Is Yahoo! Corporate Editing Their Competitor’s Wikipedia Entries?

Zooomr Wikipedia EntryZooomr Wikipedia Entry Hosted on Zooomr

Disclaimer: I am the Chief Evangelist for the photo sharing start up Zooomr.

Update: Flickr Co-Founder and Yahoo Flickr Chief Stewart Butterfield responds in the comments below.

So today when checking out the latest edits to Zooomr’s Wikipedia entry I noticed that a recent change had been made saying that many of Zooomr’s features, page designs and particular implementations” were “exact copies” of Flickr. When checking the IP address for the change in question it came back through a reverse DNS directory look up as coming from Yahoo Corporate. The same IP address also edited lots of other Yahoo type Wikipedia entries including positive Flickr entries and even Flickr’s Caterina Fake’s personal biography.

While it’s impossible to know for sure who at Yahoo could be editing Zooomr’s Wikipedia entry, it doesn’t sit right with me that a competitor would be doing this at all.

Now while Zooomr has been doing lots of innovative work in the photo sharing space and even today has many features that Flickr does not (trackbacks, geotagging, smartsets, most famous, most photos, etc.), I think someone certainly could make a case that we also have many features that are similar to flickr. But I think to say that many of our features, page designs and implementations are “exact copies,” is a bit much. I also am not sure that this is the appropriate type of entry one company should be making in Wikipedia about their competitor.

Ever since Zooomr launched we seem to have been vilified by many out there as merely another “flickr clone.” It’s as though how dare someone else try to innovate in a space dominated by beloved flickr. And while we do have today (and continue to plan for in the future) many features that Flickr does not, we still seem to be faced with this barrage of attacks by people who would seem to just want Zooomr to go away.

Once upon a time Yahoo! was king of search. Then guess what happened. A little company called Google came and ate their lunch. I’m sure many might have called Google a Yahoo clone as well. After all they were in the same space as Yahoo doing essentially the same thing. And so what’s wrong with this? What’s wrong with one company trying to innovate in another company’s space?

The ironic thing is that I love flickr. I’ve used it passionately as one of it’s most active users for the past year or so. I plan to use it well into the future. I just happen to think that there is room in the world for more than one photo sharing site and that Zooomr offers me things that I was asking for passionately at Flickr (like trackbacks) that Flickr does not. I believe that there is room for both services to exist side by side. The world of photo sharing is an awfully big place.

But it certainly doesn’t sit right with me that a corporate Yahoo IP address would come back as editing our Zooomr Wikipedia entry. Maybe I’ve gotten this all wrong and there is some other explanation to this. This is certainly possible and I’d love to hear it if there is. And if it actually is someone from Yahoo editing our Wikipedia entry it would be nice for you to come out and actually identify yourself rather than try and change our entry anonymously.

21 Replies to “Is Yahoo! Corporate Editing Their Competitor’s Wikipedia Entries?”

  1. It seems Cameron Reilly from TPN (The Podcast Network) is looking for a new photosharing account. He is a high profile podcaster and media CEO. Sound like a good opportunity for Zooomer’s Chief Evangelist to do some door-step proselytizing?

    Cameron Reilly asks: Flickr Pro or Zooomr?

    My Flickr Pro account expires on Sept 1. Should I pay another US$25 for another year or should I change to another photo service, like, for example, Zooomr? What other online photo services are you kids using? Any recommendations for me?

  2. Flickr does have some nice features, but they’re getting WAY too much credit for just about everything. Their UI is classic form over function, with actual usability and consistency playing fourth fiddle to Web 2.0 hype, and they DID NOT INVENT the damn online photo sharing space! Given that Flickr launched in 2004 and Fotolog has been up and running since 2002, why is nobody calling Flickr a Fotolog clone?

    This has bugged me, too. The founders never seem to quite come out and say that they invented the space, but when asked about it or credited with it, they never seem to correct anybody, either, which I think is really disingenuous. This alone is enough to make me want to dig deeper into Zoomr, regardless of your additional features.

    (Disclosure: I’m a Flickr member. I also have a Zoomr account but I haven’t really done anything with it yet.)

