On Flickr

A few weeks ago I lamented on Twitter:

Remember back in April when Smugmug acquired Flickr? Good times they were. Six months on, Flickr still tied to Yahoo's auth platform and no real mention of anything new feature wise. Slow and steady wins the race?

This week we finally got some news. One of the announcements, a change to free accounts, has had a mixed reaction online. But I don't think the change is a bad thing.

When I joined Flickr in 2004 free accounts were only allowed 100 photos, if you wanted more you paid a yearly fee for that. Clearly 100 wasn't enough for me and I've been a paid user for well over a decade. In 2013 Flickr announced a whopping 1TB of storage for free accounts. Which sounded wonderful at first. But in reality it meant a few things. (1) Yahoo were clearly interested in ads and data mining for revenue. (2) Yahoo were spending a lot of money on infrastructure (3) Folks started using Flickr as a dumping ground for all the shots from their SD card.

Fast forward to 2018 and Smugmug's announcement of (a) return to free account limits (b) a focus on paid accounts and sustainable revenue model. As I understand it, of the 100M Flickr users, 3% of those with a free account have more than 1000 photos. Those folks will be encouraged to upgrade. Seems worth it to me? Paying less than $5 a month for unlimited high res photos is a bargain.

So I'm encouraged and excited for the future of Flickr. A sustainable business model, no ads for me or anyone browsing my page, no algorithmic timeline, no creepy data mining behind the scenes. What's not to love?

4 responses to “On Flickr”

  1. Jake says:

    I read a lot of the hoopla around the free account change. I don't know that deleting is the right thing for them to do. But they've given months of advance notice. And if that photo on Flickr was your sole copy and you have no backups, you're an idiot.

    • kevin says:

      I wouldn't quite go that far. But your overall point about having backups sound. Any cloud service, especially those that are free, are not guaranteed to be around forever.

  2. Adam Bowie says:

    It feels that there's been a little over-emphasis in some reports about photo deletion. That's not so different to changes made by companies like Microsoft, Google and Amazon over their cloud storage plans. Some of these were initially generous and later scaled back. As long as users have ample time to download their photos should they choose not to upgrade to Pro, then I don't see a problem. Flickr has always been good at letting you download your photos from the site. I think at one time you could even pay to get them burnt to DVDs for you.

    Incidentally, I suspect some people did actually use Flickr as a backup site. Those 3% of users will contain a lot of massive card dumps I'm certain.

    I've been a Pro member for years, and the new plans make sense for me. Certainly,less reported is the fact that the cost of Pro membership is doubling, but the cost is very much on a par with other companies.

    I suspect that untangling Flickr from Yahoo has been the really hard part of this acquisition by SmugMug. Ditching the Yahoo login will be good, as will some of the new functionality.

    The one thing I'm still looking for is a smarter way to embed photos into third party sites. While it has always worked well – being device responsive and downloading only an appropriately sized image is still not great in embedding, and you'll lose marks from Google if you do it badly.

    • kevin says:

      There's been an awful lot of "they're deleting your photos OMGWTFBBQ" reaction in the press. Unfortunate considering little mention of arriving at a sustainable revenue model. After all if they can't keep the lights on, everyone loses anyway.