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Et tu, Yahoo? I suppose I saw it coming.
May 15, 2012 11:18 AM   Subscribe

How Yahoo killed Flickr and Lost the Internet by Mat Honan of Gizmodo.
posted by Atreides (110 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Husband-and-wife development team Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake had created a photo sharing feature for another product they were working on, Game Neverending. Butterfield and Fake were old-school Web types. The kind with low Metafilter user numbers and WELL accounts."
posted by donovan at 11:24 AM on May 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


We were name-dropped by Gizmodo? Metafilter is OVER, man. It is OVER!
posted by sourwookie at 11:27 AM on May 15, 2012 [37 favorites]


I'm sure Yahoo has bungled Flickr, but I'm fine with the end result as it stands. I'm more than okay with Flickr being unlike Instagram. Maybe Flickr was never supposed to be cool. It's a somewhat nerdy place. Let's keep it that way.

The photo service that was once poised to take on the the world has now become an afterthought. Want to share photos on the Web? That's what Facebook is for.

That's not true. That's not true at all. I like having my photos on a different site. I don't want to bug my Facebook friends with my bird photos or whatever. Besides, Facebook's photo interface is pretty terrible.

My perception as a Flickr user is that Flickr remains to be mostly about the photos, which is what I care about, and less about truly social aspects. I barely know most of my Flickr contacts. I mostly only friend people whose photos I like. That's it. I like it that way.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:29 AM on May 15, 2012 [36 favorites]


I liked this:

It's no secret that for many entrepreneurs, the exit is always the goal. It's about the sellout before the first line of code is written. But for a select group, products are meant to be art. They are meant to literally change the world. And for those, selling out can be especially problematic.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:29 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Name-dropped but not hyper-linked.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:30 AM on May 15, 2012 [22 favorites]


Just yesterday I was doing some spring e-cleaning and bought a three-month Flickr Pro account for the sole purpose of organizing my Flickr photos locally (I had wiped them off my hard drive to clear up space). I've had an account since January 2005 -- a couple of months before the Yahoo acquisition -- but I hadn't uploaded anything since 2009.
posted by danb at 11:31 AM on May 15, 2012


flickr lost the internet when it didn't adapt to the changing landscape. They're still charging $25/year even though the costs of storage and bandwidth have plummeted. If I could still see all my photos and sets after my Pro account expires (just with advertising, or maybe an upload limit) I would still upload photos to them, but every year that bill comes due and my life stream snaps shut until I pony up another $25. I can't recommend a service that explicitly holds their content hostage to any of my friends.

So instead I take pictures, they live on my hard drive and in my backups, and I only post the cute ones of my kid to Facebook.
posted by jeffkramer at 11:31 AM on May 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


I think, for "photography", 500px has got it. I'm not sure it can scale up, and sometimes I feel like it is a little too pandering, but that is a problem with photography in the age of review-100-photos-in-one-minute age; photos have to go for the quick hit to grab your attention in the milliseconds they are given. But still, I find it so much richer. Of course Flickr fills in far more niches than just "photography".
posted by Bovine Love at 11:33 AM on May 15, 2012


From my experiences, the description of internal Yahoo politics is depressingly accurate.
posted by feckless at 11:34 AM on May 15, 2012


It's hyper-linked! This thread in particular is linked in the following paragraph. Hey, it's an old school post!

(PS: I knew that because I wrote the story.)
posted by emptyage at 11:36 AM on May 15, 2012 [17 favorites]


Meh, my flickr photos show up on my facebook stream. In so much as I want to pimp them, that's enough for me.
posted by MillMan at 11:38 AM on May 15, 2012


Delicious : Pinboard :: Flickr : ?
posted by michaelh at 11:38 AM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think, for "photography", 500px has got it. I'm not sure it can scale up.
I see what you did there.
posted by jepler at 11:42 AM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yahoo lost the internet in 1998.

All it's been doing since then is stinking up the place.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:43 AM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Even though I've flirted with taking all my thousands of photos elsewhere, I've been happy with Flickr as the home base for my photography. I can sync my photos and upload them as soon as I'm done editing in Lightroom, and once they're on Flickr I can send the links out or just add the photos to twitter or tumblr.

The big difference between Flickr now and Flickr 5-7 years ago is social and the article touches on that point. In 2006 I had friends who had Flickr accounts with little to no photos in them at all; they just wanted to see, comment on, and favourite their friends photos. And if Flickr had been on the ball with having a (good) iOS app early on, that may have continued. Instead, all of those casual users migrated to Facebook.

Now, the only people on Flickr are photographers. That's fine. But the people I socialize with and see on a daily basis have all moved away. That's not hypothetical new users. That's lost users that Yahoo had in hand and let slip away. And they're never coming back.
posted by thecjm at 11:48 AM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Good riddance. Flickr has always been a black hole of terrible UI, slowness, and bloat. To this day, they still can't seem to correctly implement even the most basic of tasks of a photo site: being able to see photos in a screen-filling slideshow format that is fast and responsive. Preloading images? Nah, we won't implement that. Ability to disable the stupid dissolve between photos? Nope, can't undo that. The result is that while other sites have had ways to quickly view photos in large size in a manner that's fast and responsive, Flickr still plods along with this slow as shit UI that makes you wait and wait and wait for anything and everything.

