Flickr is Dead
Which one of these two albums looks better?
You know what? It doesn’t matter. It’s totally irrelevant. The Google one looks far better, but that’s so beside the point at this point.
Last night I realized for the first time that Flickr really was dead.
Where did this realization come from?
It had nothing to do with the fact that Google Photos is rolling out new innovation on a weekly basis while Flickr is still stuck in 2004. I realized it when I went to Trey Ratcliff’s photowalk at Stanford. There were over 200 people there. *200 people*! It was the largest photowalk I’ve ever been on and I’ve done dozens over the years. And what was everybody talking about at the photowalk?
Not only was *everyone* talking about Google, there were tons of people from Google who were there at the walk.
Google Photos Community Manager Brian Rose was there (along with his sexy moustache). The Photo Team guy who built their lightbox Vincent Mo was there. Google+ Community Manager Natalie Villalobos was there (she used to work at Yahoo). Chris Chabot was there (and he was at Wednesday night’s photowalk in SF too). Mike Wiacek was there.
And these are just some of the people at Google that I know better than others.
I remember back when Flickr used to feel like this. Back when Stewart Butterfield used to show up at the SF Flickr Social meetups. Even though those were smaller meetups, they were full of the same high energy and spirit. Now the SF Flickr Group is basically dead. The meetups that used to happen every month don’t happen anymore. There are only three posts to the group in the past year and one of them is about reviving the group. I haven’t seen a Flickr employee in years. I’m still banned from their help forum for two years now — thanks alot guys.
Meanwhile I visited the Google Campus last week and got to spend an entire afternoon with an excited and engaged team who are full of energy and charged up about building the next great thing in photos.
Earlier this week, the Yahoo exec who is in charge of Flickr, Blake Irving, sent out an interesting tweet. He linked to an article that talked about the tipping point. The gist of the article was that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.
While it would be easy to point to the fact that there are more photographers and photographs still on Flickr than the fledgling Google+, the fact of the matter is that the most resolved 10% have now moved on from Flickr to Google+. It will take time, maybe even a few years for the rest of them to follow, but follow they will. I’ve seen this movie before. I blogged the tipping point back in 2005 before Flickr overtook Webshots for the first time.
Webshots is still around of course, but they are entirely irrelevant at this point. Remember how excited we all were about flickr back then? Sort of like how we are about Google Photos now.
And like Flickr killed Webshots, Google+ will kill flickr.
When we look back 5 years from now at the downfall of Flickr there will probably be plenty of people to blame.
Was it simply ineffective Yahoo management? Were the execs too demoralized about underwater stock options?
Carol Bartz still doesn’t have a Flickr account. Meanwhile Sergey Brin posted shots earlier this week of some kick ass underwater photography from a trip of his to Egypt.
Was it all of the turnover, including the layoffs themselves in the flickr group and lack of any meaningful Yahoo investment?
Was it the rotating team leadership after Stewart the problem? Was it the attitude coming out of Community Management that photographers were more of a nuisance to put up with and talked down to than a community worth engaging?
But Flickr is very much dead in the water. It will take time to really see it happen, but they’ve lost the soul of photosharing. They’ve lost the spirit of photosharing — the zest and passion and love — and while they got away with that for a long time due to lack of competition, things have now changed with Google Photos arriving on the scene, and to a degree 500px as well.
I’m sure I’ll get a bunch of haters responding to this post. Flickr is still beloved by so many of us. Myself included. I still upload photos up there every single day. Don’t hate me for sharing this opinion. And don’t bash Google Photos for whatever features you think they lack compared to flickr — but, but, but, Google+ doesn’t have groups, blah, blah, blah.
All that’s coming.
As I mentioned before, it’s not about the features, it’s about the spirit. And with weekly innovation on their invite only beta product, Google+ is far more likely to get the final product right than Flickr is to innovate at this point.
Please keep in mind that this is just my personal observation after watching the photo sharing space very closely over a long period of years. I very well could be wrong.
Mark Twain’s famous quote “the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” in fact comes to mind.
Update: This post was on hacker news this morning and as such is getting a lot of traffic.
If any of you don’t have Google+ invites and want one, I’ve got 38 of my 150 left and you can get one here. First come, first serve.
The comments on this post on Google+ itself are also worth reading.
Update #2: Peter Adams got a great group photo from last night. He was shooting with a Phase One system which is pretty awesome. Check out his group photo here — be sure to actually click on the photo to see it huge in the lightbox view.
Update #3: My Google+ invite link ran out of invites above, but Mike Wiacek sent me his invite link which should be reloaded with another 143 or so if people still need them, just click here.
Update #4: Looks like Mike and I are both out of invites now. David Miller just emailed me his invite link. You should be able to get one here if you still need one until they run out.
Update #5: TechCrunch picks up on the Flickr story here. Looks like we’re out of invites again. Instead of me posting more links in the body of this post, if you have an invite link and want to share it, post it in the comments and people can use them there if they still need an invite to sign up.