Yahoo was never sure what to do with Flickr after they bought it. And when they realized they’d missed the smartphone revolution, they tried to make it into something it wasn’t suited for (an Instagram equivalent) and couldn’t sustain (cloud storage for ALL your photos!)
I remember when they panicked over Instagram and the best they could come up with was adding filters, as if that was the key feature that made it take off. (Filters were just a way of covering up the fact that phone cameras of the day were still pretty terrible.) And I remember when Facebook started asking you to auto-upload every single photo to their app in case you wanted to post it later, and suddenly everyone wanted you to auto-upload your photos. Facebook, Google+, and of course Flickr.
But Flickr has a different social structure than Instagram, and being cloud storage for every last picture takes a lot of resources. Maybe chasing Facebook and Instagram kept them alive for a while, but it put them in a bind down the road.
I don’t think Yahoo has ever understood what made Flickr resonate with the people who liked it back in the day, or those of us who stuck with it. They considered closing Flickr several times. And Verizon clearly didn’t want it, since they were happy to sell it to SmugMug.
It sucks that they’re deleting photos to push free accounts into the new limits, but SmugMug taking the site back to basics might make it viable long-term. Maybe now they can work on being a first-rate Flickr instead of a third-rate Instagram or fourth-rate Facebook Photos.
Last month, Tumblr and Flickr both announced policy changes that will impact a lot of users, and upset even more. Flickr announced that they’d be shrinking the storage offered to free accounts while adding features to paid accounts. Tumblr announced that all adult content was going to be banned, and immediately set about flagging posts and accounts. In the clumsiest way possible. With a lot of errors.
I feel like Tumblr has been knocked out of orbit, and it’s only a matter of time before it goes the way of GeoCities (or at least LiveJournal). But I actually feel more confident about Flickr. Why?
Flickr was bought by SmugMug, a company that’s all about photos. Tumblr was part of the Yahoo! package bought by Verizon, a giant telecom conglomerate that’s searching for a way to monetize users’s content.
Flickr has had a freemium business model as long as I can remember.
The new free tier at Flickr may be limited, but it’s still big (1000 photos), and it’s still more than they offered before the move to “Let’s get people to host ALL their pictures here!” a few years back (200 photos, IIRC).
And that limit is both clear and non-judgmental, not a fuzzy, badly-implemented line that on other social media sites has frequently turned out to be the first step down a slippery slope (like the “Strikethrough” episode at LiveJournal that ultimately led to a lot of fanfic writers and fan artists leaving LJ in favor of, well, Tumblr.)
Flickr’s customers are the paying Flickr Pro users. Tumblr’s customers are the advertisers.
In short: Flickr is focusing on their core. Tumblr just jettisoned a huge segment of their users and gave the rest a big red warning flag.
I’ve been a paying Flickr customer for years now, and I’m happy to renew. I still post galleries there, and and my better one-off photos.
Tumblr…I don’t have anything that violates the new rules, but it seems like they’ve taken a step towards self-destruction. Between this, Google+ closing, and the ongoing train wrecks of Twitter & Facebook, I’ve decided to pull back. I’ve downloaded an archive of my entire blog, and I’m in the process of clearing out all my share-posts, reblogs, mirrored posts, basically anything that’s not either original to that blog or an actual conversation. And I’m starting to import the original content here, where it’s under my own control.
It’s clear that Verizon has even less idea what to do with Tumblr than Yahoo! did. When they finally give up trying to monetize what’s left of the user base, they’ll have no incentive to keep it going. Or to respect all the user data they’ve amassed.
Edit: Not a link, but I should mention: between a bug in Akismet and me not having time to go through it, I ended up with more than 2,000 comments in the spam folder just from the last 3 weeks. I don’t have time to look through that many items for false positives, so I just cleared it all out. If you left a legitimate comment that hasn’t shown up on the site, I apologize.