I can't believe it's taken people this long to realize that Flickr is built on a pile of fail.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:52 AM on May 15, 2012 [14 favorites]


"an app that adds cats with laser eyes to your photos"

Talk about burying the lede...
posted by mikepop at 11:53 AM on May 15, 2012 [16 favorites]


One use that a few of my friends have for Flickr are anonymous accounts: they make public the upload email address.

Funny thing was the original one was started and pushed by a couple who eventually broke up. The guy kept the account and the girl started her own. Now they battle passive-aggressively trying to one up each other (among the other uploaders to their respective Flickr streams) with interesting content.

flasparphone vs Babephone
posted by wcfields at 11:56 AM on May 15, 2012


This article is wonderful (literal lol at Imgur (Imgur for fuck's sake!)). I completely dropped out of the flickrverse once it became a pain to upload with that desktop uploader thing. That was a nightmare.

I actually just re-upped to a pro account a few weeks ago, not to use it again but to be able to access all my dumb photos so I could move 'em all somewhere else. The way things are going over there, I don't want to lose everything in case they decide to shut the whole thing down.
posted by troika at 11:57 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like Flickr because my pics are my pics and not something that looks like my mom's 1983 Vivitar.
posted by stormpooper at 12:02 PM on May 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


> Metafilter: Name-dropped but not hyper-linked.

Hmm, I was going to go for this:

Metafilter: Just a fucking database.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:02 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I collect old photos to scan them and I still haven't found any place to upload all my scans to better than Flickr. If anybody has any suggestions I'd like to hear them. I don't want to put them on Facebook because I want them all public and creative commons.
posted by interplanetjanet at 12:03 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


a photo sharing feature for another product they were working on, Game Neverending.

Oh, I forgot all about Game Neverending. I used to play it when it was free to join and Caterina was a blogger I used to read and maybe she used to read mine and and. Maybe. It was a long time ago. Something about collecting paper and eat creme brulee and sprinkling fairy dust. I can't even remember what it looked like. Is it possible I played a text-only or text-mainly prototype? And Flickr came out of that?
posted by pracowity at 12:05 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm keeping my Flickr account out of inertia because I don't use Facebook and I really can't figure out Instagram. If your friends don't have a smartphone with the app, they're just screwed out of seeing your pictures?
posted by desjardins at 12:08 PM on May 15, 2012


I still have a pro flickr account because I haven't figured out where to share my non-mobile photos publicly. And Facebook limits albums to 200 images only, so my 365 projects have to be split up wtf? I should take a look at 500px again.

pracowity - Game Neverending has been redone as Glitch which is adorable and pretty fantastic. There's even a Metafilter group!
posted by rhapsodie at 12:09 PM on May 15, 2012


Flickr launches new 'liquid' layout, brings high-resolution images to the main photo pages

More details here. We have a lot more changes in store for this year. Stay tuned!

It doesn't look like Flickr is standing still.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 12:13 PM on May 15, 2012


From the comments - Flickrs groups have not been replaced by any other service.

I think (think, mind, I may be wrong) this is true. I haven't found anything, but maybe I'm not looking hard enough because I find flickr easy to use.
posted by ntrifle at 12:13 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a funny thing. I just realized that I used to use Flickr, Upcoming, and Delicious, and it was Yahoo buyouts that made me wander away from each. (Though I still weep over the mangled corpse of Delicious.)
posted by Karmakaze at 12:20 PM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


low Metafilter user numbers

I'm so uncool - - I arrived after they stopped handing out user numbers. :(
posted by fairmettle at 12:23 PM on May 15, 2012


What do you mean, #19153?
posted by kaibutsu at 12:28 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


1970s Antihero: "It doesn't look like Flickr is standing still."

Wow, they changed a width attribute in the CSS. You're right, they're totally investing in cool new features.
posted by Plutor at 12:31 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I maintain a Flickr Pro account and the only thing I wish it would do that it currently doesn't is to automatically post my photos to G+. For whatever reason, it feels like the resized photos on flickr look better than the resized photos on facebook or any of the others. I also like how you can easily get links to all the various resolutions of a photo; everything from original size to a tiny thumbnail.

I tried 500px but I'm just not digging the, I guess it's the "experience" of that site. I guess it's too social or something? I dunno, I'm not really big on social networking.

I would love for Google to buy Flickr and replace Picasa with it. I want to like picasa, but the interface just rubs me the wrong way.
posted by Bonky Moon at 12:33 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have had a Flickr pro account for years, but every year I hesitate a little longer before I re-up. One of these times, I'm probably going to just download everything and let it lapse. I would check out 500px, but honestly, I'm tired of signing up for another damn internet account. Zoomr, SmugMug, now 500px -- It just feels like "okay we're all going over here now..."okay now we're all going over here instead..."
posted by statolith at 12:39 PM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


"an app that adds cats with laser eyes to your photos"

Interestingly CatPaint (yes I have it don't judge me) outputs to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram but not Flickr. Flickr's lost the lasercat market. They're toast.
posted by Blue Meanie at 12:40 PM on May 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Flickr bums me out when I think of what it used to be. If it didn't involve training a bunch of change-averse grandparents to go see cute grandbaby pictures somewhere else, I'd probably ditch it. The last time I re-upped, the warning that failing to renew would cost me access to my own fucking photos left a really bad taste in my mouth. I was a flickr member since before they even started charging, so yeah. Not happy.
posted by ambrosia at 12:47 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


What do you mean, #19153?

