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An Open Letter to Carol Bartz, CEO Yahoo Inc.

Google, Er, Yahoo Car Needs a Bath

Dear Ms. Bartz,

I just finished reading your demoralizing letter regarding recent layoffs at Yahoo over at All Things Digital. Although I’m only a Yahoo user, not an employee, I am a heavy user of your Flickr product — a product that I’ve enjoyed and loved for many years now. As such, I watch how Yahoo is run with keen interest, mostly because I’m worried about how your corporate leadership will affect that site which I love so much.

For your first year of your reign at Yahoo you gave yourself a grade of B-, this past year you seemed a little more defensive and gave yourself a grade of simply “pass.” You’ve had the you know what kicked out of you, of course, by most of the tech and financial press over the past few years and have come back swinging yourself in odd ways. Telling Mike Arrington to “f*** off” for instance.

The market, we know, is frequently one of the most efficient graders of all. There is no grade inflation there.

On the day that you were announced as the new incoming CEO of Yahoo, January 14, 2009, Yahoo’s stock price closed at $12.41 per share. Now on the one hand that price vs. today’s price of $16.46 looks pretty good. In fact that’s over a 32% return since you’ve been at the helm. But the thing is that you took charge coming off the worst year in the stock market in recent history so we can’t really credit all of that to you.

In fact while Yahoo has been up +32% since you took over. Your competitors have been up quite a bit more. Google is up almost +100% in the same time period. Apple is up +275%, even the old slowpoke Microsoft is up +51%. The Nasdaq Composite is up +79% and the S&P 500 is up +53%. In short, Yahoo’s stock performance under your tenure thus far has been a laggard — but you already know this.

I suppose I wouldn’t really care about the stock price of Yahoo except for the fact that I think you’re just letting one of the best products at Yahoo, Flickr, languish. In your letter to your employees you say, it’s “no secret that we’re cutting investment in underperforming and non-core products so we can focus on our strengths (like email, the homepage, search, mobile, advertising, content and more)”

Email? The homepage? search ? mobile? advertising? Yawn.

You know what I don’t see in there? Flickr. Photos. I’m assuming that you consider Flickr one of those “underperforming and non-core products.”

Do you even realize what you have with Flickr? It’s the largest well organized library of images in the world. Not only that, it has a very strong social networking component. In fact, Flickr may represent (if managed correctly) your single biggest opportunity to launch a much larger and more lucrative social network (and stock photography agency as well). Have you spent any time in any Flickr groups? They are addicting. People live in them. They play games in them. All kinds of activity goes on in them every day. And if you took the time to really explore the social side of Flickr, you’d learn this, and figure out a way to grow it.

But you know what? You haven’t taken the time to really explore the social side of Flickr. Hell, you don’t even have an account yourself on Flickr. One of the most highly visible and trafficked Yahoo properties and you don’t even have an account there. Would it be so hard to have your assistant set up an account for you and post some photos of some mountains from a family vacation two years ago?

I listened in on your first analysts conference call. On the call you mentioned that your daughter was using Facebook to share photos. There was an opportunity right there for you to plug your own photo sharing site. Flickr needs you. They need you to be a cheerleader for the site. It would be good for morale to hear you mention the site once in a while. It also seems like a no brainer from a PR perspective. I know if I were CEO at Yahoo I sure as hell would have a Flickr account. In fact I’d set up accounts really on all of the services that I was commander and chief of and I’d actually use them from time to time to build a familiarity with what works and what doesn’t.

Now here’s what really galls me. Despite the overall dismal performance of your stock price. Despite the fact that your competitors are building traction when you are not. Despite the fact that much of your best talent is leaving in droves (I know Stewart Butterfield left before you got there but you really should read his resignation letter). Despite the fact that you won’t come down out of your ivory tower to actually get down in the trenches and work with us (your users) to figure out how we can make your products better. Despite all of this. You, yes you, were the highest paid CEO in the Standard & Poors 500 last year.

That’s right. At least according to this report you made $47.2 *million*. Now in addition to paying you all that dough, you also wasted $100 million on a stupid ad campaign saying that the “internet was under new management, yours.” Carol, if the internet was under new management “mine,” I sure as hell wouldn’t be deleting my own Flickr group with over 3,000 members now would I?

Imagine what an insult it is to your Yahoos when you send them out a memo saying that their unit is an under-performing and non-core product. That they get to watch their co-workers laid off just before Christmas while you reap in amazing piles of dough personally. This is not leadership. Leadership would be you coming out and saying you feel their pain and that you will be working for a $1 salary next year and will continue to work for $1 per year until you can get the company turned around. Do you really need more and more millions of dollars anyways? I guarantee you it’s not going to be a thin Christmas at the Bartz household this year.

And your complaint about the fact that your layoffs were leaked ahead of your actually axing people? Get over that. Your acrimony towards bloggers, your iron clad commitment to containment and secrecy within the Yahoo ranks isn’t working. People want honesty and transparency these days. So be transparent. Be human.

I’m sorry to be so blunt and so harsh on you in this letter. I dispute both your grades of B- and “pass.” I’d give you a fail for your first two years. A failure to grow the stock price. A failure to inspire the troops. A failure to innovate. I wouldn’t care so much except for the fact that you currently own what is one of the most important and significant cultural treasures of our lifetime. Flickr. And Flickr holds so much promise and so much could be done to innovate there and it just doesn’t feel like you give a damn.

Flickr will be here long after you are and its cultural significance to our world will outlast your quarter to quarter financial results. While not being your most profitable unit by any measure, understand what it is that you have. Use its strengths. Be its cheerleader. Figure out how you can harness the social networking potential there. I’d be happy to talk with you about ways that you could improve it if you had an interest.

Best Regards,

Thomas Hawk

Update: This letter to Carol Bartz is also now syndicated over at Business Insider here.

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119 comments on “An Open Letter to Carol Bartz, CEO Yahoo Inc.
  1. kendrick says:

    Wow, fantastic letter, TH. Spot on in every regard.

  2. I would think that Yahoo wasn’t focusing on Flickr in the interest of selling it, but they’re ignoring it so thoroughly they’ve devalued its resale price.

    I’m not quite sure what I would do if Flickr became bad or was shut down–or sold to Google and merged with Picasa. It would be a vast lacuna.

    Maybe Stewart’ll raise the money and buy Flickr back for a few bucks. And didn’t Catherine just move on from day-to-day work at Hunch? I’d trust either of them more.

  3. Ankit says:

    Echo Kendrick’s thought! It is spot on but more than even though i dont use flickr i understand the pain because despite not adding photos i often spend hours going through the awesome pictures people post there.

  4. Tony Pony says:

    Can you list five unique ways you would monetize Flickr?

    Bear in mind the tremendous amount of bandwidth and storage costs associated with storing and transferring large file sizes.

    The Flickr community is a beautiful and passionate community. Unfortunately, just like with most arts and cultural programs, they fail to produce the ROI benefits needed to have sustained support.

    Once again, I strongly encourage you to list five unique ways Y! can monetize Flickr.

    Let us focus on solutions and not languish on past problems.

  5. Spot on Mr. Hawk! One thing that always has bothered me though is why no one appears willing or able to create a “simple” Flickr clone. Same or enhanced features but much more community friendly. Does no one else get it or is their some core underlying problem to the business that makes it unprofitable? I wish I knew and then I wish I had a few million to go build it! ;-)

  6. Robby says:

    @Bill Pennington

    Zooomr.com is a lot like Flickr. I’m not sure what happened to make Thomas stop championing it like he did in the early days.

  7. Reese Mitchell says:

    Absolutely a great letter to a CEO who, like so many in the internet “old” school era, are so totally out of touch and wouldn’t know their assets if they were handed to them. There are only a few CEO’s who can innovate and she is not one of them. Her only task is to stare at the bottom line. If I was a board member and my CEO didn’t participate in all or our company’s products I’d give them the boot.