  3. That same IP was on my blog today and my sitemeter shows this.;=s15plmccordj&v;=53&r;=9&vlr;=8&pg;=1&d;=729

    I hope this lets you see it without being logged into sitemeter. It is funny that the referring URL was… . This doesn’t bother me too much because I am different. I have stayed loyal to Yahoo and will continue unless they really offend me some way in the future. I do understand it would not look good if Yahoo is in fact modifying entries of others. Do you think that maybe requiring people to identify themselves before they modify entries would work? I disagree that Google is superior to Yahoo. I do believe there is a culture of people that are in this Google cult following. I do like Google but to me I prefer Yahoo. Just my opinion.

  4. while I agree that flickr certainly doesn’t have any claims over the photosharing space, and i agree that another company will inevitably come along and be better (possible zooomr), I can understand where someone’s dislike of zooomr might come from. if I was part of flickr and saw a company come along that copied my logo i’d be kind of piss. say what you will, but the zooomr logo is a clone of flickr’s logo, from the r that’s colored, to the little “beta” that’s right in the logo. frankly, if I didn’t know better i’d think zooomr was a joke/parody site. i remember back a long time ago I registered the domain BAO Systems, copied BEA’s color and dots, as a joke.

  5. Thanks for the link Paul, it does work by the way and does show Corporate Yahoo coming to your blog via a Technorati search for Zooomr.

    Actually I don’t have any problem with this. I think using Technorati to track both your own company and your competitors is probably smart. I use Technorati searches for Flickr myself and use Technorati searches for Zooomr myself all the time as well. One way to get even better Technorati search results for Zooomr by the way is to do a search for Zooomr OR Zooomr. That’s because our name gets misspelled with two O’s as often as people get it right with three O’s.

    But I think to anonymously change the wikipedia enteries of your competitors is something different and pushes things too far.

    I’m frankly surprised that Yahoo would allow their employees to anonymously change competitor wikipedia enteries. But maybe this just speaks to the type of competitive culture that they would seek to foster there.

    I’m also surprised that Yahoo! would see Zooomr as such a threat to them. Really we are just a super small company trying to put out super rich features in the photo sharing space. We don’t have anywhere near the traffic or members or photos or any other measuring metric of Flickr. We don’t have Yahoo’s deep pockets to support us. It would seem that there are much bigger photo sharing sites that they could set their sites on rather than mucking around with our wikipedia entry.

  6. [I’m a Flickr co-founder and manage it within Yahoo!]

    Thomas, before you go out on the warpath, know that there are over 10,000 employees at Yahoo! I’m sure a lot of Yahoos edit a lot of different pages. This is certainly not official Flickr or Yahoo! policy so it’s not quite right to say “Yahoo! Corporate” is doing anything.

    Think about the stuff you say and whether it counts as representative of the companies you work for. Just like Zooomr’s official position isn’t that “Tim O’Reilly is an asshole” or Stone & Youngberg’s official position isn’t that “Jill Greenberg is a sick woman who should be arrested for child abuse”, “Zooomr has copied several things from Flickr” is not some official Yahoo! (or Flickr) policy (regardless of the veracity.)

    Having said that, I’m a little surprised you’d even point this out. I just looked at Zooomr’s entry and it’s history and Kris has done a lot of editing, some of which looks a lot more like marketing than a NPOV display of the facts (example). This is generally considered poor form and you sound a little like the pot calling the kettle black (it helps not to think of it as “your” entry – it’s Wikipedia’s, and it should be objective). In any case, Wikipedia entries tend to take care of themselves over the long run, so you shouldn’t lose much sleep over it.

    On the larger question – there is lots of room for innovation and I don’t think Flickr will ever attract more than a small percentage of people sharing photos online (since *most* people will eventually do so). No one is saying “It’s as though how dare someone else try to innovate in a space dominated by beloved flickr.” In fact, I’ve never heard a single person criticize Zooomr for being innovative 😉

  7. Nicolai:

    “The founders never seem to quite come out and say that they invented the space, but when asked about it or credited with it, they never seem to correct anybody, either, which I think is really disingenuous.”