Hidden in plain sight - - that's the second time I've fallen for that this week!
posted by fairmettle at 12:53 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Depressing article, but I've got 13k+ photos on Flickr and I'm not quite ready to leave yet. Even if I wanted to, how would I go about it from a practical point of view? Where would I go? 500px? Picasa? How would I move all those photos and keep tagging, EXIF, and geo info intact? What would it cost?
posted by muckster at 12:56 PM on May 15, 2012


I mean yeah, if you measure the site strictly by the current financially-hot paradigm - i.e. "is it bringing in the major Social Networking bucks", I suppose it's a "failure" of sorts for not jumping on that particular bandwagon. But whatever; there's a whole world out there that that isn't all about "social app" markets, y'know.

I won't claim Flickr is perfect (losing access to your content if you drop the Pro account is a good case in point), but it does everything I care about. I use it to show my photos to those I care to show them to, it's not an alternative to storing my own personal content locally and never will be, and I'll gladly trade a $25 yearly fee for the opportunity to just look at photos without being incessantly advertized to or told who I should be following. What's the big freakin' deal? Why do people seem to think it has to be something other than it is, as long as enough people like it enough to pay the yearly fee?
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:59 PM on May 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


I've never been anything other than perfectly happy with flickr... I don't get all the complaints at all. I used to run a Pro Account Giveaway group and gave away a couple hundred Pro Accounts - all those folks sure like flickr.....

500px is nice for what it is, but I don't enjoy it as much. I DO, however pay for the upgrade on 500px because its an excellent way to host the dead simple business website that I've always wanted - without any extra effort.
posted by blaneyphoto at 1:02 PM on May 15, 2012


I remember Flickr Meetups, wandering around with other local photographers and shooting flowers while shooting the shit. I met a lot of great people that way, and nothing else has replaced that social aspect of meeting-new-people-with-similar-interests while Flickr's local groups are ghost towns. The Flickr group moved over to Meetup.com briefly, but that's also struggling for activity.
posted by rhapsodie at 1:02 PM on May 15, 2012


The only reason I keep my flickr account open now is that my dad refuses to sign up for Facebook.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 1:03 PM on May 15, 2012


The only reason I keep my flickr account open now is that my dad refuses to sign up for Facebook.

Team Bottlebrushtree's Dad.
posted by The Bellman at 1:07 PM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


The only reason I keep my flickr account open now is that my dad refuses to sign up for Facebook.

The only reason I post to Facebook is that my mom refuses to sign up for Flickr.
posted by rhapsodie at 1:10 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would love for Google to buy Flickr and replace Picasa with it.

I would love this as well. I pretty much never use Flickr, mostly because of its association with Yahoo, the fact that I had to sign up for a Yahoo account to join, the fact that I have to whitelist a bazillion Yahoo domains on NoScript in order to make use of all the "features," yadda yadda.
posted by Gator at 1:12 PM on May 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ugh, man talk about terrible timing. My Pro account just expired a week ago. I've been a member for 4 or 5 years and have barely used it in the last two.

I was planning on letting my account lapse but I didn't realize that they hold your photos hostage. My fault I suppose for not reading the fine print, but what a shitty user experience. I also agree that $24.95 is a laughable amount to charge for storage in the year 2012.

I also didn't realize that they have never offered any native batch export features. If you want to get all your original photos in one fell swoop, forget it. You would need to go one photo at a time and download original.

I just found and tested a free Windows-only program called Migratr that will bulk download your images (with metadata). It will also move them to another service of your choice. I didn't try that part but it did download nicely and quickly.
posted by jeremias at 1:15 PM on May 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


I used to be a huge Flickr user. I went to most of the local meet-ups, ran a few groups, made a bunch of friends. It was great.

I didn't mind the Yahoo integration. But what fucking killed it for me was not that I had to login as MunchingZombie but as MunchingZombie@yahoo.com. Every. Time.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:32 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like how Mat Honan baited us with either the title for this page or the title for the link ("If you can't beat laser cat, you probably deserve to die.") and Atreides boldly chose ignore it.

I'd estimate that 99% of what's in my Flickr Pro account is set to Friends/Family, and that some day a month or so before my next renewal I'll pull the trigger all the way on SmugMug's SmuggLr and just get a pro account over there, which is somehow incredibly depressing.
posted by togdon at 1:34 PM on May 15, 2012


I refuse to take Flickr seriously until they have an iPad app, and maybe not even then.

If Apple's new photo-sharing feature in iCloud is even somewhat compelling, I don't expect to renew my Flickr Pro account.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:53 PM on May 15, 2012


The other thing that these "Yahoo totally wrecked Flickr" articles never mention is that one of the things that made it such a successful community early on was its relatively small size; when I started using Flickr heavily in early 2005, there were already way more photos, users, and groups than anyone could ever see all of, but there were few enough that you could fall in with a little clique of people that you found through commenting on each others' photos. The signal to noise ratio was very high, and it really had the same kind of cohesive community feel that Metafilter (IMO) still does.