  8. I knew nothing of this entire topic before, but this letter has an effect. I now think less of Carol Bartz and in turn Yahoo. Sad.

    I am a potential customer who has a sour taste in her mouth.

    jg

  9. fjpoblam says:

    +1 for Thomas Hawks and +2 for Glenn Fleishman! I shudder to imagine how many Yahoos’ jobs Bartz could’ve saved by working for $1 instead of hogging in more millions. Wotta peeg!

  10. Thomas Hawk says:

    Tony Pony. Your comment is most excellent. And it’s wonderful to see that kind of discussion on my blog. Let me start by saying that I don’t think immediate profitability always needs to be the top quarter to quarter priority when growing a social network. Twitter and Facebook were not immediately profitable. There is a certain wisdom in build it and let them come and monetize it later. I know that may not appeal to short-term CEO thinking, per se, but really if Yahoo wants to compete with Twitter and Facebook, they should view Flickr as the best current way to do that.

    Also you don’t need 5 different ways of profitability. If you get one or two really right that may be enough.

    But I gladly accept your challenge.

    1. Flickr could become the largest stock photography agency in the world. The stock photography market is a $2 billion market currently dominated by Getty Images along with Corbis and a number of other less ranked players. At present Flickr has a deal with Getty. Basically photographers are paid 20% for their images, Getty sells a few and Flickr and Getty get the other 80%. I bet you that Getty gets the lionshare of the 80%. Sure Getty clears the images and has expertise there, but flickr could hire some folks to clear images and cut out the middle man and make a lot more money. What’s more, they could make the program much more inclusive than Getty has and very quickly build up a stock library to rival Getty’s.

    2. Flickr could sell commercial accounts. At present Flickr doesn’t allow commercial accounts. It’s for personal use only. There are a very small number of Flickr approved commercial accounts (McDonald’s, Starbucks, Ford, etc.) but Flickr is missing a huge opportunity to invite thousands of businesses into Flickr. They could charge $100 per account for these accounts and let businesses set up groups, accounts etc. Just the other day I was talking to a business about this. They wanted to be on Flickr but were wondering how to do it with the non-commercial provision. In order not to upset certain users who would view these accounts as intrusive, Flickr could create a way where a user could “opt out” of any interaction with any commercial account. Simply check a box and they become entirely invisible to you on the site. Allowing commercial accounts is different than advertising though. Before Starbucks imploded and locked down their Flickr group, it was a vibrant authentic place for people to talk about the company.

    3. Yahoo could seriously get into the self publishing business. MagCloud, Blurb, etc. are all examples of businesses that are thriving by allowing users to make unique products through self publishing. Just this month our DMU group put together a Blurb book. The book cost $50. Why should Blurb get all that money. Isn’t Flickr in a better position to acquire someone like Blurb and offer this service directly. What’s more Flickr could even have a store where they highlight great new self published photography books, a section showing photography books of your contacts etc. There could be strong potential here.

    4. Ok, this next one is a little out there but it really is doable and it’s one that I’d be the most excited about. Flickr should open physical galleries. They should start with a few of the major cities of the world. San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, etc. but expand out in time. These stores should be modeled after Apple’s retail stores. They should have plasmas on display and allow instant on demand printing for print sales. These galleries could also be used for Flickr meetups, photographer shows. (it would be cheap to change shows as the galleries largely would consist of plasma displays that could rotate different images. They could sell prints and share the proceeds with photographers. This may sound like a crazy idea, but there is nothing like this today and I believe that there is a huge market for fine art and some of what is coming out of Flickr is spectacular.

    5. Automate more of the “community management” at the site. “Community Management” at flickr has largely been community mismanagement, more often than not resulting in hostility, deleted accounts, etc. Rather than having Flickr community managers get involved in petty disputes, etc. Flickr should simply beef up their blocking tools. At Friendfeed (before they were acquired by Facebook) when you blocked somebody they were *gone*. Totally wiped off the face of the earth. Completely invisible to you. Right now on Flickr if you block someone you still have to look at their posts in groups. They can still annoy you and harass you, which leads to having to hire expensive staffers to try to navigate these disputes the best that they can. Empower the user and you’ll need less expensive manual human management. Also you have less people canceling or not renewing their paid Pro accounts when they feel harmed by these community mismanagement types.

  11. theorg says:

    You jump to a lot of conclusions here and mainly based around the assumption Yahoo will kill Flickr

    Why would they kill Flickr?, its a top 40 global traffic jewel in the crowm. They just need to make some money off it without scaring everyone away. (so do WordPress)

  12. chris says:

    This is awesome. She should have a desk like Zucks and make the decisions she does right in front of everyone.

  13. Thomas Hawk says:

    Robby, Zooomr would need more engineering and design talent to really make a go at things. It would also need more significant financial backing. The ideas behind Zooomr were strong, but without the engineering to execute those ideas it doesn’t work.

  14. Aks says:

    The 80s called – they want their “gaul” back. (that’s the original 80s). Can I assume you are simply Anti-French? Or did you already have your gallbladder removed?

  15. Thomas Hawk says:

    excellent point Aks. Fixed that. Thanks! ;)

  16. Kosso says:

    Well said Thomas!

  17. bobz says:

    What you fail to realize is that Yahoo is not doing development of anything. Yahoo is an aggregator. There business model is to aggregate and slap ads on stuff. If that doesnt pan out, they aggregate something else and slap more ads on it.

    Why you would bother trying to reason with a company that is in fact not really doing ANYTHING is beyond me.

    Things make much more sense when you realize what your actually talking about besides wishing something was something that its not.

  18. Wolfgang says:

    I second that. Fantastic.

  19. Would you be interested in cross posting this on popletters.com and help a little starving startup? Our whole community is based on open letters and I think this one on good ol’ Carol is REALLY good. Please? :)

  20. Thomas Hawk says:

    Hi Katrina, I tried posting it there but it appears that the site doesn’t accept html markup?

  21. Adam Byrtek says:

    A similar story can be told about delicio.us. The site had been almost completely neglected since the acquisition, and Joshua Schachter after quitting Yahoo publicly criticized the way the site is handled.

    PS. I’ve already moved to http://pinboard.in

  22. P says:

    A few more business ideas:

    1. Flickr U. Host an online photography/videography school for users to brush their chops. Team with expert users as “teaching assistants” to help students.

    2. Flickr Store. Connect image and aggregate camera data with a Yahoo! store selling books, cameras, frames, and anything else tangentially related to photography. Or at least connect camera data to Amazon with affiliate relationship.

    3. Flickr Publishing. Establish a publishing arm for business cards, holiday cards, photobooks, albums, etc. As best I can tell, this is done in partnership with Snapfish. Maybe there’s a valid reason to outsource and share the income here.

    4. Flickrography. Hold sponsored local and national photography competitions on various topics. Architecture sponsored by Autodesk, furniture sponsored by DWR, people sponsored by National Geographic, Nature sponsored by The Nature Conservancy, etc.

    5. Flickr Etsy. Give users the ability to sell their photos – not just as stock imagery, but as art – with a slice to Yahoo!

    6. Flickr Adsense. Give users the ability to opt in to ads and provide topical/category type information on their photos so that relevant advertisers could find the right people.

    7. Fliickr. Create Woot/Groupon type offering or blog with daily deals for cameras, photos, whatever.

    Maybe some of these are being done, but it seems like there are thousands of opportunities with Flickr even if imagery is treated as content.

  23. Absolutely great letter Thomas and for what it is worth, Flickr is the only reason I have a Yahoo account.

  24. Hi Thomas, I have a similar request to Katrina. Would like to invite you to publish your letter on OpenLetter.to. We’ve got a great syndication feature that you should check out as well if you have the time.

