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Flickr's Revamp Demonstrates The Upside Of Being Acquired By Yahoo

If Flickr's new features are any indication, Tumblr will join a very different Yahoo than the photo site did back in 2005.

When Tumblr fans say they're scared Yahoo will destroy their favorite site, it's probably because of Flickr. Yahoo acquired the site in 2005 and then neglected it into irrelevance.

At a press event in New York City Monday evening, however, Flickr was an example not of the risks of being acquired by Yahoo, but the benefits.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced a redesigned Flickr site that mimics the photo-centric philosophy of the service's acclaimed iPhone app, as well as a new Flickr Android app and a free terabyte of storage for every Flickr user. "That’s 70 times bigger than what anyone else is offering," Yahoo head of Mobile Adam Cahan said, referring to services such as Google Drive that tout 15GB of free storage. "It’s not 70 gigabytes bigger. It’s actually 70 times bigger."

Outside the window of the press conference, which was held in Times Square, tall billboards lit up with Flickr ads, the first of Yahoo’s marketing efforts for the service.

"Flickr was awesome once, it languished, and we now want it to be awesome again," Mayer said.

Perhaps because Flickr’s struggles within Yahoo have been so well-documented, or perhaps because a former Flickr employee at the event itself had just told me about feeling that Yahoo had been fickle with its support—hot on Flickr one minute and cold on it the next—I was surprised when Markus Spiering, Flickr’s head of product, told me that Flickr’s revamp "would not have been possible without Yahoo."

And indeed it would not have been (yes, Flickr might not need a revamp if it weren’t for Yahoo, but that’s beside the present point).

Flickr's previous fee for unlimited storage, though it created a bit of revenue, was contrary to the behavior the service wanted from its users. Why charge users to upload more photos when you want them to upload as many as they can, daily, as a habit? "We are not actually competing on the storage space," Cahan told Fast Company, "We think of Flickr as a network product."

Furthermore, part of Flickr’s competitive advantage is its photo quality. Whereas on Facebook or Instagram, image size is sacrificed for quick upload times and shareability, on Flickr you can download the same quality photo that you uploaded. If your photos looked good going into Flickr, they'll look good when you share them anywhere else.

In order to encourage both volume of interactions and quality images—keystones of Flickr and Yahoo's strategy—users need a lot of storage. There are few companies with infrastructure to give the 89 million people who use Flickr a free terabyte of data storage. Luckily for Flickr, Yahoo is one of them.

Yahoo also has the resources to advertise Flickr not just in Times Square, but throughout its other products. Its new weather app, for instance, uses Flickr images to reflect the weather and time of day. Its image search pulls from Flickr’s public database.

And so while Flickr is most often cited as a case against acquisitions, on Monday it worked as an example of the upside that a large company can provide a small team.

Tumblr CEO David Karp, who sat in the first row, couldn’t have missed it.

[Image: Flickr user Victor Bezrukov]

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  • Jon Smith

    30,000 complaints about the new dumbed down flickr on the sites' help forum shows how wrong your article headline is and how wrong marissa mayer and yahoo are. anothr community website is stripped of its adult usrs in favour of the happy snapprs smartphone hipstrs demographic. what price integrity and meaningful purpose beyond the here today, gone tomorrow ad dollr?  clevr it is not. dumbr it is.

  • A_Murphy

    should reflect both sides of a topic. For many users there are significant
    problems with the new Flickr. The last time I checked the Flickr Help Forum had
    logged 27,000 plus posts in about six days and was running at roughly 8:1
    against the new format. There are thousands of entries in the Bug Help pages as
    well. Some of this hostility  is probably
    resistance to change in any form, and many of the same voices seem to crop up
    over and again, but the degree of backlash suggests that real users are
    encountering real problems with the new Flickr. Whether the site looks better
    or is easier to use are purely subjective, but the way the change over was
    made-without warning of any kind, the absence of useable guide pages, the huge
    extra demand the site puts on bandwidth which slows the page loading (severely
    for some users), and the non-responsiveness of Flickr to user concerns are
    legitimate issues worth noting to maintain balance in your reviewof the new
    Flickr. .


  • Pathfinder

    It is gaudy, in your face, crowded design and not as functional.
    Instead of giving you thumbnails to decide what pictures of your contacts you wish to view, it slams large images filling the screen figuring you must want to see every image, and then what thumbnails are in the image are hard to see. You now have to navigate all over the place to get information, of course, that gives them more pages to present ads.

    I had unlimited storage for $30 per year and now I am supposed to be thrilled I can get a limited account for free and slammed with ads. if they wanted to add advertisement for the free accounts, that is fine, but now they want almost double the cost for less service just to not see ads. Their thought process to drive away paying customers to attract people who couldn't pay $30 per year to receive advertising. How successful will that advertising be? How long will people place ads when there won't be much response?

    “There’s no such thing as Flickr Pro today because [with so many people taking photographs] there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore,” Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer

    First, the Flickr Pro account never had anything to do with being a professional photographer. Second, when the CEO of an organization that hosts one of the largest image data bases doesn't even know what a professional photographer is does not reflect well on the company or her. Who does she think was covering her press conference? Grandmothers with cameras? It is also not Uncle Bob risking their lives in war zones, or crawling through rubble in Oklahoma to bring images to the public.

    Sure, she said there was market research. There was market research for New Coke, the Ford Edsel, the US Football League, McDonald's Arch Delux, and Windows Vista.

  • CS

    Flickr's redesign is a disaster. They doubled the cost and then it seems like that is only so you don't see ads. It doesn't really seem clear if others will still see ads on your photos. I ended up canceling my "pro" account and leaving them for dropbox as I only used the site to share photos with my family and friends...

  • Aidan M. Thomson

    Most of these press releases seem to be totally ignoring the fact that the changes have caused a tsunami of protest amongst Flickr users, most of whom (myself included) hate the new layout and the lack of choice we are now given in displaying/viewing our work.

    13,000 complaints and rising by the second is hardly a sign of success is it, take a look at the feedback forums on Flickr if you think Marissa Mayer's/Yahoo's intervention is a positive step (and as another commentor stated there's nothing new other than a chaotic display of bigger photos and poorer functionality, plus many people with slower connections now find it impossible to load).

    So yeah, great new start this, people are already leaving. They've ruined Flickr!

  • Toastie

    You still can't bulk-download your own images without finding a reliable third-party utility. 

  • Atomische

    "If Flickr's new features are any indication..." you say, but then don't mention a single new feature. 
    There are no new features. Sure they upped the storage, but if you look closely it's really a ploy to steer people to accept ads. The changes are cosmetic, and not pretty. It's as if they cribbed some "nifty" features of competing sites (Picasa) and threw them up without thought.

  • pov

    Flickr's new features? And what are those? The redesign took away features it didn't add any of much use.  The new layout is like Tumblr-B and if you have a look you'll see that most users think it's a massive fail.

  • SCM

    Where are your notes on the down side? Like having to now pay $50/year to keep it ad-free? And having to dig around to find functionality that used to be easy to access? Terrible redesign. Very disappointed. And disappointed in your piece that just seems like an ad itself.

  • Barry Chignell

    Need to have a closer look but first impressions are great. I've been a pro user for a few years and was starting to consider moving away from the site. This revamp may well mean that I stay and continue to invest in the subscription :)

  • pov

     If that's what you like for photo display I can only wonder what your sense of composition is like.

  • Kyle Conrad

    Someone told Yahoo! that people liked big images so they threw a ton of them at your screen and hoped they stuck. Nobody seemed to think through actually designing or wireframing or anything. Just BIG IMAGES. Pretty bad.