After another year or two, though, there were just too many users uploading too many damn photos to keep up. Then the appearance and proliferation of those damn sparkly animated gif "You have won my super excellent award of excellence" comment spam graphics killed what little charm Flickr had left for me. I've kept up my pro account mostly out of inertia, but this is the year I download all my stuff and let it lapse. Last year it took me about 2 months to re-up because the Paypal integration was broken, and Flickr support had nothing to say but "Huh, maybe try using a different browser."
posted by usonian at 1:58 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


togdon, if SmugMug is 5/month (60/yr) why would you choose that over 25/yr at Flickr? Is it any better?

And others; if you did leave Flickr, where would you go? I haven't used DropBox or the other programs the article mentions; do they work even partially as well, or is their biggest draw that they are cheaper?
posted by emjaybee at 1:59 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then the appearance and proliferation of those damn sparkly animated gif "You have won my super excellent award of excellence" comment spam graphics killed what little charm Flickr had left for me. I've kept up my pro account mostly out of inertia, but this is the year...

QFT. I would have let my Pro lapse much earlier if I had actually been paying for it.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:03 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


> This thread in particular is linked in the following paragraph. Hey, it's an old school post!

An old school post with sixteen comments. That boggles my mind. A comparable post now would get that many comments in five minutes.

> The signal to noise ratio was very high, and it really had the same kind of cohesive community feel that Metafilter (IMO) still does.

Not like it used to. #getoffmylawn
posted by languagehat at 2:13 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, I didn't realize Flickr was dead. I don't know where else I'd put my amateur photography. It's more than Facebook can handle (and I don't trust their IP protections for users, anyhow), and I'm really just not that into Instagram.

I have a few photographer friends; they all use Flickr and I like being able to keep up on their work. It might not be so attractive to casual users, but I think they still have a solid user base in quasi-to-serious amateurs and semi-pros and the folks who aspire to become so.
posted by smirkette at 2:17 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


emjaybee, because I figure that Yahoo! is going to del.icio.us Flickr at any moment.That sentence is either from the future or the past, I can't tell.

I manage hundreds of servers for other people every day, so at the end of mine I'd rather pay someone else to deal with that for backing up and displaying (to a very small/select group of people) my photos. What needs to happen is that Adobe, Apple, or someone else needs to publish an EC2 instance/VMDK/etc. of a Flickr/Smugmug/500px clone that you launch once from within Lightroom/Aperture and then host your photos from there with Amazon/Rackspace/whoever on the hook for growing the storage, backing it up, etc. That way you own it, you control it, and the magic happens in the cloud.
posted by togdon at 2:18 PM on May 15, 2012


Yahoo's third CEO in three years just quit shamefully. Other companies seem to be poaching Yahoo top engineers -- Douglas Crockford now works for PayPal not Yahoo. Seems like Yahoo is just a sad state all around.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:22 PM on May 15, 2012


I still use flickr, partially because it is well integrated with Lightroom and I do a lot of tagging in LR that gets automatically added to my photos on flickr. Also, jeez, it seems I have 43,557 photos on flickr.
posted by snofoam at 2:34 PM on May 15, 2012


Just did a quick click-through to make sure this is just semi-coherent nerd raga and that they're not actually discontinuing flickr, because, you know, it's obviously a really good place to put your pictures and I put my pictures there.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:38 PM on May 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


nerd *rage*

Though frankly "semi-coherent nerd raga" sounds pretty awesome.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:39 PM on May 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also, this really underscores the fundamental problem with having stuff in the cloud. When I started using flickr it was the biggest, best photo sharing site on earth and the one most likely to survive indefinitely. I really don't want to go to the hassle of changing.

On the other hand, if flickr really does go under, presumably someone will buy it and my photos and stuff will remain unchanged without me having to do something about it.
posted by snofoam at 2:41 PM on May 15, 2012


I'm grateful to Metafilter's own Mat Honan for writing this article. He's done a great job laying out, on the record, all the horrible mismanagement that Flickr suffered under Yahoo's ownership. There was a lot of creativity and desire to do good stuff in that team, it's a shame how Flickr has languished so long. It's also a great cautionary tale for other startups looking to be acquired.

It's interesting seeing how Google has managed YouTube. They were quite explicit about keeping that acquisition at arm's length, letting them develop independently. It's worked pretty well.
posted by Nelson at 2:46 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have a Pro Account with flickr, which is one reason the article drew my attention. I used to actively upload photographs and what not. Then, incidentally, I stopped having the time to take photographs and now I use my account nearly exclusively as a place to host and organize images for my website. It does that pretty well!
posted by Atreides at 2:57 PM on May 15, 2012


KokuRyu: "I liked this:

It's no secret that for many entrepreneurs, the exit is always the goal. It's about the sellout before the first line of code is written. But for a select group, products are meant to be art. They are meant to literally change the world. And for those, selling out can be especially problematic.
"

My friend is a web dev and he bitches about this all the time. People he knows who are always trying to think of some PRODUCT to SELL for billions. He hates how this has gotten to be what a lot of web developers/designers think about.
posted by symbioid at 3:18 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, I worked for about 5 or 6 years in the realm of "technology commercialization", first for an industry association, and then for a government agency. The people who wanted to cash out were always trying to figure out how to make their product more attractive for potential investors. The people who ran so-called "mom and pops" were always trying to figure out how to make products more attractive for customers.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:34 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not everyone is cut out to run companies past the start-up stage. They're actually doing the company and its employees a favor by getting out when it's reached a steady state. I worked for a guy who should have sold his company but kept it instead, it was a big mistake although it took me a while to realize it.
posted by tommasz at 3:35 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sad to hear this about Flickr, as only an occasional user I had no idea about the decline of its social userbase.