  25. Jeff Mello says:

    Thomas,

    What an amazing and articulate letter! AWESOME!!!

  26. Reality says:

    What’s a flicker?

    Thats the overwhelming response to my FB post asking people to tell me what they know about the the site, typo included. My FB is filled with professionals, managers, decision makers and housewives. I like to use it as a sampling demographic of which I like to poll.

    Not to curb your enthusiasm for the site, but heavy users are a minority. Many view it simply as an image hosting website and a walled one at that “I prefer imageshack so I don’t have to fumble with logins” and “the albums are nice but social features are nowhere near fleshed out enough so I use other sites”

    I’m sad that a site you enjoy has fallen victim to yahoo, but you should prepare yourself for it’s eventual demise. It may have traffic but much of it is image sharing, social aspects are irrelevant if yahoo can’t make money.

    I wish you luck but your better off getting together with your community and starting a new network/site that has the goals you set in mind.

  27. A Yahoo User says:

    Awesome letter! A chart with yahoo stock prices vs. number of people laid off vs. Carol’s salary will be super helpful.

  28. SEO Moves says:

    Thomas go you, it is really pathetic when these people make some much money for doing nothing. Carol Bartz is clueless when it comes to search or internet marketing, but hey for 40MM she will pretend for as long as she can.

  29. SlashSimon says:

    Thomas, excellent letter. Too bad you are not Yahoo’s CEO (not that you want that job), because your spot on insight and passion would be a major improvement over current leadership.

  30. James Howe says:

    Wonderful commentary. I especially liked the bit about Bartz not even mentioning Flickr when she mentioned her daughter sharing pictures on Facebook. A missed opportunity.

  31. Andy Freeman says:

    The cited article says “Ninety percent of [Bartz'] pay came from stock awards and options that were all granted around the time she was hired in the winter of 2009.” In other words, only 10% of Bartz’ $47M compensation in 2009 is from salary.

    I mention that Bartz’ salary is only 10% of her compensation because of “Leadership would be you coming out and saying you feel their pain and that you will be working for a $1 salary next year and will continue to work for $1 per year until you can get the company turned around.”

    Because of the way that CEO compensation works, the $1 salary thing is an insulting con. Why does Yahoo need that?

  32. Zach Lipton says:

    An excellent letter. I think the real issue here isn’t specifically around Flickr, it’s Yahoo’s years long innovation drought. When Bartz says “we’re cutting investment in underperforming and non-core products so we can focus on our strengths (like email, the homepage, search, mobile, advertising, content and more),” she’s really saying “we’re not going to bother trying to create something new; we’re just going to keep doing the same things we’ve been doing and hope for a different result.”

    Yahoo owned the webmail market with Yahoo Mail until GMail came along. It took Yahoo years to begin to incorporate the very basics of what Google created into their product. The new Yahoo Mail is better, but it took them years to even make the preview available. The same story has repeated itself with virtually every major Yahoo product. Yahoo’s homepage is a portal that basically splashes new colors on what they had in 2003 (http://www.digital-web.com/images/articles/feature_2002-8_yahoo.gif); they’ve never bothered to bring the decades old customizibility of My Yahoo to their home page. Meanwhile Google’s been offering iGoogle for years. Google and Microsoft have been leaders in local search, mobile maps, and other geo-technology, while Yahoo barely has mobile maps. And of course we have to mention Yahoo Groups, which looks and works about the same as it did a decade ago!

    Bartz came from Autodesk, which has a pretty simple business model: monopolize your industry, release new versions of your software yearly with fairly modest improvements, and charge several thousand dollars a seat. That strategy works for Autodesk, but if Bartz keeps running Yahoo like it’s Autodesk, she will drive the company into bankrupcy.

    At this point, Yahoo’s brand is only slightly less toxic than AOL. Yahoo’s core assets are dinosaurs. Like all dinosaurs, they’ll coast on momentum for a while, but they aren’t going to ascend to their former glory by improving their homepage. Successful technology firms are making large commitments to experimentation and innovation, and yet Yahoo keeps trying to innovate less and less.

    If Yahoo is still around in 10 years, it’s not going to be because of those core products Bartz wants to focus on. Yahoo’s only chance of success is to develop and support completely new services that stick. These are new non-core products like Flickr that people actually like using. Copying Google’s efforts with a 3+ year lag is pretty obviously not a successful strategy for Yahoo, yet that sure seems like Bartz’s entire plan.

    Finally, as @semilshah put it on Twitter: “What is the opposite of leadership? Firing 4% of your staff 10 days before Xmas while making ~$50M/yr.”

  33. Joe Ranft says:

    Actually, Bartz is underperforming as far as the stock is concerned. YHOO trades on the Nasdaq, so you have to compare YHOO to its index. In this case, the Nasdaq is up over 60% since Bartz took over, while YHOO is only up 29%. You’d be fired for that performace as a porfolio manager. It’s terrible performance. Here’s a chart.

    http://www.google.com/finance?chdnp=1&chdd=1&chds=1&chdv=1&chvs=maximized&chdeh=0&chfdeh=0&chdet=1292274000000&chddm=191199&chls=IntervalBasedLine&cmpto=INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC&cmptdms=0&q=NASDAQ:YHOO&&fct=big

  34. Phil says:

    Andy,

    Even at 10% of total comp, the give-back of a salary of 4.5M would save 20 good engineering jobs at Yahoo. So it’s not just an insulting con.

    Many of the revenue ideas above are so obvious it’s incredible that they’re not already done.

    I dislike Flickr’s social aspects (“this photo is wonderful, please join my group”), but it has so much more mindshare than other sites. If I could turn off all the groupies, I’d probably use it more.

    And Thomas, I think you meant “I gladly accept” not “except”. I just can’t let that grammar nit pass.

    Phil

  35. Kenny says:

    @Reality

    Really? Your overwhelming response on your Facebook? Spare us — please. I had to nearly rub the bullshit out of my eyes after reading your contribution to an otherwise hearty comment pool.

    The mere fact that you’ve got the cajones to fire out a negative comment and not even spell the name of the service correctly, is indicative of just how well-versed you really are.

    Flickr will see no demise; and you still won’t understand it when it continues to flourish — regardless of who’s roof it’s under. So the next time you and your collective stereotypical white 40-something crew are sipping Mojitos over dimwitted technological banter, keep it to yourselves.

    Much love from Michigan,
    Kenny

  36. Kenny says:

    whose**

  37. blurbomat says:

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

    I couldn’t agree more with the fantastic ideas in this post and in these comments. Flickr is what cemented me wanting to become a better photographer and image capturer. Its one of the first sites I wanted to pay for.

    That the CEO of Yahoo doesn’t use their best social site? Says more than any press release could.

    Bravo, Thomas!

  38. matt says:

    What baffled me was when they launched Yahoo Pulse, which has it’s own (separate from Flickr) photo sharing functionality. It’s strange because not long ago they shut down Yahoo Photos to move to Flickr.

  39. Anson says:

    @ansonwang

    I think Caterina Fake, the founder of Flickr should buy back the site!

  40. Not again says:

    Wait: is this the same Tom Hawk who has been bashing Flickr (and promoting his own photo-sharing site) for 4 years? Suddenly he loves Flickr and wants it to succeed?

    Your points may have some validity, Hawk, but I’m a bit skeptical of your newfound “love” for Flickr.

  41. Seconded, blurbomat. Flickr is the *only* site for which I could be bothered to pay (and I still would, if I could justify the expense). But it was painful to watch it fill with ads. Big, fat, blinking ads that aren’t even vaguely targeted. That magenta “by Yahoo” next to the Flickr logo? Hideous, insulting and not even necessary. It’s like they’re trying to drive me away. Sooner or later, they will succeed.

