Photography-on-the-Net, one of the original digital photography forums and perhaps one of the most prominent of the time, is shutting down at the end of 2023.

Running continuously since April of 2001, Photography-on-the-Net has acted as a digital gathering place for digital camera enthusiasts, professionals, hobbyists, and generally anyone interested in photography. The site operates a number of forums on gear as well as places to discuss photos and techniques. Photography-on-the-Net also operated a camera gear marketplace and a massive photo gallery of more than a quarter million images that can be used to browse the results from specific cameras — down to specific settings.

While the forums have been in operation for more than two decades, that will end this year.

The site’s founder Pekka Saarinen published the news on the site earlier this month. The post, spotted by Canon Rumors, paints a picture of a once thriving community that has fallen out of popularity due to a number of factors, not the least of which is a decline in general interest in digital photography and the growth of social media.

“There is no one reason for the decline of digital camera, there are several. Better mobile cameras killing people’s interest to heavy and expensive systems like SLR with lots of lenses. Photojournalists use iPhones, photographers get less hiring opportunities, families and friends use mobile devices. Some special interest shooters like bird and wedding photographers, sports and action shooters can not really work with phones, but they are a minority. Image quality does not matter much to 99% of people, when viewed on mobile all is sufficient,” Saarinen writes.


Homepage of Photography-on-the-Net from 10/17/2023

But it’s not just the lessening interest in photo equipment that Saarinen believes has led to the decline of Photography-on-the-Net.

“Facebook was founded 2004, three years after POTN. Twitter was started 2006. Instagram was founded 2010. Snapchat 2011. Discord 2015, Tik Tok 2016. All those multi-billion dollar companies have conquered the market, created the social media as we know it, intentionally aiming to addict by algorithms, put people into own bubbles, track you to target ads, lose content validity in short time so that new content gets created constantly. Some of them reduce message lengths thus directing young people to short attention span and think less about complete sentences. Photos are shared via social media apps, Whatsapp and cloud services. This trend has sped up in last few years, and AI will change it all again. Soon people won’t have to write or create anything — it’s all done for them,” Saarinin says.

“Sad truth is that there is no place for conventional forums any more with the recent generations. Traffic is down. Enthusiasm is down. Mood is down. Discussion is down.”

The lessened interest and fewer visits adds to an issue where, according to Saarinen, Google is serving fewer ads to forums in general.

“Google delivers fewer and fewer ads in forums (most ad slots are empty, meaning we don’t have even a chance to get anything), so for a long time I’ve had to pay most of the server costs from my own pocket, even with some occasional donations which I appreciate,” he says.

“Even if financially this wasn’t a burden, I do not have time or interest to code by request or set up servers (I’ve put thousands of hours for POTN during the years). Members can get very demanding, there’s no real joy in this ‘service’ for me any more. I do not really shoot photos any more, I have other interests and a profession in music.”

The site’s founder says that the only “logical option” remaining is to shut the site down by the end of the year, though an exact time has not yet been determined. Saarinin says that he is not planning to keep a read only version of the site up either, as that still incurs server costs. Instead, he will “pull the plug” and the site — and its contents — will be taken offline.

“I apologize to our members (some have been here over 20 years) that the site can not go on, but nothing lasts forever. I fully intended to keep this running, but it’s not a viable solution any more. All I can say I’m sorry for the situation and mourn loss of a great community. All things come to an end, and it is time to move on.”