One thing the site still does better than anyone else is its creative commons database - an indispensable resource. Facebook can never (and doesn't ever want to) allow those kinds of licenses and searching.
posted by Vectorcon Systems at 4:15 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's the big freakin' deal? Why do people seem to think it has to be something other than it is, as long as enough people like it enough to pay the yearly fee?

Well, you've got to ask yourself what sorts of people give enough of a shit about web sites to read commentary on them in the first place. Instead of, you know, using them and not worrying too much about it.

So there's a contingent of readers who are obsessed – obsessed! – with startups and sellouts and the money side of things. People for whom the Internet is an escape from cubicles towards something funner and potentially more lucrative. Then there are people who just kind of love the Internet. Not one thing about the Internet, just the whole idea of the thing, you know? Where'll it go next? What're people doing with it three hours ago? Some people are cinema junkies, other people are 'net junkies, it's cool. And there are the people who don't just love the Internet, they see it as somehow essential to the future of the world, capable of reforming how people think in a fundamental enough way that maybe everything could be better for everybody always.

Really it's the same three categories as anything else: career, or "betterment", or just plain fun. They mix and match in all the usual exciting ways. But if you don't have those interests in the subject, then anything said about it by the enthusiasts is gonna sound unnecessary and possibly annoying too. It's okay to ignore them and let them have their fun.

(This is actually one of the big contributors to strife on MetaFilter, actually: there's something irksome about people criticizing things you like or loving things you don't, if they're criticizing/loving for reasons you don't share or even see the point of. But the opposite approach, where you generate custom networks of people who share your interests, sucks at generating meaningful conversation, and usually makes you hate everybody who even thinks remotely the same way you do. YMMV.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:28 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Butterfield and Fake were old-school Web types. The kind with low Metafilter user numbers

As somebody with a really low Metafilter user number. I can say that Flickr still serves it's purpose for me.
posted by jonmc at 4:41 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Great article. I worked for a little company that was bought by a big company, and let me tell you, it was all kinds of horrible trying to merge the two. This article was a huge reminder of that time.

But I suppose, in the long term, this article is really asking "What's the lifespan of web properties?" I've seen websites come and go, communities come and go...should there be an expectation that they go on forever? Heck, not even esteemed brick and mortar companies can go on forever these days.
posted by Calzephyr at 4:44 PM on May 15, 2012


"What's the lifespan of web properties?"


"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

posted by sylloge at 5:58 PM on May 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


I recently happened to listen to two vaguely on-topic Long Now seminars:

Clay Shirky among other things, calling out Flickr and Yahoo as examples of tagging and indexing as alternative data-access strategies.

Geoffrey B. West on scaling laws in to human organizations.

Taken together, they suggest both that Yahoo was a thoroughly dumb idea in 1994, and that its decline should not be a surprise.
posted by eotvos at 6:01 PM on May 15, 2012


I don't understand the complaints about Flickr's $25/year price tag. It seems about the best offer going, from memory, after having looked at 500px and Smugmug. My wife has close to 160,000 photos on Flickr - how much would that cost per year to host on the alternatives? Would it even be possible?

For me, Flickr is good enough. It does the job it's supposed to, and their failure to put it through a redesign every 3 months and try to squeeze in more "features" is a positive.
posted by Jimbob at 6:13 PM on May 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


That's not true. That's not true at all. I like having my photos on a different site. I don't want to bug my Facebook friends with my bird photos or whatever. Besides, Facebook's photo interface is pretty terrible.

Also, don't they reserve the right to use any photos you upload in ads? Fuck that shit right there.
posted by acb at 6:17 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Facebook is such a walled garden now. I closed my account six months ago, and I'm surprised at how many things I can't see even if they're ostensibly public (e.g. a fundraising event, a news article, a band fanpage). Almost every FB link goes to "you must login to see this page" - it didn't used to be that way, did it?

Anyway, if I put something up on Flickr and send a link to my family, I know they can see it without having to create an account.
posted by desjardins at 6:22 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking of user numbers, 122025 looks to be as high as MeFi goes for someone who joined January 5, 2011. What does a user profile link look like for someone who’s joined since then?
posted by migurski at 6:32 PM on May 15, 2012


FWIW, I still use Flickr, and am about to renew my Pro account. Flickr is not dead or intrinsically dying because of the following:

1) It is still the premier online community for social photo sharing that's primarily about the photos. On Facebook or Google+, it's about your relationship with the people posting and/or viewing the photos. You post photos of you and your mates in a tequila bar in Thailand, or your nephew's first birthday party, or whatever, and were a stranger to look at them, in most cases it'd be an amateur snap of a bunch of random people. But the point is that strangers typically don't look at these photos; they're for people who know the people in them to see what's going on in their lives. Flickr, by and large, isn't about that (despite Yahoo's ill-judged "tag people in this photo" feature); there, users post photos that are intrinsically interesting, tag them and post them to groups, and favourite and comment on others' photos, and it's perfectly normal to follow someone because you like the way they photograph sunsets or urban ruins or Lego dioramas or whatever.