    As another example of Yahoo wrong-headedness, remember their social network Yahoo 360? They’ve shut it down a few years ago, only to… create a new one that does mostly the same things, only with a more modern look. They even offered an import option for the old 360 blogs. Ironic, isn’t it? At least Pulse aggregates my RSS feeds and pushes them to my Messenger contacts; that’s something, I guess.

  42. Chris turner says:

    Aw…who cares. Flickr sucks anyhow.

  43. John Cocktoasten says:

    So, help me understand this. Mr Hawk, formally CEO (?) of Zooomr, essentially abandoned Zooomr because it didn’t have the “significant financial backing” to hire more programmers and buy more servers. Clearly, Zooomr must have run into the same lack of revenue issues that Flickr probably faces. Yet he rails against Bartz for essentially doing the same thing and not highlighting a property that probably loses money for her company?

    Look, I love Flickr too but unless they can make a model that works for them long term, they are going to probably go the way of the dodo sometime in the not so distant future. They may hang around for a while as long as their deep pocket owner (at least they used to have deep pockets) is willing to carry them but it can’t work forever. Respectfuly, I’m not convinced your revenue solutions will make the difference. Unfortunately, I think the long term answer will be the similar to the way ISP/hosting/online backup pricing is going. You pay for what you use in terms of storage, badwidth, etc. No more unlimited anything.

  44. mark says:

    Spot on, all the way!

  45. Tom Cat says:

    Calm down Kenny, he’s not criticizing Flickr; he is actually contributing to the discussion. His point is that Flickr _under Yahoo’s control_ will eventually see its demise (and that may prove to be true given Yahoo’s current situation). He also made a suggestion to Thomas to get together with the Flickr community and build a new site with Thomas’ goals in mind.

    Personally, I am appalled with the way Flickr is being handled by Yahoo. Nuff said.

  46. Tom Raftery says:

    Thomas,

    thanks for such a superb post.

    I love Flickr. I have had a pro account for over 6 years now but it has been painful to see the lack of innovation in that time.

    I love some of the ideas for innovating the site put forward in the comments as well. I especially loved the idea of having some form of photography tutorials – I’d buy into that in a heartbeat (‘cos I’m a crap photographer but would love to learn how to be a better one).

    Flickr is the one Internet service I pay for without giving it a second thought. That in itself should say something about the value of the site.

    If Yahoo! can’t be bothered to do anything with it – sell it to someone who will!

  47. twitter forga05 says:

    Awesome article, ideas and comments. Thomas, great facts, analysis, statistics. Nicely thought out, strongly stated. However, sometimes change is good. Perhaps this post will inspire more creativity if not with Y, then elsewhere. Overall, leadership not lacking here. Important concepts and points, but a little subtler might go a longer ways. Sorry. Still thumbs up! Sometimes the punch is needed though. Good luck.

  48. John Blaze says:

    Fantastic letter! AWESOME!!!

  49. Keyser Soze says:

    Yahoo email core? Give me a break-the worst dinosaur out there. I am switching as we speak.

  50. PurpleCar says:

    Thanks, Thomas! Well said.

    I love Flickr and share your fear that it will be left to languish. Yahoo treats it like “geek payment,” a necessary evil just to keep the early adopters happy. End-users like my tech un-savvy father-in-law turn to sites like Picasa to house photos. That irks me to no end. Flickr is superior. Why is it being treated like it’s some “best kept secret?”

    See you on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/people/purplecar/

    -Christine Cavalier

  51. This is why I cheerfully pay for an account at SmugMug. Since they have no free accounts, I figure they’ve set their price to a point where they make a decent profit, so they’re not in danger of being shut down. And since they have a customer revenue stream, they don’t need to sell advertising and clutter up my photo pages.

    SmugMug isn’t as popular as Flickr by orders of magnitude because of these decisions, but it’s also a lot more pleasant to use and to share.

  52. @Tony Poney

    Yahoo should “monetize” their other sites in order to pay for Flickr. Without passionate users, Yahoo is worth exactly zero.

    Shut up.

  53. Samuel Lavoie says:

    What an amazing and articulate letter! As it’s been said, this could be said about delicious too, another site they bought a few years ago that is taking the dust lately despite a strong community and features. I like Flickr, despite Facebook handle much more photos, it could strive as a niche social network by adding a few more features as other comments pointed out.

  54. Brian says:

    To be honest, I don’t think Yahoo! is even leveraging the most obvious financial benefit that Flickr has to offer, ad revenue from qualified image search outside of Flickr on Yahoo Image search.

    When I look at my Flickr stats Google images is often the top ranked outside referrer, above Yahoo image search. It didn’t use to be this way. When they started showing referrers Yahoo image search outstripped google in my results regularly, but not anymore. I know this may be more of a function of diminishing returns from Yahoo!’s overrall search decline, but don’t you think they should be able to leverage their insider access to the world’s most defined and tagged image library to their advantage?

    It doesn’t even seem like they’re doing that. If you can’t even profit from the most basic benefit your vast amount of self-generated content has to offer, how can you be expected to expand to find new profit streams?

  55. Thomas Hawk says:

    Brian, that’s an excellent point. I’ve often felt that the image search ranked by interestingness at Flickr is far superior to Yahoo’s current image search and have wondered why they just don’t have flickr handle 90% of Yahoo Image Search. It sends people back to one of their own properties while providing a more consistent experience when you click through.

    One of the things I hate about a lot of image search is that if I click through I’ll end up on some God awful ad infested horribly designed page that for some weird reason ranks high. Flickr’s consistency in experience and design would be preferable and I’m always more inclined to click through to a flickr image when I find it in image search than a non-flickr image. As organized/tagged/etc. as flickr is, this would also seem like a no brainer.

    There is already a way where people can opt out of image search on Flickr if they want, but the vast majority of people on flickr don’t mind their images indexed (and that’s the default). Relying more on Flickr’s algorithms for image search than Yahoo Image Search makes sense.

  56. Gary Denness says:

    Thomas, I love the idea of a Flickr store. I had the same thought which I expressed in the comments of my post a few months back when I passed a glorious but empty and neglected art deco building in Mexico City. Except I thought ‘museum’ rather than store, and something that featured other modern media – blogs, YouTube et al. But the concept could easily work. There’s so much that could be fitted inside. A store, workshops, participatory galleries, photo printing…..you name it. If it’s photo related, it could find a way inside.

    There are another more simple methods of generating revenue that I could also think of, besides commercial accounts. I would pay extra for my own domain name and customisability, something I’ve blogged about more than once.

    By the way, it would be great if you could put in the ‘Notify of future comments’ widget thingy so that I can keep up with this conversation….

  57. Thomas Hawk says:

    As another revenue idea, by the way, Yahoo could buy Tin Eye and harness it up with Flickr. Flickr users are very sensitive about their images being ripped off the web. By having Tin Eye run through your entire stream and flag images being used elsewhere on the web commercially, Flickr users could contact those users and get money from them. Several of my friends have found commercial infringement of their images on the web through Tin Eye and have been able to get money back from the infringer.

    This type of service could be part of a “Super Pro” account that I bet users would pay upwards of $100 a year for along with some other premium features (better access to server referral logs, etc.).

  58. Gary Denness says:

    Another thought on eeking revenue from Flickr. Cutting out the middle man is key. Flickr is the core of all these extra add on products which turn decent profits, so why does Flickr not scoop all or most of these extra dollars for themselves? But that’s not to say they should cut out the middle man entirely.

    Flickr needs to make it easy to buy. And where possible, cheap. Impusle purchases. For a Example – I just tried Pummelvision, having seen your piece on it. Pretty cool! Would I pay for it? Nope. Not as it stands.

