Update: Here's the link that'll let you skip the queue.
The cloud-based family photo manager ThisLife has been percolating in development for a couple of years, but with a new $2.75m round of investment and a fresh look, the service is almost ready for prime time. As part of the beta phase, ThisLife is offering both a Mac uploader tool for photos and an updated iOS app to help you organize and display your images or videos.
ThisLife will happily ingest photos and movie clips from a slew of online sources (Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Kodak, Smugmug, Shutterfly, Picasa or Twitter), in addition to direct uploading with the desktop tool or simply emailing your photos to the service. The desktop uploader can optionally grab photos directly from iPhoto -- either all at once or individually, your choice -- or import them from SD cards as they're mounted on your Mac.
Once the photos are loaded to ThisLife, the magic begins. The service keeps a Library of all your images, and you flag your favorites to be called out as Moments; the Moments are what make up your Timeline, the virtual scrapbook of your family. If you're trying to track kid photos over several years without getting bogged down in fifteen near-identical snapshots of the messy spaghetti incident, this is a big help.
ThisLife also includes impressive face recognition, which will be familiar to anyone who's used the current iPhoto app; you knock out the faces that don't match, and ThisLife automatically tags recognized images with the person's name. Photos that are tagged on Facebook match up with ThisLife faces instantly, no manual tagging needed.
The web app and the iOS app are both a pleasure to look at, with an uncluttered design and responsive viewing; the web app even lets you choose between Flash and HTML5 versions. Sharing options include giving a spouse or grandparent co-curator access to a complete set of images ("sharing your Life," and the service supports multiple Life collections); individual Moments can be shared by email or social networks. A more comprehensive Moment sharing model with persistent access is coming soon.
ThisLife may not be a one-to-one replacement for MobileMe Galleries -- and with less than three days left to go before MobileMe sunsets, it's a little late to be looking for that at this juncture -- but it's got a solid foundation and an interesting approach to the challenge of managing family photos. The company was founded by a husband & wife team who simply wanted to organize their images, and the product remains focused on the specific issues of photos and family.
Invite-only registration for ThisLife is ongoing, so you can sign up at the site (or check back here later today for a TUAW-only invite link that lets you jump the queue). The service is free for up to 1,000 photos or an hour of video clips; after that, plans start at $7.99/month ($79.99 a year) for 20,000 photos.
Note: Commenter Jayne is concerned about the "entire iPhoto library import" -- please note that is optional, not mandatory.