2) Unlike Instagram, it scales beyond mobile phone cameras; while the most popular camera there may be an iPhone, you see a lot of SLRs and interchangeable-lens compacts and a fair amount of scanned film. It caters for the camera geeks.

3) Flickr has the network effects of a network of special interest groups. (These are often quite light interests, such as sunsets, water surface reflections, night-time photography without Flash, photography in specific regions, or things like "Red Rule" (if you see red, shoot it); one can post photos to an arbitrary number of them.) AFAIK, other services don't have such groups and built-in audiences of interested strangers. Flickr also has APIs, which other sites (such as MetaFilter's user profile pages and last.fm's event pages) tap into.

4) There is no compelling reason to move elsewhere. Flickr hasn't advanced much over the past few years, but it hasn't deteriorated in what it does well or become unusable to the point to make people start surveying the other options, and contemplating urging their Flickr contacts to jump ship with them. Also, the main one that seems to be mentioned is Picasa, and given Google's somewhat contentious handling of Google+, that is not an uncontroversial choice.

So yes, if Yahoo were to sack all their Flickr engineers and the service would start accumulating bugs and becoming unusable, or if they decided to "sunset" it à la Google Wave, the life would drain out of it; perhaps someone would set up a Pinboard-esque alternative. (Some have tried; the net is littered with half-baked Flickr clones like Zooomr and Ipernity.) But it seems that they're putting resources into improving Flickr again, which means that, unless they do something stupid, it'll be around in its niche for a while longer.
posted by acb at 6:38 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


migurski: Speaking of user numbers, 122025 looks to be as high as MeFi goes for someone who joined January 5, 2011. What does a user profile link look like for someone who’s joined since then?

It's the same, but there are apparently gaps, perhaps due to people failing to complete registration. See: (133576), (133581), (133583), (and undoubtedly more).
posted by xigxag at 8:07 PM on May 15, 2012


How does Yahoo? I mean, what does Yahoo actually to?
posted by mattoxic at 9:21 PM on May 15, 2012


I stopped using Flickr regularly in 2008 or so, when my laptop broke, leaving me with no real way of uploading. When I got a new one in 2010, I was faced with a bunch of photos to upload, and going back to a site that seemed less appealing, like resuming blogging on LiveJournal. Using Facebook for photos doesn't appeal at all (I no longer have an account), I'm not interested in 'social networking' - the special interest/challenge.groups on Flickr were great, trolling for views and sparkly gifs less so, seriously some comment threads look like Netmums these days - DeviantArt's reputation as a place for goth/furry art puts me off, and the name 'SmugMug' makes my teeth itch.

So now I have thousands of photos I need to sort through and make into a decent portfolio, and I Don't know.if.Flickr is the place to do it. Do I start fresh with a new account there, or go elsewhere?

For my contacts, I saw a big dropoff after the sign-up with Yahoo, but I think that's because at the time I was active in the Blythe doll community. Yahoo closed down the groups used for buying and selling, and a ton of prominent doll photographers shut down their accounts in protest. Probably not a huge impact, but if a similar thing happened with other hobbies that had a strong photography element as well as a collecting one, I wonder if it made a difference amongst less casual users.
posted by mippy at 12:32 AM on May 16, 2012


Also, there are a lot of.fetish groups on Flickr, closed off to the general public. (I found.this out when I uploaded a shot of me as a teenager wearing tights and a dress, and got lots of favourites from people with names like 'tightslover53'. I took them down inthe end, even if they were just snapshots of a dorky teenager.) I wonder if there are other services that cater for that market?I think Facebook aren't even keen on breastfeeding photos, never mind anything filthy.
posted by mippy at 12:37 AM on May 16, 2012


I just tried to re-up my Pro account after several years after I realized Flickr would be holding most of my photos hostage until I did so. Unfortunately, my Yahoo account was linked to an old PayPal account with outdated credit info. The payment page gave me no options for adding a new credit card. I contacted the Help Desk using the contact form, received an acknowledgement that my request was in the queue, and then...nothing. Until I received an email asking me to evaluate the support I'd just received from Flickr.

Nice work, Yahoo. That's the last time I try to give you money.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 2:47 AM on May 16, 2012


I wonder if there are other services that cater for that market?I

It's the internet.
posted by Jimbob at 3:04 AM on May 16, 2012


To be fair, Flickr has totally got the market for perverts who want to look at really specific pictures.

A while ago, I noticed that somebody had fav'ed a picture of me in a full-leg cast. Clicking through, I noticed that all of his pictures were of people - usually men - in plaster casts. I messaged them through the Flickr system, and it turned out that guys in plaster casts were his thing.

Fair enough, I thought.

Later, I noticed somebody had fav'ed a picture of me wearing slippers. Clicking through, I noticed that all of his pictures were of men in slippers...

I have no idea if the slipper fetishists and the plaster-cast people have enough money to keep Flickr going. But, I suspect that people like them are a heavy part of Flickr's ongoing community. Could you even make a gallery of your favourite slipper shots on Facebook?
posted by The River Ivel at 3:22 AM on May 16, 2012


What a sad article - the slow degradation of a website that used to be run by passionate people who genuinely wanted to make something fun and useful is a real loss to the broader Internet. I wish there'd been some way for Flickr to keep the servers running without having to take outside money.