    As far as I remember, no one has ever asked if we invented online photo sharing. I’ve also never seen an article that credited Flickr with its creation. If I did, I’d probably correct it — I have, for example, corrected several articles which said we invented tagging (Joshua Schachter from delicious suggested it us several times before we realized it’d be a good idea).

    I’ve also explained in dozens of interviews and public speeches that we’ve taken ideas and inspiration from all over the place and that, to me, innovation is a lot like making music — a lot of innovation is recombinant, new juxtapositions and otherwise playing with a set of actions and methods that all done before but putting them together in a new way.

    “Given that Flickr launched in 2004 and Fotolog has been up and running since 2002, why is nobody calling Flickr a Fotolog clone?”

    Probably because it has essentially *no* similaries to Fotolog, other than the ability to add comments and the ability to add friends (and the latter works in a completely different way). Fotolog was definitely an inspiration though – the pure simplicity was something we envied (one look at a page and you got what it was about, and Flickr’s still too confusing for most users).

    Six months after we launched, I can think of these differences between Flickr and Fotolog: mac and windows uploaders, Organizr, tags, favoriting, sets, groups, privacy levels, contact levels, live chat with drag and drop sharing, buddy icons, notes, inline editing, the whole api … and that’s just off the top of my head. So, that’s probably why no one said we were a clone. (On the other hand, maybe the similarities between Flickr and Zooomr are a matter of subjective perception, but when I first saw Zooomr I assumed it was a parody too.)

  8. Zooomer is a copy of flickr, are you embarassed by your actions?

    Why is someone at yahoo wrong for saying what is true?

  9. Stewart, I think you miss the point entirely. I am not saying that 100% of what comes from a corporate IP address is the official opinion of a corporation.

    I’m saying that it’s probably not the best thing for someone at Yahoo to be anonymously editing their competitors wikipedia entries from a Yahoo IP address.

    I have no problem if someone at Yahoo blogs about Jill Greenberg or Tim O’Reily or any host of other things. It’s not really the same thing as making derogatory comments about a direct competitor on the wikipedia page about said competitor.

    I think it’s poor form for you to try and suggest that these are the same things. They clearly or not.

    I think it’s also a bit of an exaggeration to suggest that I’m “going on the warpath.” I’m merely pointing out something that doesn’t quite sit right with me. I’m sure you’d feel the same way if an anonymous Zooomr IP address were to edit Flickr’s wikipedia entry and say that your service was a direct copy of Zooomr.

    Instead of dealing with the clearly questionable ethical nature of the edit though you’d instead try to obfuscate it as being the same thing as my blogging about Jill Greenberg or Tim O’Reily. Neither whom are direct competitors of mine.

    It would seem to me that you are trying to justify this action by one of your employees. Am I correct in my understanding of your position that Yahoo doesn’t object to this behavior — because you don’t for a second in your comment suggest that there is anything wrong with this edit?

    And while at it, let me ask you a particularly direct question. Do you know who at Yahoo! edited the wikipedia entry on Zooomr?

  10. People are being mean to zooomr?

    Zooomer is a piece of crap, flickr is someting great. The top photographer on flickr just got a job for toyota, the top photographer on zooomer is a crappy paid shill blogger.

    Quit thinking people give a crap about you or your stupid zoooooooooomr.

  11. Thomas, I didn’t miss your point at all. I agree that it is not the best thing for someone at Y! to make an edit like that. I wish it hadn’t happened.

    However, you did completely miss my point. I wasn’t saying editing the Wikipedia entry was like you blogging about Jill or Tim. I’m saying that it would be wrong for a reader to assume your opinions about Jill or Tim were official positions of the companies you worl for. Similarly, it would be wrong to assume this edit was the official position of Yahoo! or Flickr.

    The *title of your post* was “Is Yahoo! Corporate Editing Their Competitor’s Wikipedia Entries?” You attributed the edit to as having been done by “a competitor” and the “company”. It was not. It was done by some person (who almost certainly is a Yahoo! employee since they were on the network).

    And to answer your question: no, I don’t know who it was. Regardless, I can assure you that it is not coming from “Yahoo! Corporate”.

