What will still be good is their software, which makes creating albums and uploading images easier than anything else I've ever used. Also, they allow absolute privacy over your albums, so you can post everything knowing that only your friends and relatives will ever see it. Indeed, in the new version, this will be a default. You can also post full-size images, which get automatically resized, and they create slideshows and other features automatically. They even allow video uploads of up to (I think) 10 minutes, which are automatically converted into flash for viewing simplicity. as a real bonus, it acts as a backup, because you can get a DVD withh all of your images (for a fee) at any time. It is absolutely a fantastic service and it's a shame it never caught on. They charge for this wonderful service, and currently have no free version beyond a limited time trial.
The changes are various, and only a couple bother me. Starting with the ones I don't care about: It will be hard to create a public website of photos, and all existing links will be broken. They are also increasing the Phanfare brand presence on your site, and users can no longer control whether viewers can download full-size originals. The parts that cause me concern involve the experience of my visitors. Until now, I could give people a password that allowed access to my albums. That password was specific to my subdomain at Phanfare, and did not require that anybody register with Phanfare. That is now changing. Once the new system is implemented, everybody will have to register with Phanfare to view my photos. What's more, once I invite them, Phanfre will automatically generate notification emails whenever I update or create a new album, and I will have no control over this. Individual users will be able to control whether they receive these emails, but why should they have to bother? I have no interest in spamming my friends and family this way.
Basically, Phanfare is embracing a photo-based social networking model. Everyone who registers will also get 1 gig of free photo storage, and we'll all get notifications of each others new photos. Obviously they hope that people will upgrade to the paid service. They are also trying to discourage professional users, who were never their core target customer, and who are almost certainly less profitable for them.
While they've had some missteps in announcing and explaining the new service, they've really tried hard, and even allowed users to create an "Alternative to Phanfare" topic on the Phanfare user forum. They also allowed a considerable amount of venting and harsh words on the forum from disappointed customers. I'm one who posted some harsh items about the new registration process, about which I have considerable concerns, but I also recognize that they can't continue with a business model that won't work. The new system is currently in beta, and should go public soon. Meanwhile, they will allow folks like me to stay on the old system until next June. I'm hoping things will either be better than I fear, or the worst aspects will be modified before then.
If not, I'll be looking for a new service. The forum thread I linked above is a very good start. If anybody knows of additional resources or services, I'd love to hear about them in the comments.
I'm also cross-posting this at my Working File blog.