But I guess this is what always happens when corporate behemoths lumber in and squash everything nice about a place (see also: music festivals, professional sports, etc). Thank goodness Matt didn't have to sell MeFi to keep the lights on.
posted by harriet vane at 3:27 AM on May 16, 2012


Also, there are a lot of.fetish groups on Flickr, closed off to the general public. (I found.this out when I uploaded a shot of me as a teenager wearing tights and a dress, and got lots of favourites from people with names like 'tightslover53'. I took them down inthe end, even if they were just snapshots of a dorky teenager.)

Something similar happened to a friend of mine who posted, among other photos, one of her husband's feet. The photo immediately started getting a lot of attention from people with odd-looking user names. She's still on Flickr and posting regularly (she's a keen photographer), though avoids anything likely to be someone else's fetish, and occasionally jokes about her husband's brief career as a foot fetish model.
posted by acb at 4:38 AM on May 16, 2012


I hate what Yahoo has become and what it's done to so many innovative companies it swallowed, but I still have a soft spot for Flickr despite the fact that I don't use it or visit it or really even think much about it any more.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:07 AM on May 16, 2012


To the people who take photos other than of people you know with something other than a cameraphone but no longer use Flickr: where do you post them? Facebook? Picasa? SmugMug? Personal web hosting? Or has there been a shift against posting photos online altogether, towards only showing them in a physical form?
posted by acb at 5:36 AM on May 16, 2012


I used Migratr to move all my photos from Flickr to Picasa Web, and I was pretty happy with it. I was one of the people who first used Flickr in 2004, when it was still a small Vancouver startup, and most of the people there were from GameNeverEnding. It was a wonderful social community for several years, but its purchase by Yahoo! truly was the beginning of the end. I can still remember how many people were angry that it was Yahoo! instead of Google who bought Flickr out.
posted by Quiplash at 6:06 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


The fact that "Yahoo Sports" makes money indicates how fucked the internet is. If you think G+ is any different, just check out "Explore" every month or so.

Never-ending epigrams and feel-good quotations interspersed with the mind-numblingly sameness of HDR macro or landscape photography.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:14 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


mippy: "Also, there are a lot of.fetish groups on Flickr, closed off to the general public. (I found.this out when I uploaded a shot of me as a teenager wearing tights and a dress, and got lots of favourites from people with names like 'tightslover53'. I took them down inthe end, even if they were just snapshots of a dorky teenager.) I wonder if there are other services that cater for that market?I think Facebook aren't even keen on breastfeeding photos, never mind anything filthy."

I got the same thing with a couple of shots of my hair, including a comment from one of them expressing dismay because my description noted that I had since cut it.
posted by Karmakaze at 8:43 AM on May 16, 2012


Yeah, I had a photo on my Flickr of a female friend on crutches. It got an unusual number of views, and had been added to at least one fetish group. That was sigh-inducing.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:47 AM on May 16, 2012


Also, here's a question: one of my recent Flickr uploads has pronounced JPG artifacts, even when viewed at original size. These artifacts are not present in the file that is on my computer, which is a JPG saved at 100% quality. How can I get Flickr to not screw up my images like this?
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:52 AM on May 16, 2012


hmm...seems to me a big point is being missed here...this article isn't really about flickr and yahoo, but about gizmodo and gawker. (should the top story on a mobile tech blog be about the 'lies we all tell on dating websites' (top of gizmodo homepage)...what about 'how common is your birthday?' (top of gizmodo sidebar))
posted by sexyrobot at 9:11 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the article:
"One of Yahoo's goals was to move from a system of notice and takedown, to prescreening all the content members posted before it went up online"
What a very bad idea.
posted by doctornemo at 10:19 AM on May 16, 2012


Another longtime Flickr user. It's been a great way for me to archive/share stuff.
But I can't stand Yahoo for the reasons people cited here and in the article.
And I don't know where to go. I'll try Migratr, quiplash.
posted by doctornemo at 10:21 AM on May 16, 2012


The photo immediately started getting a lot of attention from people with odd-looking user names.
posted by acb


Yep... I see this A LOT. A great number of my clients are models, actors and other generally attractive people. As much as I'm a fan of Flickr, its definitely THE place where weirdos go for photos... I've gotten in the habit of reviewing every single favorite, comment and contact add - as a result, my block list is literally several thousand people long.
posted by blaneyphoto at 10:48 AM on May 16, 2012


clvrmnky: "The fact that "Yahoo Sports" makes money indicates how fucked the internet is. If you think G+ is any different, just check out "Explore" every month or so.

Never-ending epigrams and feel-good quotations interspersed with the mind-numblingly sameness of HDR macro or landscape photography.
"

If I can recall correctly, I believe the killer feature of Yahoo!® Sports™ is that it has the best fantasy-sports app/thing on the web.
posted by wcfields at 10:49 AM on May 16, 2012


@wcfields, I guess I find that sad, but I don't get fantasy sports. It's obsessive in a manner that I can't align with obsessive stuff I know about.
posted by clvrmnky at 11:05 AM on May 16, 2012


(Still no real suggestions for people who want a place to dump their images online. Any thoughts?)
posted by wenestvedt at 11:12 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Still no real suggestions for people who want a place to dump their images online. Any thoughts?)
posted by wenestvedt


If you need simple, cheap storage and hosting then I suggest Fotki.com. I've used them for years and they're very reliable. I've got about 30 terabytes of images stored with them. Not much in the way of "community" although there is some aspect of that.
posted by blaneyphoto at 11:17 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


To be fair, Flickr has totally got the market for perverts who want to look at really specific pictures.