    (Btw, by “warpath” I meant that you usually don’t just “point out that something doesn’t quite sit right”. Usually it means posting on several blogs and fora, soliciting diggs, etc. I was asking that you think about how you state it before you start with the promotional activitiess.)

    Last, a direct question for you: How do you feel about Kris editing the Zooomr entry to add positive references to Zooomr and himself and comparisons to Flickr? Is that substantially different?

  12. There’s an obvious difference here:

    Thomas did not use his employers’ facilities to enable his comments about Jill Greenberg. The Yahoo employee obviously did do this, hence the association is easily made. (If Thomas signed his posts with then Stewart might have a point).

    On the other hand, Kris creating or editing his own Wikipedia entries is simply hilarious. Every geek with half a brain knows that this is a huge no-no.

  13. There is a HUGE difference between signing an entry with “” and an IP address that belongs to Yahoo!

    If edited those entries then Thomas might be more justified in his outrage…but an IP address means NOTHING.

    As pointed out, Yahoo is a huge corporation. Could be a bored intern who likes Flickr. Could be Stewart. Who knows, and really, who cares.

    1. address whether the edits are correct or incorrect

    2. let Wikipedia sort it out – Zooomr/Flickr is not so special that Wikipedia breaks down

  14. Stewart, first off you will notice that my headline is asking a question not stating a fact. I’m asking the question as a derogatory comment about Zooomr was made from a Yahoo IP address. While Zooomr may have similarities to Flickr as Flickr had similarities to Photobucket, Zooomr most certainly is not an “exact copy” of Flickr. Did we copy Flickr’s geotagging? How about Flickr’s trackbacks? Did Zooomr get the idea to add Zooomrtations because Flickr did it first? Has Zooomr drawn influence from Flickr just as you drew influence from Photobucket? Sure.

    In my article I indeed reference the fact that it could have been anyone from Yahoo and that I have no idea who it is. I clearly make reference to the fact that it could have been anyone. It could have been Yahoo Corporate it could have been someone else. Hence the question. I would, however, classify the individual who made the comment as likley a competitor and as likely an employee of your company Yahoo! (as you yourself admit)

    I’m not sure how Yahoo’s network IP structure works, if IP addresses are assigned to units etc., but this same address had previously edited both Flickr enteries and Caterina Fake’s personal biography.

    Let me ask you another question. Are you saying that the IP address in question could have come from any single computer at Yahoo? Or does Yahoo assign IP addresses to units/teams/areas? Because it seems odd to me that this same IP address also has been used to previously edit both other Flickr entries and Caterina Fake’s personal biography on wikipedia.

    I’m glad that we agree that it’s not good that someone at Yahoo would be entering derogatory comments into the wikipedia on Zooomr.

    As to the “warpath” allegation. I did nothing which you allege in this post. I did not submit this to any forums. I did not solicit diggs for the story. And this is the only blog that I published it to.

    As to Kris’ edits, lets talk about those. Most of these are him either offering up screen shots of the service, correcting spelling type errors, etc. I can only imagine the single entry that you might object to being that where he submits a link to the most popular story about Flickr on the internet written by Michael Arrington over at Tech Crunch. I’m not sure that I find these things particularly offensive and would certainly not equate them with negatively vandalizing a competitor’s entry.

    I think you’d have a similar problem as I mentioned above if a Zooomr IP address was to negatively and incorrectly characterize the Flickr wikipedia entry.

    Is your problem with Kris editing mostly non controversial entries on Zooomr the fact that he doesn’t do it anonymously?

    Because if you have a problem with a company editing their own data I’m surprised as this same IP address from Yahoo has put pro Yahoo entries in all over the place. So let’s see what else this IP address has edited. Well they added a Yahoo link to the Gay Pride entry. They changed an entry which alleged a security breach at Flickr was why Flickr Live was dropped. They cite the fact that Caterina Fake worked on the set of Seinfeld. They cite the fact that you personally are not just Caterina Fake’s husband but also the co-founder of Flickr. They edited an entry which was critical of Yahoo 360 accusing it of “jumping the trend wagon”. They change an entry saying that the first tag cloud appeared on Flickr instead of elsewhere. They alter the Google Wikipedia entry to say that someone else pioneered the selling of key word advertising.

