Flickr of Hope

So the big news in my corner of the Internet on Friday was indie photo site SmugMug buying Flickr from corporate bohemeth Yahoo/Oauth (or whatever). You can probably tell by my framing how I feel about it. I'm hopeful!

I posted my first photo to Flickr on August 18, 2004: luna in her office bed. (This was back when the founders would comment on new photos!) I wrote little hacks for Flickr like Add Camera Images to Flickr. And a year after that first photo I was co-writing a book about Flickr that was released a few months later. I was all-in on Flickr and it was central to my online life.

But all was not well in the Flickrverse and I became more and more disappointed with what Yahoo! was doing with the service. A year after Flickr Hacks came out I started writing here about ways to move off of Flickr and back to hosting my own images: Going Off the Flickr Grid. My personal photo site/Flickr clone lived from 2007-2010 or so at (I posted what I thought would be my final photo to Flickr, here on March 14, 2007: 301_moved.)

After that initial burst of off-the-grid activity, my personal photo blog features couldn't compare with the upload, album, and sharing features available at Flickr. I didn't have time to scale up my site so I continued posting to Flickr—especially when I wanted to share a collection of photos. I was disappointed with myself for not living up to my online ideals. (This is a constant life theme!)

Anyway, all of this is just to say that my relationship with Flickr is complicated. I know my mixed feelings are nothing compared with the folks who were inside building Flickr and I hope their story gets told. I'd love to know why Flickr missed the mobile revolution and today we have Instagram influencers instead of Flickr luminaries (or whatever). I think this acquisition (is it? More details please!) is a great chance to revive the good parts of Flickr—especially its sense of community where Flickr started.
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I feel a lot of the same things and Iā€™m in the hesitant but hopeful but I dunno how this is exactly going to work camp right now.
I wish I knew. My hunch is that the migration away from Yahoo infrastructure is going to be devastatingly hard. Yahoo is tied into every part of Flickr ā€” the Yahoo IDs, geolocation, search, security, servers, and storage are all proprietary Yahoo tech. Even the herculean task of moving the photo/video without loss sounds incredibly difficult to me.

And then there's the cost of storage/bandwidth for hosting the Flickr archives ā€” the vast majority of which are currently hosted for free. How can an independent, bootstrapped company like SmugMug do that indefinitely?

I suspect they're going to be forced to make some very hard decisions.
Thanks for the context Andy but you're harshing my indie Flickr buzz! You would know better than anyone how hard it is to extract a service from Yahoo.

I feel like there are competing visions of what Flickr is: 'personal photo storage', 'community hangout', 'portfolio', 'stock art source', 'the commons'. Maybe SmugMug can narrow things down to community hangout and we can all have fun sharing snapshots again.
Hi! You're reading a single post on a weblog by Paul Bausch where I share recommended links, my photos, and occasional thoughts.

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