    What if it was on a Flickr app store, and I could choose to have my photos fill the video screen (ridding the end product of ghastly black borders) and choose the soundtrack. And what if there was a button right next to it, courtesy of tighter integration with Paypal, that said ‘Buy Now $2′.

    Now I’m interested. What’s a couple of bucks? I can see myself pressing that button. Amazon is thriving on 99 cent self published books. It’s a model that works as far as I know. There’s some revenue.

  59. Scott Lewis says:

    A few comments talked about the great ideas you have. Can you provide a link to that article? I don’t see any in this one. Or would the generic “do something with Flickr” supposed to be awe inspiring? I’m not saying Carol’s down a great job, but I don’t see where you proposed anything big here.

  60. Raq says:

    Excellent blog post. As far as monetizing Flickr goes, well, I pay for a premium account, and have for years (since Flickr was beta), and I don’t pay for any other social media site.

    The idea of Flickr exhibits is compelling, especially as, after David Hockney’s exhibit of iPad/iPhone art,/a> I think we’ll see more monitor-based exhibits.

    I think Flickr could also charge small amounts for Windows 7 themes based on Flickr groups or “interestingness” or tag. Micropayments are where it’s at, as Yahoo should know.

  61. Thomas Hawk says:

    Scott, I mention several specific ideas up there in the comments as do others. Certainly stock photography would seem like the easiest and most lucrative to immediately implement. Right now a very small subset of the Flickr community (myself included) are working with the Flickr/Getty program which pays a paltry 20% out to photographers for photos. Getty has sold thousands of dollars of my photographs. There is no reason why Yahoo couldn’t operate that business directly. They could pay photographers more while keeping more money themselves at the same time. A win win. They could dramatically expand this program both in terms of photos and users from the Flickr community.

  62. Ben says:

    Excellent post! I wonder if Yahoo’s board would even entertain the idea that maybe a blog post like this could be 1/100th as “value-add” as Ms. Bartz’s “contribution” to Yahoo!

  63. Ajit says:

    Excellent post. She is a friggin’ joke. How do you not see the value in Flickr? It is all there for their taking.

  64. Brandon says:

    That was great and 100% true. I realized a few months ago, when laughing about Yahoo’s sad decline and shitty management, that they hold and control one of the web services I care dearly about. I really hope Carol and all the Yahoo execs see and read this. Nice job, Thomas.

  65. melgross says:

    If Steve Jobs can take a dollar year, as he’s done for years now, without taking any more options either, then Bartz can as well. She manages to criticize others such as Jobs, which I find odd. I can’t speak to Flickr, which I just use on occasion, but it seems as though Yahoo isn’t doing anything at all. Now, we hear rumors that they’re going to do something with AOL.

    Heaven help us! That’s just what they need, work with the other fading company in this business.

    Perhaps Bartz is the wrong person in this job. But I can’t think of anything that Yahoo can do to change things around, and that includes monetizing Flickr. Honestly, that would be the tail wagging the dog. Yahoo’s big problem is in search. If they can’t fix that, then they’re gone. Advertising is where the money is in search. Google’s been doing that very well. If Yagoo can’t manage to make money their, then there’s nothing that will save them. I’m sorry that’s such a downer, but it’s the truth. People have moved on. Yahoo had their chance. They blew it.

  66. Rob says:

    There are some excellent suggestions here for getting revenue out of Flickr, but I think leveraging Flickr’s social component leads to even more long-term value. Facebook is working very hard to integrate photos (obviously the tagging features and their prominent position in the “new layout,” and now the upcoming facial recognition feature) precisely because they are a crucial part of shared social experiences.

    It would be a very small jump for Flickr to combine images and the comments surrounding them into tools that are valuable for marketers, news services, brand managers and other media producers. Try to increase the number of interconnections between users to maximize the volume of images and related metadata and suddenly you’re sitting on a pool of data to rival Facebook’s “social graph.”

  67. Eric says:

    Yeah, rich people with lower taxes make jobs. Yahoo is so typical of American companies. They don’t make jobs, the concentrate wealth, and the real, valuable cultural material that they are stewards of become either profit centers, or they die.

    (I have a Flickr account.)

  68. Ipplanman says:

    I wouldn’t expect too much from Yahoo…

    Yahoo can’t be bothered to implement Desktop client IMAP support like AOL or GMail.
    Instead, all you can get is POP, which you have to pay 20 bucks a year for and which Yahoo’s PR dept touts as the greatest thing ever.

    So as a result, your messages can easily get out of sync: changes made on the phone don’t sync to the desktop, only the cloud.

    Real genius move there. I was a Yahoo mail user for 10 years. Now all I do with it is catch spam and turf stuff.

  69. Thomas Hawk says:

    Rob, the social networking component of Flickr is by far the most valuable aspect of the site. Yahoo desperately needs to make a foray into social networking and the Flickr platform would be a good one to try and use a a launching point for that.

    There are lots of ways that Yahoo could get more social engagement out of Flickr and social engagement that is not necessarily focused around photography. In the Flickr group where I spend most of my time DMU, there is some talk of photography, but a hell of a lot of talk about stuff that has nothing to do with photography — politics, news, entertainment, food, whatever.

    Yahoo could build a twitter like feature into Flickr. Yahoo could allow people to better track conversations in groups that they are not currently active in. The could create a personal newsfeed similar to facebook or friendfeed or Google Buzz that could be powerful.

    Groups is the most social area of the site, but they’ve really done nothing with even that. I think much of this comes down to the fact that Yahoo doesn’t have the institutional will or the passion to seriously kick ass with the social side of Flickr. Certainly laying off staff and sending the message to the Flickr team that they are a “non-core, underperforming asset” doesn’t help either.

    There is so much that Yahoo could do with social networking, but they just can’t seem to execute and their current CEO doesn’t have the vision or understand what they have well enough to figure out how to best harness the potential.

  70. Anonymous says:

    Yahoo,

    The solution is sell.

    Sell to Microsoft.
    Sell to AOL.

    Just sell it now. Try to start a bidding war and take the best offer. Clearly Carol is incapable of managing Yahoo!. A sale would raise the stock price she could take the money and leave. A win for stockholders. A win for uses. A win for Carol. A win for the buyer who gets Flickr. Win-Win-Win-Win!

  71. Peter says:

    Is that Flickr I see under the “Sunset” column? http://yfrog.com/h3z89p

  72. Mor10 says:

    The only reason I have a Yahoo account is so I can use Flickr. Nuff said.

  73. Mike Weber says:

    I have a Yahoo! account for 2 things… Flickr and Yahoo Sports / Fantasy Sports. If either or both of those goes, Yahoo might as well have folded completely from my viewpoint.

    Great letter btw Thomas!

  74. Colleen says:

    Aside from Yahoo missing the opportunity boat on flickr to duplicate services already done far better by competitors, they are also shutting down delicious, which is one of the few actual useful products Yahoo has. What on earth are they thinking??

  75. piminnowcheez says:

    With the news about Del.icio.us, this post is that much more on point. I can’t believe what a slow-moving train wreck Yahoo has become.

  76. Jason says:

    Glad somebody out there is still writing these open letters to Bartz and co. Don’t hold your breath, though, despite you being articulate.

    There are a few reasons Y! is failing/failed, imho:

    1.) No Vision.
    Trouble is she has no more vision than any of the other leadership has had over the past 10 years.

    2.) They do need to cut, more than just people, but properties, even more.
    Unfortunately, she does need to cut the ranks even more than just 4%, but more importantly, they need to dispose of many properties from the Y! buying spree haydays. Because Y! buying properties was not was Y! was about. The company became fragmented, stretched beyond its abilities and became a ragtag mix of many companies. The problem nobody can define the vision for Y! is because nobody can remember what the core of the business is. They lost their vision during those acquisition days, and still have yet to regain it. They need to remember that and build from it. That is the dust that has settled on the little car pic you have above.

