Could On Air Hangouts Be Coming to Flickr?

An interesting article over on TechCrunch about Yahoo buying a company called OnTheAir. The company makes a hangout app similar to Google+’s hangouts that lets people interact via video voice and chat. The OntheAir team is coming to work on mobile at Yahoo under Adam Cahan — the same Adam Cahan who is also the Yahoo exec in charge of Flickr (and who just went public with his own personal Flickr account this weekend — welcome to Flickr Adam!).

Google Hangouts have been one of the killer features for community as far as photographers go on Google+. Many photographers have produced hangout based shows — but more than anything they are a place where photographers who kinda/sorta get to know each other on the web and through commenting on each other’s photos, can get to know each other much better live. Earlier this week I wrote an article about photographers Brian Matiash and Nicole S. Young who actually met on a Google+ Hangout and ended up married.

Google+ Hangouts are powerful tools for community building most of all. There’s something about spending time with someone in video/voice that strengthens the resulting online bonds around a website after the fact. While community has been growing at Google+, community has been slipping at Flickr. The real hardcore community on Flickr mostly takes place in Flickr groups which feel like they are dying. Most groups on Flickr are far less active than they were two years ago.

Flickr would seem to me like an ideal place for Yahoo to build out hangouts. They tried a horrible feature called Photo Session where two people could go into a chat room and doodle on photos while they chatted together last year that they subsequently cancelled, but that feature was nowhere near the experience that a Google Hangout is. It makes me wonder if Yahoo couldn’t seed some of the initial push towards a hangout product through some of the key remaining groups on Flickr to see if they couldn’t get some traction with this product there.

Getting people more connected around a website is a powerful tool to making them stickier more impassioned users. The other thing that video chat does is it causes people to be nicer to each other. One of Flickr’s current problems with their groups is that there are a lot of jerks in them. People in Flickr groups seem to pride themselves on being mean, or snide or snarky. This drives people away. Allowing people in groups to block each other would help a ton with this problem, but getting people to see each other as real human beings through video chat sessions is also helpful. I’m always amazed at how much nicer people are to each other on Flickr once they’ve actually met in real life.

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