Xinshu Technology: How the “Chinese Shutterfly” Uses the Filecoin Network to Keep a Competitive Edge in the Photo Sharing Industry

Apr 21, 2023

Key highlights:

  • Shanghai Xinshu Information Technology Company Limited (Xinshu Technology for short) is a customized photography products and image sharing company aiming to provide a “Bank of Emotion.”
  • The company’s business is based on a B2B2C approach, meaning they provide services to other businesses, through their network of freelance photographers, while also providing services to the end-users through prints and other customized products as well as acting storage for their photos.
  • Xinshu saw the need for a new approach to conducting its business. Leveraging Alibaba Cloud — the largest cloud computing service in China — was becoming too complex and costly for the future goals of the company. The limitations in terms of costs, flexibility, and scalability made the co-founders look for new paths.
  • Through Bytebase, a decentralized storage provider in the Filecoin network, Xinshu is introducing decentralized storage for its network of photographers and ultimately helping thousands of people preserve their memories — in photographs.
  • The storage size is estimated to grow to 40–50 TiB per month (480–600 TiB a year) in the future.
  • Among the main goals and results Xinshu is seeing with the Filecoin network: A reduction in the overall cost of long-term storage while maintaining ease of photo retrieval; more security and peace of mind for photographers, addressing copyright challenges; and providing better and longer-term storage services for end-customer.

Building a “Bank of Emotion”

Launched in 2019 by Weiping Li and Liu Ming, Xinshu Technology helps memories last a lifetime — and then some — for thousands of Chinese families and businesses.

The company, often compared to America’s Shutterfly, works with a growing network of freelance Chinese photographers to help them store and share their original work with customers and provide the end-user with the ability to purchase prints, albums, and other tailor-made items through its mobile app.

Xinshu’s primary users are freelance photographers who have the capacity to upload photos — which stands in the thousands — to its private cloud every day. The company also offers software that allows photographers to create microsites for their business, which serve as a way to promote their services to customers, hosting everything from portfolios to pricing guides, including advanced user functions such as live photo broadcasting. They also become ‘distributors,’ basically, freelancers serve as an online order desk, as they also offer customers Xinshu’s owned services, bringing them to the platform to order photo prints and other memorabilia.

The Challenge

With its network of photographers growing daily, the sheer number of images and videos quickly increasing, and the immense quantity of data collected, the team at Xinshu quickly realized the need for a different approach to data storage and security.

“Data is a very important asset for our company, and we need to keep it safe for our customers.” — Weiping Li, co-founder & CEO of Shanghai Xinshu Information Technology Company Limited

Xinshu was using Alibaba Cloud — the largest cloud computing service in China, similar to America’s Google Cloud or Amazon Web Services — to store its data. While the current solution was meeting the needs of the business today, the company needed to explore different options for its rapid growth. Specifically, in terms of data storage over time, being able to retrieve photos after a certain period of time easily and without drastically increasing their costs is something challenging for private cloud providers.

Xinshu began looking for a solution that could address future challenges, including longevity, cost-effectiveness, scalability, and flexibility.

In general, leveraging blockchain technology for storage use cases is still somewhat of a novel concept, with most businesses unaware or unsure of its potential applications. Since blockchain is still in a trial-like phase in spaces like photography and end-user services, Xinshu had to overcome the challenge of, first, understanding the capabilities of a network such as Filecoin, and then translate that information and showcase the value to the freelancers working with them.

Why Filecoin

In July 2021, Xinshu connected with Bytebase, a privacy storage platform and a Filecoin storage provider that is helping other providers bring enterprise data to the decentralized web. The team at Bytebase educated Weiping and Liu about the capabilities of Filecoin’s decentralized network and the potential it could bring to both their own growth and its network of photographers.

By accessing features such as publicly verifiable cryptographic storage proofs, crypto-economic mechanisms, and a public blockchain, Xinshu recognized the endless benefits the decentralized web could bring. Cost savings and more archive options are at the top of that list.

In addition, by working with Bytebase and leveraging the Filecoin network, Xinshu ensures further security while helping photographers maintain ownership of their work in a much simpler way. With intellectual property for photographers being such a heated issue worldwide, this approach changes the way the company addresses photographers’ bigger concerns.

Bytebase makes it possible for Xinshu to store the photos of thousands of customers in an efficient, secure, and affordable way.

The Results

Since the beginning, Xinshu recorded cost savings when starting to store on the Filecoin network through Bytebase compared to its full private cloud solution. These savings, Weiping says, have been passed on to its network of freelancers, incentivizing them to promote the product with other photographers.

“We work very closely with the freelancers. The Filecoin network allows us to grow closer to them, providing competitive offerings within our app and ensuring their work is secured.” — Weiping Li, co-founder & CEO of Shanghai Xinshu Information Technology Company Limited

Accessibility and storage options have also improved for Xinshu’s users. The company “rents out” extra storage space to photographers, who pay to store their files. And the photographers’ customers can request and transfer their image or video data easily via a verifiable marketplace. This recall ability is especially useful in the image management solutions industry — take for example couples who want to recall a large file of original wedding photos, and can access them easily in a matter of minutes.

Moreover, the photographers can choose to give their customers the option of purchasing longer storage terms for additional fees. This was a very cumbersome and expensive process when Xinshu was relying only on private cloud services.

With the new capabilities they offer, Xinshu continues to grow. Today, with a hybrid approach — still leveraging the private cloud and implementing decentralized storage — the app is adding users every day, with approximately 700–800 photographers currently on board for business. The Xinshu team also estimates that about 300,000 people use the app to keep their wonderful memories and purchase other products.

The company’s storage size is estimated to grow to 40–50 TiB per month (480–600 TiB a year) in the future, which showcases the potential for future applications with massive storage that will ultimately help preserve people’s most wonderful memories.

By working with Bytebase, Xinshu was able to truly realize the value of blockchain and the Filecoin protocol for its unique business needs. To learn more about Filecoin, storage providers and developer use cases, please visit: Filecoin.ioor