    3.) Flickr is not Y!.
    Flickr users love their Flickr, I get that, but Flickr is not Y!, and Y! is not just the “parent company” of Flickr. They are two separate companies, and to rebuild Y!, they need to focus on Y!, not the parts of it that comprise its current image. One could write the same thing about Delicious, MyBlogLog, Y! Groups, Y! Email, Y! Horoscopes, Y! Small Business, etc. Hell, Small Business makes Y! more money than Flickr does, and that’s a fact. It always has. Their users are just less vocal (too busy building businesses maybe?).

    4.) Carol doesn’t give a shit what you think.
    There are many open letters to her out there. She doesn’t care. Flick may very well get shitcanned, hate to break it to you. All the open letters in the world won’t change her mind.

    5.) They are an Ad Machine.
    I will give you a hint: Y! is an ad platform. Period. Look at their numbers and where they make their money. They need to focus on that, on content, and a handful of other things. But at its core, Y! is a giant ad platform with tons of eyeballs. That is where the rebuilding starts, not Flickr, hate to break it to you.

    6.) Wall Street hates them.
    I worked there for five years and they constantly proved they were making money hand over fist. Wall Street didn’t care. They cared more about the lack of vision and poor execution of mismanaged properties and failed initiatives like China and Y! Media in LA (looking at you, Lloyd Braun et al).

    And, Thomas , I disagree with you that Flickr and “social networking” is the most valuable aspect of the site. Do you remember Y! 360? Look it up. It was closed July ’09. Nobody used it. Everybody used/uses Facebook. And that trend is still growing. Now add Twitter to the mix. You use Y! Groups? Great, lots of people do, but Y! Groups has nowhere near the users FB does. It never will. Just because you build a feature into a site doesn’t mean people will use it – we had done that many times while I was there. Things die if they aren’t used by users in the Y! world. 360 died along with other “social networking” initiatives and so will any other attempts at social networking within Y!. It is just hype, like “Web2.0″ was the early 2000s. Do you remember what a “tag cloud” is? Yeah, well, 97% of Y! user users don’t – that was proven by user interaction researchers who studied these “web 2.0″ concepts at Y! in 2005. I saw the presos and the numbers. Y! developers and mgrs wanted to build in whizbang things that THEY loved, but soccer moms in the midwest just wanted to read their horoscope, look up a recipe, or read the news – she didn’t care about a frickin “tag cloud” or RSS feeds. And she never will. Not to mention there’s no money in any of that. And that is the same reason why users will always opt to use FB instead of any “social networking” features on Flickr or Y!.

    Oh, and compete with Twitter? That is not what Y! is about, as I said before, it is an ad platform. That is a fact, over 75% of their revenues come from that – and that hasn’t changed – ever. And it won’t.

    And your Stock Photo and “freemium” ideas aren’t bad, but I do think it would be fraught with licensing issues and a huge risk of competing in an already overcrowded space. It also won’t generate the levels of cash they require. Again, this isn’t the Y! core business that needs to be rebuilt. Self-publishing? No money. Apple doesn’t make much from their iTunes coffee table books, and Wall Street wouldn’t care if that feature was gone one day, despite it being a nice feature. Same with Y!. Just not enough money in it and many others are already doing it.

    It may be a finer point on it than you may like, Thomas, but these above points are largely based in fact from my time there and now watching from the sidelines. Don’t get me wrong, I bled purple and gold, and I’d love Y! to come back and innovate with Flickr, and other properties that they feel they need to retain, just like you. But I guess I fundamentally disagree with much of what you said, no matter how hopeful you may be. Flickr users are very savvy, engaged, and intelligent people – and I agree Y! could do more to make money off of them while keeping them happy at the same time. But not right now.

    The future of Y! is rebuilding from the core out. And that core is their ad platform and their relationships with Madison Ave, because they are who pay the bills. Once the stock is going up, then you can put little innovations into properties that will make a bit of money here and there, but they cannot put the cart before the horse. They aren’t worth the investment right now. They need big time cash, immediately. And the only way they are going to do that is through ads. Ads are their future. With where Y! is at right now, clever features (expenses) come after piles of cash.

    Jason

  77. Thomas Hawk says:

    Jason, very good points. All of them. And especially insightful coming from someone who had an insider’s view of things. If Flickr very well may get shitcanned and Carol doesn’t care about it, why not just sell it to somebody who does? I’ve got to believe that there are people who would be interested in controlling that content. Getty Images comes to mind. They already have a deal with Getty. Getty bought iStockphoto (I believe) largely to contain a potentially disruptive competitor. Surely Getty must view Flickr post Getty deal with some degree of suspicion.

    I’d also think Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, even Microsoft, could all be potential buyers of Flickr. Sure they are competitors, but isn’t selling it now and getting something for it as a business preferable to letting it wither on the vine and die?

    The big difference between Flickr and Y360 is the experience. Y360 sucked. It was not an engaging experience. Flickr groups are an engaging experience.

    Look at this group where I hang out DMU. http://www.flickr.com/groups/censorshipsucks/discuss/ 20 active threads in the last 4 hours. Over 9,000 threads by a group of about 3,000 people. Many who have become good friends over the years in this group. There are so many other active groups hidden underneath the surface at flickr. My experience in DMU is more engaging than Facebook. People live in these groups. They are a wonderful structure for meaningful social engagement. Anecdotal, I know, but there exists a nucleus strong enough in these flickr groups, for flickr to use them to launch into social networking more broadly speaking. They just need to be promoted and more broad social networking features developed I believe.

    Y!Groups sucks. The experience there likewise is nowhere near as compelling as Flickr groups. Yahoo can and should build the most compelling social experience possible with Flickr. They already have a team dedicated to Flickr, they just need some direction and a mandate by management to begin developing Flickr into a far more social animal than it already is today.

    What else does Yahoo have that could possibly represent a presence in social networking for them? And if they are serious about putting ads on things long term then they’d do well not to ignore the social networks of the future as that is where many of these ad dollars are headed. Conceding to Facebook is a cop out. Yahoo needs social networking in the long-term to survive and Flickr represents it’s best current chance to leverage an already robust social network into something far larger.

  78. Thomas Hawk says:

    Oh and Carol may not give a shit what I think. But maybe some of the shareholders might or somebody else on the Board. I’m flabbergasted that after allowing Terry Semel to fleece that company personally like he did that they are allowing yet another CEO to do the same thing. If I were a shareholder (I’m not) I’d be pissed.

    Maybe if nothing else an open letter like this might put some pressure on Carol’s bosses to recognize their mistake and replace her with someone who actually does have the vision to grow the company.

    I mean really. She can’t even open a flickr account? It doesn’t mean anything financially but it’s symbolic and little things like that count. Can you imagine Bill Gates going on an analysts call and talking about how his daughter used an iPhone and not even mentioning Microsoft’s own phone? Sure Apple is kicking their ass, there but how demoralizing to your folks at least trying to talk about your kid using a competitor while not even bringing up your own product.

    And making your users *think* you give a shit, if nothing else, is saavy for any CEO. Not giving a shit about your users also runs contrary to their $100 million ad campaign “the internet is under new management, yours” by the way.

  79. julie says:

    Thomas, thank you so much for this post. I learn so much from your site and this issue in particular I know will affect a lot of us who enjoy flickr for the social aspect and use it to host images for our blogs. I don’t even want to think of how flickr going away will affect my workflow now but it will make me quite leery to trust other free online services in future.

