Former Flickr Staffer Blasts Yahoo/Flickr Over Yesterday’s Layoffs

Twitter was a buzz yesterday with tweets from current and former Flickr staffers regarding a round of layoffs that took place at the popular photo sharing site yesterday. One of the most upset seemed to be former Flickr engineer Nolan Caudill who wrote a scathing post calling Yahoo/Flickr out over the firings.

“Flickr lost several good people today. If you had me name the top 10 Flickr employees that loved the site the most, half of them got handed pink slips today,” wrote Caudill. “Yahoo made a major mistake today and there’s no other way to interpret it. I’m mad and this is my soapbox.”

Equally troubling, Caudill seems to indicate that the layoffs were merely a symptom of a larger problem of Yahoo suits being out of touch with what is one of their most beloved properties by users. “Flickr-the-site will be fine but Flickr-the-culture took a huge hit today and those suits in Sunnyvale balancing some column or doing their thousandth “re-org” are completely to blame. I bet they don’t even know what they’ve done and that’s probably the worst part of the whole thing,” Caudill continued.

It’s interesting that layoffs at Flickr would be one of the first moves made by Yahoo’s new CEO Scott Thompson. I wrote an open letter to Thompson shortly after his appointment as CEO suggesting that Flickr represented one of Yahoo’s best chances for success with social. Flickr has been losing unique visitors (according to compete.com) over the past 6 months as competitors like Google+, Smugmug, Instagram, 500px and even Facebook continue to pull some of the best users away from the site — by the way, facebook is currently in the process of redesigning their photos page (it looks an awful lot like they are copying Google Photos here) and employees have been reaching out to popular photographers, promoting them on their new suggested user list, etc.

After flubbing a new product release (some sort of unusual chat with other users while you doodle on photos thing) that Flickr killed four months after launch, you have to wonder if laying off what are perceived as some of their best Flickr employees really makes the most sense as Flickr Chief Markus Spiering tries to push forward with the promised innovation that he blogged about earlier this month. On the other hand, sometimes in order to effect significant change you need to clear house. Sometimes a culture needs to be broken before it can be rebuilt and maybe this is partly what this is about as well. Perhaps this is more of a rebuilding to allow Flickr to clear the deck so to speak to build something better and stronger.

Still, if Flickr is planning on coming up with something better, it had better move quickly. It seems like post after post on Google+ these days are about how much users LOVE Google+ for photos/community and how many photographers are not renewing their paid Flickr Pro subscriptions due to a superior community culture at Google.

It is telling to me that newly appointed CEO Scott Thompson still does not appear to have even bothered to set up a Flickr account. By not having a Flickr account Thompson is publicly showing how little regard he has for the popular Yahoo property. It takes 2 minutes to tell an administrative assistant to set up a PR oriented public account and post a few old vacation photos on it.

That Thompson can not even be bothered to do that much makes me wonder not only what sort of message this sends to the day to day employees working on Flickr, but if Caudill might just in fact be right about the suits down in Sunnyvale having no possible clue about what they even have with Flickr. Former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz never could be bothered to set up a Flickr account either.

By contrast, Google cofounder Sergey Brin is not only sharing his photos on Google+, he even showed up for a hangout that I was on with popular photographer Trey Ratcliff last week to personally talk live about some of his photos and his favorite photos by others. I’m surprised that a billionaire founder of one of the most successful tech companies of all time seems to have to the time to publicly support the photo sharing aspects of his product while the new CEO of Yahoo can’t be bothered.

Update: More comments here.

Ex-Yahoo Jaisen Mathai writes an open letter to flickrenos laid off asking them to consider working on his Open Photo project.

Update #2: BetaBeat’s coverage. Thread on Flickr Central. Graphic made by Flickr employee identifying some of those laid off. Andy Baio suggests Flickr management was blindsided by these layoffs.

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12 Comments

  1. Jeff Clow says:

    Sad state of affairs that a crown jewel like Flickr is allowed to atrophy.

    They had it all at one time.

    It appears they let it slip out of their hands.

    A shame. A real shame.

  2. Neil Kremer says:

    I think the end of Flickr and Yahoo is near. They simply don’t have the leadership to compete with Google.

  3. Donna Parrone says:

    Must say, Google+ rocks

  4. prophead says:

    It’s like they’re TRYING to fail.

  5. Bully Bull says:

    I was afraid that i won’t see a Google+ advertisement in a Thomas Hawk post, for a second.

    It was till the 3rd paragraph or something.

  6. Thomas Hawk says:

    Oh Bully Bull the troll has decided to show up. Lovely. There is no Google+ advertisement there Bully Bull. I’m just a happy user of Google+. The fact that Google+ has been siphoning off users from Flickr is hardly a big revelation. Don’t take my word for it. Just ask some of these folks. http://www.group.as/Photographer/

  7. Regan says:

    Whats a Yahoo?

  8. Sheila says:

    The Google+ fanboy. Sweet.

  9. Paul says:

    They got what they deserved. Flickr’s customer service team has always been a disaster (arbitrary deletions, non-existant help, ignored suggestions, etc). It’s no wonder paying members have been running away from Flickr in droves for the last several years.

  10. Ralph says:

    To me the magic Flickr died when they decided to filter content specifically for Germany and other countries a few years ago. The problem was less what was done, but in what arrogant way it was communitcated. Customer support then did absolutely not “get” the cultural background of German users, blindly following policies, but making obvious to many German-speaking users that their opinions and wishes did not count.

  11. wtf says:

    What crown Jewl? Flickr is crown Jewl? That is laughable. Ever heard of instagram?