Shutterfly is a free service that allows people from all over the world to easily and efficiently share photos with each other online. Anyone can create an account by logging into shutterfly.com, in much the same way as they would create a free email address. Once you have an account at shutterfly.com, you user can upload your digital photos for organizing and viewing purposes. To share shutterfly photos, a shutterfly user simply has to direct the intended recipient to their shutterfly page, where the photos will be available for all to see.
Shutterfly serves an important purpose to digital photographers. Before services like shutterfly existed, it was often cumbersome to share digital photos with others. Digital photo files are generally much larger than most other types of files, and for many users this would make emailing photos a problem: it was only in the last couple of years that email accounts with the necessary amount of storage space became available. Sharing a digital photo would also require the user to email many different people at once, which usually became a hassle - not to mention the fact that some people with slower internet connections resent having to download large photos they didn't specifically request.
To share shutterfly photos, the user is dealing with a much easier process: they simply upload their photos to their shutterfly space and organize them as they like, after which they can direct whomever they choose to view the photos. In effect, shutterfly replicates a small photo web page, without requiring the user to deal with any of the maintenance inherent in building and maintaining a webpage.
In many cases, shutterfly is going to appeal most to regular photographers, but it can also be useful for sharing a single picture with a group. Much like file sending services like yousendit, shutterfly can act as an easy way for a large file to be accessed by a group of people. At a large function, someone who snapped a group photo could easily create a quick shutterfly account and direct those in the group to view it. Similarly, people traveling in far parts of the world can create shutterfly pages of their travel photos and direct their friends back home to the links. The receivers, instead of being dependant on their email for viewing the photos, can view them on any computer, and can share them with even more friends.
Like many new technologies, there are certain aspects of digital photography that have developed at different rates. The ability to share mp3 music files existed long before portable devices to play them, and the reverse happened with digital photography: the means to take large digital photographs existed before there was an easy means to share them.
Shutterfly fills an important role that was one of the few remaining things that conventional photography had over the digital variety: easy viewing of photos. Now people without photo printers or technical know-how may share their digital photos, a trend that will only continue in the future.