Should Flickr Blacklist URL Shorteners?

There is a post over in the help forum at Flickr right now asking why links can’t be posted on Flickr. For the past few years Flickr has blacklisted every single url shortener that I’m aware of except their own url shortener (which is only used to link to actual pages on Flickr). While Flickr blacklists lots of sites from posting links to Flickr, I’m not aware of many other sites out there that actually blacklist all the url shorteners as well.

Personally I like to use url shorteners. I’m a big fan of the Google Chrome URL shortener plug in, which is my personal favorite. Apparently Flickr blacklists url shorteners because of “previous abuse.” It would certainly seem that more and more shortened urls are becoming a big part of our internet experience. Especially with Twitter and mobile, they seem to be increasing all the time. What do you think? Should url shorteners be allowed on Flickr? Is there better technology that Flickr could employ to get around the somewhat vague “previous abuse,” logic for blacklisting all url shorteners? Do you have a favorite URL shortener? If so, which one and why?

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  1. Dustin Finn says:

    I think the previous abuse case their referencing is a few times i’ve seem some awkward links in comments and sometimes on the free Flickr account pages that were spam/malicious in its use…

    From Flickr’s point of view, people who are dumb might blame Flickr for allowing a link to a malicious website…

    From my opinion, Flickr continues to try to baby and coddle the users and protect them…

    I think it horrible. I primarily only use site because it gives me statistics on how many clicks I got on the link plus it also tells me how many other people used to shorten the same URL…

  2. bj says:

    I like to know where I going before I click on something thus I wont click on them.

  3. has a Firefox extension which allows the user to hover over a link to get a preview before they click on it. It’s really helpful. It appears they have one for Chrome, too:

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by photo blog feeds, katsanes and photo feeds, Moore Photography. Moore Photography said: Should Flickr Blacklist URL Shorteners? […]

  5. Thomas Hawk says:

    Dustin, that’s a good point about abuse by spam or malicious sites with cheap free Flickr accounts. I wonder how other sites like Twitter get around this problem.

    Another thought might be to only disable them on free accounts. I can’t imagine too many spammers would want to invest $25 per year for an account only to see it deleted if they abused it. I suspect the vast majority of users would use url shorteners responsibly.

  6. Greg Smith says:

    Why would anyone need to use URL shorteners on Flickr? Other than to track someone clicking on their links or mask spam?

  7. Thomas Hawk says:

    I don’t know. Sometimes links to things like Google Maps look really long and ugly. Especially in terms of viewing things on mobile. You can reformat them with html, but is that sort of user work really necessary? Is the “abuse” problem big enough of a problem I wonder. Even now I still forget all the time that I can’t post shortened urls into Flickr and have to take time to go back and find the actual link instead of the shortened url that’s in my clipboard etc. Maybe you do want to track stats on links as well? I don’t know.

  8. Nick P says:

    Flickr have a very weird URL policy full stop. All take and no give.

    A while back I tried to place a link below my photos to my blog. Not against CG as I wasn’t selling anything. But being in the web analytics industry I wanted to make sure I tracked the number of clicks through to my blog fro Flickr. So the link itself included the Google Analytics utm_ tags for campaigns but the linked text itself was just the domain.

    Flickr wouldn’t allow that and it automatically changes the test you’re linking so that it matches the href value.

    I raised this on the help forums and their excuse was it was to avoid phishing and fake links. But this is just nonsense when you can just as easily create a link to anywhere but use the text “Click Here”. They only do this swap of the text if it looks like a domain or something.

    Then there’s the whole thing about adding rel=”nofollow” or any and all links so that although Flickr might benefit in terms of SEO from you linking to them, you can’t benefit from your own photo and profile pages linking to your own sites.

    So not surprised to hear about the URL shortners. It means Flickr can’t see what is behind the link (i.e. they don’t have control) so of course they get banned.

  9. Mike Cohen says:

    I use my own URL shortener, (which uses YOURLS).

  10. Moritz Petersen says:

    I think URL shorteners should come up with a standardized API and usage model to allow previews. I have my own URL shortener and each URL can be suffixed with “?” to show the real link. If this coud be somehow standardized, people would have more faith in using shorteners.

  11. Tom Baker says:

    Flickr should and is allowed to ban anything they wish from their site, even if the reasoning for it is a bit dubious (it’s like using an anvil to kill a fly).

    Flickr’s policy makes them less appealing to people wanting to go brand their work. I’m sensing a growing dissatisfaction with Flickr among photographers who want to go beyond trading Cat photos and garnering blinking “awards” in their comments.

    The real question is what’s a good alternative to Flickr?

  12. Nick P says:


    There’s lots of alternatives for pure photo posting/sharing.

    What’s missing is something that also includes the social aspects – groups, threads, discussions, etc. If someone like Smugmug added this functionality (hint hint Mr Smugmug if you’re reading this) I’m sure there would be a mass exodus from Flickr.

    Unfortunately until then its the only game in town so we’ve no choice.

  13. Thomas Hawk says:

    Nick is correct. As far as social photo sharing goes, Flickr is the only game in town right now. SmugMug has better customer service, but they don’t offer free accounts which keeps a lot of people out. Nor do they have a robust group interactive system like Flickr does.

    It will be interesting to see what Google does with later this year hopefully. Or if the right well financed startup with strong engineering and design talent came along, they could certainly build something to rival flickr as well.

    Plenty of nice places to host images. None that carry the social interaction or audience of Flickr.

  14. Eric says:

    Put me in the camp that wonders why you’d want to use URL shorteners on Flickr in the first place? Flickr allows real links and there’s no character limits in place that I’m aware of.

    Personally I find them kind of annoying – they mask your destination so you can never be *completely* sure what you’re clicking on. Which does give them a lot of potential for abuse.

    They’re one of those things I wish the internet would un-invent.

  15. Jim Austin says:

    Yes, they definitely should be allowed on Flickr. Use shorteners whenever possible.

    TH, can you spare a moment to look, and add me to your home page Photographers list?


  16. Bill says:

    I’d like to know what the real reason is. “Abuse” is just too broad.

  17. Sid says:

    I have a Google Maps URL of a recent road trip that is too long to use in Flickr. The URL is truncated in Flickr meaning half the stops don’t show up on the map. So I tried to use a URL shortener and damn if every single one of them is banned. So yeah what’s the solution Flickr?