True. I don't know what I would do without my dose of Motor Roads in the Sky - the concrete flyovers of Great Britain or English Medieval Wall Paintings.
posted by ntrifle at 11:32 AM on May 16, 2012


Not to mention Front Doors of Modernism ...oh, sweet mama...
posted by ntrifle at 11:33 AM on May 16, 2012


Something similar happened to a friend of mine who posted, among other photos, one of her husband's feet. The photo immediately started getting a lot of attention from people with odd-looking user names. She's still on Flickr and posting regularly (she's a keen photographer), though avoids anything likely to be someone else's fetish, and occasionally jokes about her husband's brief career as a foot fetish model.

My most popular Flickr uploads are pictures of my feet in colourful handknit socks. Whatever turns you on, internet.
posted by bewilderbeast at 9:28 PM on May 16, 2012


I met my wife on Flickr, back in 2005. We used the site to show each other our lives (I was in London, she was in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado) and fell in love a picture at a time. It was a huge part of my life for a good couple of years. I went to Flickr meetups when I first lived in London, got my first proper camera because of it and even ended up on the news when I posted an MS Paint image to Flickr saying 'I'm OK' after the London bombings.

Unfortunately I can't show you any of these things because my Pro account has lapsed and all of those pictures are hidden by default. I sometimes get nostalgic for the old, pre-Yahoo Flickr and the incredible feeling of possibility it engendered in me. In many ways it's why I work in web design now. But for my wife and I it's like going back to the neighbourhood you first lived in and seeing they've demolished most of it and replaced it with an empty strip mall.

One of these days I'll pony up the $25 and archive everything, but that'll be it. I'm beginning to think the only real solution is to self-host with some gallery software and I'm not sure I really want to do that. I certainly don't want to move to Smugmug or some other site. I guess I'm holding out hope that Yahoo will eventually collapse in on itself and Flickr will sprint out of the fireball as an independent company like the end of an action movie. But I think an ignominious appearance in some shitty 'sunsetted properties' slide at a Yahoo conference circa 2018 is more likely.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:29 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you want to self-host photos, The OpenPhoto project is promising. It started as a Kickstarter project, a bunch of software to let you easily host your own beautiful photo gallery in Dropbox, S3, your own server, whatever. Here's a quick gallery I set up on their hosting service. It doesn't have quite all the features I need yet, but it's close and I'm optimistic the project has good momentum.
posted by Nelson at 7:22 AM on May 17, 2012


The problem with self-hosting is that it's a silo; there's no favouriting, no groups where multiple contributors can post thematically related photos, no potential for serendipitous discovery. While Flickr is an ad hoc communal exhibition, gallery.php or OpenPhoto or HTML galleries exported by the desktop app of your choice on your personal web space are a photo album on your coffee table, visible to invited guests, typically one at a time.

This is changing somewhat with external services that let you share URLs: you can add a Facebook Like button to your HTML, or people can add their favourite photos from people's web spaces to their Pinterest gallery. But it still lacks the seamlessness of Flickr.
posted by acb at 9:22 AM on May 17, 2012


Flickr was a dose of reality to this (amateur) (very amateur) photographer: the only way to get eyeballs is to relentlessly self-promote. Not having done that, my Flickr catalogs contain more actual photos than total views, much less favorites.

Seeing that helped kill the notion of making money as a photographer, which has, over the long run, saved me a *shit-ton* in paper, frames, entry fees, etc.
posted by notsnot at 10:12 AM on May 17, 2012


Flickr was a dose of reality to this (amateur) (very amateur) photographer: the only way to get eyeballs is to relentlessly self-promote. Not having done that, my Flickr catalogs contain more actual photos than total views, much less favorites.
posted by notsnot


I just skimmed through your photos and had trouble finding any with many relevant tags. Keywording images will bring viewers who are looking for those subjects. Also make sure your titles are relevant. Relentless self promotion is also useful but it IS work - but making your images easy to find via tags is practically effortless.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:12 PM on May 17, 2012



One of these days I'll pony up the $25 and archive everything, but that'll be it.

BTW, if you have a lapsed pro account you can renew it for 3 months for $6.95. A slightly easier hit than $25 if all you want to do is download your originals.
posted by jeremias at 6:19 AM on May 18, 2012


jeremias: "One of these days I'll pony up the $25 and archive everything, but that'll be it.

BTW, if you have a lapsed pro account you can renew it for 3 months for $6.95. A slightly easier hit than $25 if all you want to do is download your originals.
"

Ah, fantastic. That's good to know, thanks jeremias.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:24 AM on May 18, 2012


For what it's worth, I just renewed my Flickr Pro account for another year, for the reasons mentioned above (namely, it's still the best site for posting photos not taken with a phone and not of oneself or people one knows).

Flickr's alleged circling of the drain reminds me of a saying about the Yiddish language: that it has been endangered for 100 years, and may it remain endangered for another 100.
posted by acb at 4:57 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


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