  80. Jason says:

    I agree, Thomas, Flickr can, and should, be saved by someone who cares more deeply about it. No question. I’m just pointing out that, unfortunately, this won’t be what resuscitates Y!, simply b/c they need cash now, and they need more than Flickr can possibly throw off on its own. And they need it from their core business. I think Getty buying Flickr would be a great idea. For Getty and Flickr. It gives them many more eyeballs – they would be buying a big market of passionate, qualified users. Won’t help Y! though. They’d lose those eyeballs, which, ironically, is what Y! needs to sell all those ads to.

    I also agree that Bartz sends the wrong messages and is not winning hearts and minds like she should be. She does need to open a Flickr account, and she does need to participate and drink the purple koolaid while managing the higher level direction of the company at the same time. That is the real task before her: to understand what Y! is (ad platform) and to how best improve it in ways that matter (sell more ads to more users in more interesting and compelling ways that don’t undermine the integrity of the brand). She also needs to understand these “ways that matter” are so often reflected by being a user, as well as watching the numbers and the bottom line.

    Those ad campaign costs were laughable and outrageous in contrast to the other changes she has made since taking the helm. They don’t need billboards right now.

    Yes, having another open letter is good. The very power of the internet at use. I’m pointing out that Carol appears to do things with blinders on and, while that may have been a strength of hers in the past, with Y!, that is a definite weakness. She needs to care about what we think and say, for sure, but, imo… she won’t. It is part of who she is, from what I can tell.

    Sure, the Y!360 experience sucked, and I meant it as a comparison to FB, not Y! Groups to illustrate the difficulty of bolting on “social” features to expect success. I really believe the main reason 360 failed is b/c nobody used it. Granted, the experience didn’t help. Users just didn’t know about it, what it was, or why they would use it instead of FB since all their friends were on FB. It tasked everyone with being a “switcher” to pull all their friends over with them. Nobody wanted to bother. I can’t blame them. We all rolled our eyes internally there when they launched it, b/c we all knew it was doomed from the start. There can definitely be improvements like merging Flickr Groups/Y! Groups and things like that, but like I said, I believe that that stuff should be built the stock goes up, and is not what pushes it up.

    It is always valuable to have letters of outreach like this, since you can see the sentiment is largely in favor of services like Flickr, which is where it should be. But I do think that revamping Flickr is be a separate task from that of saving Y!. Hopefully both can survive and flourish, and in more favorable respective environments. As long as Y! owns Flickr, where Y! goes, so goes Flickr, up OR down. I think Flickr’s brand is strong enough to survive on its own and the best thing may, in fact, be a parting of ways.

    Jason

  81. Comparing Yahoo to Apple? Wow. What assets do you think Yahoo has? Their a 1990′s Search property. Don’t get ahead of yourself.

  82. Vicky B says:

    Flickr is the only online property I pay to use (I have a premium license and regard it as good value) and its just about the only damn “social” website I actually care about. It seems to me is also one of the few social networking (hmmm, debatable)/UGC (definitely) sites that came with a clear built in business model. If Yahoo can’t or can’t be bothered to make Flickr work, I’d be interested to see how some of the other pay-wall sites (from the Times, to Spotify and probably most of the news sites in the near future) react. Maybe the NY Times or The Guardian or alternatively Kodak/HP are the natural buyers if Flickr is going to be sold off cheap.

  83. Drew says:

    Great letter Thomas! As a fairly active Flickr user (I probably upload 20-30 images a month), few things scare me more than the prospect of seeing a site I enjoy so much languish, and eventually, perish.

  84. Brian says:

    Yahoo has not grokked Flickr from the start. It was most obvious after they fired Flickr’s wonderful “community evangelist” George Oates. http://george08.blogspot.com/2008/12/not-quite-what-i-had-in-mind.html

  85. Jason says:

    @Michael A. Robson

    Me? Absolutely not comparing Apple and Y!. I only said that the coffee table books aren’t a big part of Apple’s revenue and I don’t think books will save Flickr, much less Y!.

  86. Lee says:

    Jason,

    Who cares about saving “Y!”? WE care about saving flickr. Go rant somewhere else.

  87. Gary Denness says:

    Noone has mentioned it, but Yahoo Video users (or me at least) got an email yesterday giving notice that it is closing down. No big deal. Today I’ve read Delicious is also being closed down.

    Tomorrow…?

  88. Thomas Hawk says:

    Brian, George was actually doing some pretty interesting and significant work getting important and culturally significant works online on Flickr with The Commons. It’s a shame she couldn’t have kept working on that.

  89. Peter says:

    Why not offer her $1 for Flickr. She might have taken it if you hadn’t shown your cards a little early on this post. Now she would probably demand 2 or 3x.

  90. MonteK says:

    Yahoo is getting trampled on and it’s their own fault. They should own facebook, but screwed themselves on that one. They should have never shut down their auction service just made it better and then they would have been competing with ebay. Hell hire me and let’s open it back up.

  91. Adam says:

    It seems like Yahoo! has been fading for quite some time. Except for Yang/Filo have they ever had anyone with an engineering focus at the helm (I just assume those guys were engineers) like Google? Semel was the wrong choice and caused Yahoo! to stagnate at a critical time. Bartz seems intent on outsourcing all the “brains” at Yahoo! that can create new products and fuel innovation.

    Soon, and maybe already, the only thing that Yahoo! has left is recognition of the Yahoo! brand name. Search and analytics are core as Google has clearly shown. Yahoo! focuses on neither of those. If Yahoo! continues to let everyone else develop and provide the brains behind their products it will only be a matter of time before the only thing left to sell is the domain name.

  92. Texrat says:

    Damn fine writing, Thomas, and I agree with your sentiments.

  93. Andre Richards says:

    Wow… just… unbelievable. Some of you get so tightly wound about the websites you play on. It’s just a photo site, not the second coming. I would go outside and get some fresh air. You’ve clearly spent far too much time in front of a computer screen and it’s affecting your view of the world.

  94. Andre Richards says:

    And BTW, your logic is terrible and your reasoning is needlessly selective. Yahoo was going into the toilet before the economy slumped which suggests there’s no strong correlation between how Yahoo is doing and the rest of the economy (not so hard to imagine–was probably years of built-up company dysfunction that she has to undo) so Bartz being able to turn that around, even a small amount, is noteworthy.

  95. Greg says:

    Flickr. Yawn. Almost as much of a wank as yahoo itself. Note to yahoo and flickr alike……innovate already! Times are changing every month…..and you haven’t changed with the times.

  96. Alan says:

    Delicious is worth saving too. Another great property with stacks of potential.

  97. Thomas Chai says:

    Spot on write up, Thomas…..I think Flickr would grow to a greater height if it is sold as a standalone company and develop from there. Many people associate Flickr as a photography hosting site but many are not aware it is one of the first social network before we even hear the name Facebook or twitter.

  98. John Piercy says:

    I love reading “heart inspired” , passionate letters . Its well written and cuts to the chase , without all the BS .
    Hope she read it TH and hope that she replys and considers to implement some new fresh ideas .

  99. Cirkus says:

    “the social networking component of Flickr is by far the most valuable aspect of the site.”

    afterall, i feel in love on flickr. met the love of my life. the social component is HUGE to me. flickr allowed the world to become smaller for me.. i can honestly say so many people on flickr are part of my family.

    just a simple side of it… <3

  100. Matthew Brown says:

    It’s pretty safe to say that Flickr is pretty much the only part of Yahoo that people are actually passionate about. Sure, people LIKED Delicious, but for its functionality, which is easily replicated elsewhere (in fact, services such as Pinboard do exactly that).

    I think the problem at root is that Yahoo’s conception of itself is the problem. Yahoo thinks of itself as equivalent to a TV network. Its business is selling ads. Its customers are big ad buyers. Its users are basically a necessary evil, and treating them well, or building a better product, isn’t in Yahoo’s top-ten priorities.

