that there's no way I'd be able to do something like ipernity without plenty of money and man-hours to spare. So, I guess my opinion is a little more bias (in favor of ipernity) than some of the other ipernity clientele.

I don't like having to part with more money than necessary to do what I want, but I'm not as upset about ipernity's upcoming changes to the "free" accounts as others seem to be. Storage space, equipment and bandwidth all takes money and time to run. And if you stop and think about it for a bit, the cost to be a "club" member and what you get for it really is quite reasonable.

Sure, you can get similar services (sometimes better and sometimes worse) for less money, maybe even "free", but none of them are perfect. I certainly haven't found one as robust or affordable as ipernity.

In regards to free services, I could use Flickr, but I don't trust Yahoo! Big web companies like that don't get big by not exploiting user information for their own gain. I'm not in support of such marketing schemes, which is why I refuse to use Yahoo! and Google services. Besides, Flickr is only for photos - not videos or (text) blogging.

I could use YouTube and Picasa, but see my comments above. I watch YouTube, but I don't upload to them anymore and I don't click on any of their ads.

There's My Opera, where I do have an account, but they don't allow video uploads. Also, good luck in trying to get any support from the Opera team. The only way to reach them is via the forums - and that is only if you can get them to reply to your post. I've never been able to get them to reply to me. Also, they're practically over-run with spammers and other single use "please friend me" users, which can get irritating.

Say what you will about ipernity, at least they've always gotten back to me on all of my inquiries in a reasonable time. I may not have always gotten the answer I wanted, but at least I've gotten an answer of some sort.

In regards to paid services, I've tried The service is good, but it's only for photo storing and sharing - no videos or blogging functions are provided. Free accounts are limited to only thirty uploads a month, but you can pay $26 (CAD) a year for unlimited uploads.

There's SmugMug, but I've never tried their services. From what I can tell, it's only for photo uploads. Aside from that, it seems to be a pretty expensive alternative, at a minimum of $40 (US) a year.

Of course, there's always the choice to do this sort of thing yourself. You can get some really great open source media sharing software. All you need to do is have the dedicated hardware, time and bandwidth to support it. However, you may find that more expensive then ipernity's club membership.

To wrap it up, I can see why some people would be unhappy with the recent face-lift of ipernity and the changes to the free services that they once provided. From all the comments I've read in regards to user feedback, it's clear that the ipernity customer relations department could have done a better job in engaging their customer base and communicating the up-coming changes.

But, the bottom line is: it is clear that ipernity could not continue doing business as they were - and I'm really glad to finally see them out of "beta" phase. Either free services had to be drawn back a bit to help motivate the purchase of club memberships, and/or advertising would have to be ramped up. Personally, I'd rather do the latter - encourage memberships and save us all from in-your-face ads.

When compared to similar services available on the Net, I really can't find much to complain about ipernity. Although I did stop paying for my account just under a year ago (because free was good enough), having re-activated my membership and keeping the full service of ipernity is obviously worth it to me. I guess that's what is important; I get services I want for a price I consider reasonable, and ipernity gets the revenue they need stay afloat. Win - win! :o)

So, remember, there's always a price to pay; either up-front or under-the-table. Personally, I would rather deal with people who are up-front with what they expect from me, rather than the those who take what they want from me when my back is turned. You can't have your cake and eat it, too.