Friday, May 24, 2013

The new Flickr

It's funny how quickly things change sometimes. Four or five years ago, Flickr was THE place to share photos online. If you wanted anyone to see your pictures, you used Flickr. Facebook was in there, too, but it was more used for dumping entire vacation albums than for showing off pictures you were proud of.

Fast forward to today and the landscape has changed a lot. The people I used to follow on Flickr have now ALL moved to Instagram; Facebook is more popular than ever; Twitter has its own photo editing features; Tumblr is a billion dollar empire of blogging and photo sharing; and Google+ just revamped its photo features to include auto-enhancing, facial recognition, landmark recognition, auto-highlights, etc. Flickr, meanwhile, just sat there, unchanged, as users moved on to better services.


I wrote back in January about signs of life at Flickr, as Yahoo was clearly trying to make it relevant again. Yesterday, they announced a total revamp of the entire service...and it's a pretty massive update. The website was overhauled to remove all whitespace and focus entirely on photos; the mobile apps (Android, iOS) were updated to do the same and to put more focus on your personal stream of friends' photos.

They also removed their longstanding (and frankly, confusing) $25 yearly Pro account upgrade and instead are removing all restrictions and giving everyone a full terabyte of photo storage. The recently updated Google+ photos only provides 15GB by comparison. Flickr also promises full quality storage for all photos, where other services like Facebook and Instagram both downgrade photo quality by a lot.

All in all, the new update hits all the right notes for online photo storage: full-quality, essentially unlimited storage, beautiful website and apps, and a front-page stream of your friends' pictures. All that's missing...are your friends.

Everyone I know who used to use Flickr has abandoned it for other services. Will all these updates be enough to draw people back in? The options for storing and showcasing photos online are pretty broad now. And honestly, some of those services still have a more more compelling offerings. Google+ has the auto-enhancing, landmark recognizing, auto-backup stuff that makes it super easy; Facebook has all of your friends already; Instagram has a great app with lots of users, making sharing from your phone really compelling.

So what is Flickr's draw? What do they offer that other sites don't? Name recognition, for starters. Among people who like to showcase their photography, the Flickr name still holds a lot of value, and the new update makes it an even better place to display photography you're proud of. They also have that full terabyte of storage, which for professional photographers, or anyone who doesn't use a smartphone with auto-backup, is really compelling. For a wedding photographer, or even just a amateur photographer with a DSLR camera, Flickr may have just become the new place for all of your photo storage online.