UPDATE: Looks like 3D Porch may survive!
ORIGINAL STORY: (Note: To view the following photos in "3D," you'll need to click on them)
Unless there's a miracle over the weekend, starting next Monday, 3D Porch will start shutting down, transitioning to a photo memorial.
The website currently houses 43,222 photos taken by 3DS owners since its launch earlier this year, with nearly 50,000 photos in total.
Nintendo's 3DS doesn't feature a very good camera, but it does take 3D photos, a pretty fun and interesting novelty web designer-turned-app developer Phil Dhingra took notice of last spring. He'd been mulling creating a 3D photo and video sharing website already, and the expected popularity of Nintendo's new handheld spurred him into action.
From start to finish, building the website took a month.
After a photo is uploaded to 3D Porch, it's converted into a variety of formats to take in the 3D effect, including ol' red and blue. The website's even formatted to be viewable through the 3DS web browser, allowing you to view many photos natively.
When Nintendo revealed the 3DS at E3 2010, filmmaker James Cameron appeared to have used Avatar to prove 3D was a viable addition to the filmmaker toolset, not just a gimmick to generate higher ticket prices.
Just prior to the concert-slash-media festival South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, Dhingra ordered a 3DS from eBay, as the handheld had not been released outside Japan yet. This is long before the world would begin doubting Nintendo's decision to make 3D its big feature, and many months before a big price cut would be enacted to spur demand.
"I was inspired by Avatar, feeling that 3D added a lot to that movie, and I was excited by where the technology was going," he told me this week, only days before he dismantles the website. "I'm not sure what my fascination with 3D photos are, I just find them cool. When I show people 3D photos on my 3DS or other 3D camera, there's always a lot of oohs and aahs."
3D Porch launched the week before South by Southwest, too. Dhingra explored the festival with his 3DS, snapping 3D photos and talking about the website. A CNN blogger caught wind of his it and wrote a piece.
"At that point, I thought my site was poised to blow-up, and when the 3DS launched in the US, my site saw a spike in traffic," he said. "But this tapered off after a few weeks."
There was another spike when Nintendo added a web browser to the 3DS, but that interest disappeared, too. 3D Porch has a small but loving, dedicated community, but that's exactly the problem for Dhingra.
Even small communities cost money.
In order to maintain server costs, he needs funding. That money could come from ads, but then he'd need more traffic. Offsetting traffic requires more money. At some point, the two would balance themselves out, but getting to that point just isn't viable anymore.
"Image hosting sites, I've learned, are notoriously hard to monetize," he said.
3D Porch is not Dhingra's bread 'n butter. He's an app developer by day, best known for Nebulous Notes, a note taking application that ties into Dropbox. He's outlined ways 3D Porch could survive in a letter to the community--donations, paid accounts, ads, features--but he claims to have done the math and none of them are sensible, especially in the short term.
Someone has tried to connect him with Nintendo but he hasn't heard back from the company. He pitched Kickstarter on a project to raise funds, but the service apparently isn't interested in lifesaver ideas.
Since announcing the decision earlier this month, Dhingra's been sorting through somber emails.
"Lots of emails [from] sad users," he said. "Many people don't want to let it go. Some users have uploaded hundreds of photos, and few have uploaded thousands. I got a lot of offers for free server assistance, but my requirements are a bit steep. Some offered to donate, but I calculated it out, and it's just not realistic to rely on donations."
3D Porch will not disappear from the Internet. Dhingra plans to turn the website into an online museum showcasing the best of the 3D photos already submitted. He's even prepping for the unexpected.
"I'm going to backup all the content so that if 3D picks up again in the future," he said, "I'll have all the content ready to go."
The 3D photos featured in this article were actually pulled from the most popular 3DS submissions.