I just finished reading this fantastic article on Gizmodo lamenting Yahoo’s ignorance and immense missteps in how it mis-handled Flickr (I think I’m being generous here). And the article just made me so sad.
Between 2003 and 2010, Yahoo basically demolished Flickr, along with Delicious – two groundbreaking services. But we all know that. What this article did for me was put it all out there in all of it’s gory detail. It was like reading Bill Simmons’ pice about the Los Angeles Clippers of a few years ago. Once you are done with the article, you sit back and say “How the fuck could these people be some utterly inept?”.
It’s hard to remember, but back in 2005, Yahoo seemed like it had its game on. After losing out on search dominance to Google, it snapped up a bunch of small-but-cool socially oriented companies like Flickr (social photos), Delicious (social bookmarking), and Upcoming (social calendaring). There was a real sense that Yahoo was doing the right thing. It was, to some extent, out in front of what would come to be widely known as Web 2.0: the participatory Internet.
The funny thing is that in reading this article about how Yahoo focused on integrating Flickr into the Yahoo “ecosystem”, I said “Oh, that is what Lycos was so focused on when they acquired companies when I was there.” Where is Lycos these days?
I could go on about how Yahoo crushed the lively community within Flickr, how they still have yet to get it right with mobile, and some other amazing oversights, but just read the article. But there are two paragraphs that hit home for me and pretty much justified my decision to walk away from Flickr this year.
Illustrating just how bad the Flickr mobile effort was:
Among other problems, it wouldn’t let you upload several photos at once, you had to go in manually submit them one at a time. It was downscaling photos to 450 x 600, murdering image quality. Users had to log in via Safari rather than in the app itself. It was striping EXIF data from photos as they uploaded—precisely the kind of thing Flickr’s photo nerds wanted to see.
Today, it all seems too late. The iPhone is the most popular camera on Flickr, but the feeling isn’t mutual. Flickr isn’t even among the top 50 free photography apps in iTunes. It’s just below an Instagram clone in 64th place. By way of comparison, an app that adds cats with laser eyes to your photos is 23rd.
And illustrating how the once vibrant community within Flickr has fled to Instagram, 500px, Facebook and others, while at the same time describing in exact detail how I currently utilize Flickr:
As a result, Flickr today is a very different site than it was five years ago. It’s an Internet backwater. It’s not socially appealing.
Recently, Flickr rolled out a “Justified” view, a way to scan your friends’ recent photos where they are all placed together like puzzle pieces. It’s similar to the way Pinterest lays out images. It’s a dramatic, gorgeous way to look at photos—that mostly highlights how rarely many people update now.
As I scroll down I note that friend after friend has quit posting. At the bottom of the page I am already back in mid 2010. So many of my friends have vanished. It feels like MySpace, circa 2009.
This is anecdotal, sure, but I follow many of these same people on other networks (Path, Facebook, Instagram) where they tend to be very active. I see photos of the same people, with their same children and their same dogs—all looking a year or two older than on Flickr.
This justified view also serves to highlight just how many of my friends’ photos are formatted in perfect squares—the tell-tale sign of an Instagram snap that’s been exported. Many of my contacts’ entire photostreams are made up of Instagram photos. In other words they are mere duplicate streams—with fewer comments and activity—of content that exists in primary form elsewhere. The only reason they are active on Flickr at all is because they automatically export there.
The leadership of Yahoo should be fired. Oh wait. They have been. And again. And again. And again.