    This leads to Yahoo having a succession of me-too, derivative services, some of which are useful — even very useful — but none that are highly compelling experiences.

    Flickr doesn’t fit that model. Sure, ads help support it, but Flickr is unique among Yahoo properties that it has paying users in droves. Flickr gives a service people are actually willing to pay money for. Yes, there are other places you can give Yahoo money, like expanding your Yahoo Mail account, but frankly — I’ve never known anyone who uses Yahoo Mail anymore except for being stuck there, and no reason to pay for it except that you can’t easily move to a better provider.

    And because Yahoo doesn’t fundamentally understand a business where the users are also the customers, it’s failed to give the place the attention it deserves, or give its users the opportunity to willingly give them money! There are certainly a LOT of premium services Flickr could offer and doesn’t, or does in only a lackluster kind of way.

  101. chadchat says:

    I love Flickr, but I hate the word ‘addicting’.

  102. Scott Webb says:

    With so many comments, I am not sure where I can add value to the saving or improving flickr. I did enjoy their interface adjustments whenever it was those happened. But it wasn’t enough.

    Instead, I want to take a bit of a different approach here.

    How quickly could Facebook make a few changes that creates a space that overtakes Flickr?

    A Fan Page instead of a Flickr Profile – Is there an upload limit on FB?

    Facebook is understanding the idea of social art and the importance photos play in sharing our story.
    The facial recognition integration sounds interesting and will be interesting to see implemented.

    I don’t really know what would be involved, but I have this feeling that Facebook could improve their photo system quicker than Flickr could improve on the social networking. Facebook is interested and passionate about changing things while Flickr is happy staying mediocre.

    I’d be interested to see what could happen. And Facebook is known for trying new things and causing uncomfort/uproar for a while as people get used to it. Flickr making a change now would be so unusual that it could totally bring down the support they still have.

    On a total other note,

    Look at Instagram for iPhone. We’re seeing a totally different experience with social, photography, sharing and economies growing from it already. Could Instagram start up a web based website at this point? With a massive user base of only iPhone users so quickly, I wonder what they can do with their insta-success.

    Or could we learn from Flickr’s mistakes, lack of drive, and stagnation? Could we learn from Instagrams growth and interest? Could we mashup the knowledge to create a new ecosystem for photography enthusiasts.

    I wish I knew more about engineering these web projects and vertical web applications. Or knew how people approach funding out there in San Fran.

  103. Carol Bartz says:

    Dear Thomas Hawk,

    Bite my rosy red ass, you uncouth turd.

    Love,
    Carol

  104. Russ says:

    To be honest I wasn’t too familiar with this topic, but after your article I did a little reading and I gotta say the Yahoo CEO seems pretty incompetent. Great letter though.

  105. Robin Mathew says:

    Carol Bartz must be steeped out of her position. Please please FUCK OFF CAROL BARTZ……!!!!

  106. Robin Mathew says:

    Carol Bartz must be stepped out of her position. Please please FUCK OFF CAROL BARTZ……!!!!

  107. Thomas, I have always regarded your opinion highly. I particular like the ideas of how you conceive Flickr could improve itself. And, the physical gallery idea would be superb. I could image the photographic art of Kris Kros, Stuck in Customs and others making a great local impact across America and beyond. To me this is not a far-fetched idea at all. It would be a natural evolution that could vitalize Flickr into even a more significant cultural experience.

    As a photographer myself I have seen how the community of Flickr has expanded my horizons and what talent I have to reach higher thresholds of success. It would have not been possible without Flickr. Flickr could evolve even greater to be a stronger asset for it is users with the physical galleries. Not only would this serve the photographers but would serve Yahoo also.

    As I sit here in my small community of Lynchburg Virginia, I can envision what a physical gallery would look here. And, it would amaze and inspire so many on the local level. Not only would this be a vitalizing for the local community it would vitalize Yahoo tremendously.

    I think your ideas provides promise and vision and eventually someone will see the genius of exactly what you are proposing.
    Bob Miller LynchburgVirginia.

  108. Silanov says:

    You hit the nail right on the head and I wholeheartedly agree to your words!

  109. Winifred says:

    I am one of the workers that has had a company purchased by Yahoo, only to have them turn around, fire everyone who built the product they just bought, and then a year or two later kill the product because “it was under-performing”. Yeah…because you fired everyone who wrote the damn code, you idiots.

    Yahoo has a policy of putting MBAs in charge of stuff. Frankly, we all know that MBAs should be taken out back and clubbed like baby seals before they’re allowed to touch anything that actually resembles real business models. Good good, putting an MBA in charge of coders is about the stupidest thing you could do.

    After a decade of holding my stock options, in the hope that Yahoo would finally figure out the 21st century, I sold everything on the day they announced layoffs the week before Christmas.

    Yahoo has no strong business fundamentals, no core business that isn’t outsourced to another provider (Bing, anyone?), and those models (like Flickr) which could have been huge game changers have been left to wallow, unloved and underfunded.

    These freaking millionaire managers, who couldn’t actually *do* any of the things that are the underlying core of the business should all be swept away, and the companies returned to the innovators, programmers, dreamers and doers.

  110. Scott Bourne says:

    Thomas you seem to spend your time by either making pictures to post on Flickr or complaining about Flickr. I generally think your “war” on Flickr is link bait – but I will say that I am genuinely impressed with your business ideas for Flickr and think they would work. But as I recall, you got involved with a company designed to implement all your ideas and compete with Flickr and it went nowhere. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize – it’s hard to make something actually work. Perhaps Flickr needs to come down off their high-horse and listen to someone who’s obviously passionate about their product and perhaps you need to consider taking something other than an adversarial approach to dealing with Flickr’s shortcomings.

  111. Thomas Hawk says:

    But as I recall, you got involved with a company designed to implement all your ideas and compete with Flickr and it went nowhere

    Scott, the company was a two man operation and only one of whom (not me) could code — without adequate financial backing.

    I do seriously think that a better financed/staffed company could put many of these ideas to work. It would take some money and staff though to do this though. Google is probably better positioned than anyone here and could incubate something that I think could in fact compete in the longer-term with flickr given their financial backing and other resources (engineering/design staff).

  112. Very interesting article with a lot of great points.

  113. John Ellis says:

    I am an ex-Yahoo employee who personally witnessed all the negative things highlighted in this article. It’s sad, really; but I’m not here to bash Yahoo and I don’t believe Thomas is, either. The point is that Yahoo could be doing great things but isn’t/can’t due to its own messed up management. As an entrepreneur in the free market, however, I’m happy about this.

    I just launched a competitor to Flickr called PurePhoto. (www.purephoto.com) We’re doing a lot of the things Flickr should be doing like offering real social networking features, enabling photographers to sell their work, and more – all with a much more organized and clean UI. It will take some time for us to match the features of Flickr but what we have is much better. I hope you’ll check us out and support someone who is trying to listen to the customer and build a better product.

    John

  114. Web Design says:

    Perhaps Microsoft wants to devalue Yahoo, I think that Yahoo still beats them in search share… Then he is just being paid a bunch of money to ruin Yahoo (and his career, but who cares after you’ve come close to becoming a billionaire for doing so)

  115. Jane says:

    I may very well have to check out John Ellis’ PurePhoto as I’m currently locked out of my Flickr account. I foolishly believed the forums that said I could log in via my Google account, did so, it worked, then I deleted my hacked Yahoo account. And now? No more flicker. Just an endless loop of clicking on Google for login (or Facebook), both of which take me to a new signin window still asking for a YahooID.

    I think they’ve won. I suppose I have to start over.

  116. Paul Holmes says:

    I could not agree more. Flickr is the best site Yahoo owns by a country mile.

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