AOL has notified its users that it is to close its AOL Pictures service at the end of the year. Consumers with images stored on AOL Pictures will be able to access them in 2009 via AOL's photo-service partner Pixum. US users are pointed at American Greetings PhotoWorks.

AOL has decided to focus on its advertising business. A spokesman said the AOL Pictures closure was a result of its renewed focus on driving ads revenues rather than subscription services.

"AOL's shift to a web-based, ad focused company has caused us to take a closer look at the products we offer and we determined that managing and maintaining hosted and subscription-based services is not in the best long term interest of our users or our business," said the spokesman.

AOL's Xdrive online storage and Bluestring multimedia sites will also be shut down at the end of 2008.In 2006 AOL began publicly testing an upgrade of its AOL Pictures photo site that incorporates tagging, management and sharing features made popular by Yahoo's Flickr.

AOL Pictures let people create public galleries of their photos, categorize pictures with descriptive tags, add comments to them and search through all the public photos on the service's catalogue. It was originally seen as a potential rival to Flickr.

In an "Important Service Announcement to all AOL Pictures Users" the company states:

"We have partnered with Pixum, one of Europe's leading and multi-award winning independent online photo service providers, to provide all AOL Pictures customers with an improved and fully integrated 'one-stop' online photo service.

"To ensure that you keep all your photos, we recommend that you transfer your photos to the new photo service provided by Pixum before 31 December 2008. Alternatively, you can download your photos to your computer. Simply select your preferred option below.

"Please note that to transfer your photos you will have to sign up for a Pixum account. By clicking "GO", you consent that your name, email address and AOL Screen Name are encrypted and sent to Pixum to facilitate the registration and the transfer of your photos.

"You need to ensure you have either transferred your photos to the new photo service provided by Pixum or downloaded them to your computer by 31 December 2008. After this time, the site will be permanently closed and you will not be able to access your photos through AOL Pictures. So, do please ensure that you act now."

For more information on AOL Pictures and the new Pixum photo service users are urged to visit an AOL Pictures FAQ.

AOL Pictures closure