    There are many other entries by the same Yahoo IP address and they have edited other competitor sites as well. CNET, Microsoft, Google.

    This has been going on for years which is why I’d ask the question if Yahoo has a policy about editing their competitor’s wikipedia entries. It certainly is atleast tollerated there it would seem.

    Tinou, and as to wikipedia sorting thing out, you are right. Very quickly after the edit was made, someone on wikipedia pointed out that the edit was made from a Yahoo corporate IP address. This is what alerted me to the fact.

  15. I thought you had to be noteworthy to get a wikipedia entry.

    Zooomer is a cheap copy

  16. Geez! Hang it up already! Do you actually think Yahoo! would have an official policy about editing Wikipedia articles? And do you really think there may be some corporate-sponsored action to discredit Zooomr through your Wikipedia entry? Come on! Sure it’s not a very good idea for anyone to edit any Wikipedia article with anything but verifiable facts, much less to do it to a competitor’s entry. And if I worked for Zooomr, I’d probably be pissed enough to blog about it. But your blog post spends more time defending Zooomr against Flickr rather than addressing the issue at hand. And I have to agree with Stewart that your blog post suggests to the reader that this might be something other than a random employee doing something of questionable integrity.

    A simple post of “a Yahoo! employee edited Zooomr’s entry on Wikipedia and I think that sucks” probably would have elicited more agreement than a diatribe on Flickr vs. Zooomr or Yahoo! vs. Google (where did THAT come from?) or comments on stifling innovation.

    BTW, let me add the disclaimer that I work for Yahoo!, but in no way even remotely related to Flickr or Y! Photos. I just happen to be a huge fan of Thomas’ photography and am an avid reader of his blog (as well as being a pro user of both Flickr and Zooomr, but mostly because I got both for free).

  17. i don’t use Flickr or Zooomr, but i do use Wikipedia (although i have never made an edit). however Kris editing the Zooomr entry with positive spin seems at least as unseemly as a Yahoo employee editing one with negative spin. (calling it vandalism seems to be a real stretch). it is hard to imagine much that Kris would write would be NPOV. and certainly he does speak for the company whether or not some anonymous Yahoo employee does.

    i used to scroll through all of the Zooomr/Flickr entries here as they didn’t really interest me. now those posts are a little more interesting as they always seem to be trying to pick a fight with Flickr over petty things. (publicity?) i do visit THDC less now than i used to since it became somewhat of a marketing blog.

  18. Thomas, some friendly advice from a long time reader of your blog and admirer of your photos. You are really starting to annoy me with your petty tirades about your employer’s competition. Quit your whining and get back to what make your blog compelling in the first place, writing about digital media and sharing great photographs. The path you’re on right now is making you a laughing stock and you don’t seem to realize it.

    That’s all dude.

  19. I think the last comment was a bit harsh, but I will say this: I loved seeing Thomas’s photos on Flickr and starting reading his blog as a result. I find the posts on Tivo and digital media issues to be informative and enjoyable and that’s what keeps me coming back.

    Over time, however, I’ve noticed something about Thomas’s interactions with others. He tends to assume the worst about other people and will (over)react in a rather confrontational way based on these assumptions. When others react to his confrontational style, it seems to reinforce the whole behavior pattern.

    Why is Thomas constantly having confrontations with security guards, with Jill Greenberg, and with other Flickr members? I’m not saying Thomas is always wrong in these disputes. But the frequency and intensity of these issues says a lot about the way Thomas approaches other people.

  20. I’m obviously late to the party, but I think the last couple of points nail it pretty well. It’s a petty little thing. Fix the entry if it’s wrong, then it will be Wikiality. Thomas, do you think Yahoo! should institute a corporate policy of forbidding users from editing Wikipedia at work? Maybe they should get approval first. Yahoo! most likely trusts their users to surf around the ‘net respectfully, and I’m sure most do. Unless there’s defamation or flat-out vandalism, I think Yahoo! is best served to not investigate or change their policies.

    And honestly, do you really believe that Yahoo!/Flickr would make it a corporate mission to edit the Wikipedia page of Zoomr? It wouldn’t even make sense.

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