Why I Don’t Support “Black Day” at Flickr

Why I Don't Support Flickr Black Day

If you notice something different about photos on Flickr today, it might just be “black day.” Over the past week or so, hundreds (maybe thousands) of users who dislike an impending photo page change (and in many cases, redesign changes from earlier this year) have organized and are protesting by posting black protest images to their Flickr accounts today, December 8th.

Here is why I don’t support this protest.

Flickr users have protested quite literally *everything* that has ever been changed to the site. Every change over the past decade or so that Flickr has been around, has been meet by strong resistance. When Flickr added video, when Flickr required Yahoo accounts to sign in, and certainly design changes most of all, all of these and so many more have been met with various protest movements.

The “who moved my cheese” crowd is strong with Flickr.

At the same time, in order to improve and grow Flickr *MUST* change. Flickr must evolve. Flickr must improve.

Whether or not Flickr gets their design changes right or wrong, they simply must move forward and compete with other photo sharing sites today. Hopefully they get it more right than wrong, but I simply can’t support something that’s primary premise is based on not changing for the sake of, well, not changing. That is how things die. As good as Flickr is, it can always improve, and if the site is paralyzed by the “no change” crowd it cannot innovate and grow.

Competition in the photo sharing space is stronger than it ever has been. Flickr, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, SmugMug, Behance, 500px and more are all competing for our photos and our attention. If Flickr is going to survive as a contender in this space, they must produce a more compelling experience than they have in the past.

Many of those currently protesting design changes on Flickr are loud, very loud — and some are some of the rudest, vulgar and offensive people I’ve ever come across online. They way they trashed Marissa Mayer and other Flickr employees’ *personal* photostreams after the last redesign was way over the line.

Even as a large protest group, however, this group most certainly does NOT represent the majority opinion on Flickr. Most (the silent majority) Flickr users couldn’t be bothered to get worked up about anything and quite simply don’t care enough about whatever happens at some photo sharing site to have much of an opinion one way or the other.

For this silent majority, the best tool Flickr has is data. The best thing that they can do is watch how the majority use the site and react to changes based on their online usage patterns and actions. I suspect that recent design changes on Flickr have contributed to more users, more views, and more engagement — despite what a small, but vocal, minority might want you to believe.

Only Flickr has access to this data, but I suspect that they are quite happy with usage results (even just going by my own anecdotal increase in activity that I’ve seen on the site as changes have been rolled out this year).

Now, as far as the new photo page redesign goes, mostly I like it. I say mostly, because even as I’ve used the page (it’s in an optional opt in or out beta form right now), I usually end up turning it off and going back to the old page. It simply is missing too much functionality that I rely on and need to use Flickr at present.

For example, I need to be able to click on the faves button and see who has faved my photo. That is important (and pretty basic) social information that I want access to. At present you cannot do this with the new photo page (but it is planned per Flickr’s feedback page). Assuming Flickr gets all of the basic functionality right in the final product though, I like the design better in general.

I also like the redesign changes that Flickr implemented earlier this year. I think that the justified layout combined with infinite scroll is the fastest, most efficient, way to consume photos on the internet today. Both Google and Facebook use infinite scroll. While some people have claimed that Flickr is slower for them, it is not for me. Images load very quickly on a modern laptop with a broadband internet connection. I also don’t have bandwidth caps on my primary internet connections.

Flickr has never been faster and I’ve been able to see more images on Flickr this year than any year previous due to these efficiency improvements.

I think Flickr needs to change even more in fact — mostly around social. There is still so much that could be improved on Flickr from a social standpoint.

The primary role of a social network should be as a social lubricant. Flickr should be obsessed with social, much more than it feels that they are. How can Flickr create even more social interaction? How can Flickr turn online social interaction into offline social interaction? How can Flickr make it easier and easier to favorite and comment on photos? How can Flickr show me more photos that I like (and will interact with socially) and less photos that I do not like?

These are the questions Flickr should be asking as they innovate and improve, and, yes, change.

Why does Explore still exist as it does? It’s so broken. Why are power users blacklisted from Explore? Shouldn’t Flickr care about their power users?

Explore is boring to me because it is not customized to me. Flickr has so much data about me. Why aren’t they analyzing my data to provide me a better photo exploration tool? Flickr knows whose photos I favorite. Flickr knows what tags on photos I favorite (and with image recognition analysis in the future, even more).

Flickr knows the geolocational location of photos that I favorite. Why is Flickr wasting valuable Explore real estate by showing me photos with watermarks when I hate watermarks? Why is Flickr showing me images of overcooked HDR? Explore has so much potential to truly provide a compelling image discovery system and yet it still falls flat.

I hope more change is coming to Flickr, not less. 2013 was the most innovative year of Flickr since Yahoo purchased them. Hopefully 2014 will be every bit as good.

More comments on this at the original Flickr photo here and on Facebook here.

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  1. Steve Crane says:

    I agree, I live in South Africa where bandwidth is expensive and slow, yet I have generally found the changes to Flickr to be improvements.

    I must say that the organisers of this protest haven’t publicised it very well. I visit Flickr at least daily and this post and your image page on Flickr that I came to it from is the first I’ve heard of this protest.

    Here’s a little protest idea of my own, anyone I follow that posts these protest images is deliberately spoiling my experience of Flickr. Perhaps I’ll just unfollow, or even block them for it.

  2. Sharon says:

    Well said! Websites cannot cater to the “who moved my cheese” crowd and expect to survive. Flickr isn’t perfect and I, for one, want it to get better. That means change, even if not everyone likes it.

  3. Luxomni says:

    Thank you. I too have mixed emotions about the change, but mostly like them.
    First, the black background (and without the dread white pixel border. This is something I have wanted for a long time. Perhaps on paper, white matte works, but in video it blooms and diminishes the slide-like image.
    Second plus may also be a minus, infinite scroll, of course. I enjoy the speed of infinite scroll. (Hint: open in new tab. So you don’t have to zipper down to your place again) But it may or may not reduce the number of hit an image gets. To me, is the stats, I think I am seeing more hits.
    On the other hand, I think it is less comment friendly. And I am seeing less of those.
    There will be more tweaks I am sure and as they evolve, there will be more we like and more we dislike,

  4. Marlis says:

    thanks for your article,
    now we know how you feel about Flickr, and Yahoo and Ms. Mayer.
    In a democratic country people should be free to voice their opinion-
    that goes for both sides.
    We3 listened to people who think Flickr is bettr,
    now lets hear it for the one’s that don’t think so.
    As for speed- well. Next time you are in continental Europe give Flickr a try, will you? You might change your mind.

  5. Ed Sweeney says:

    Nice post. Seems about 1/3rd of my contact list is participating. That’s huge.

    It would be impressive except not one post is accompanied by any text explaining what they want. Your blog post here is literally the only thing on the Internet outside of the black day pics I can find that is articulating anything at all (the help forum is famously not helpful and doesn’t count).

    Even though I don’t care about parts of flickr like awards commenting groups, I have some sympathy for folks that say the changes are breaking things for them. But not too much sympathy since many of those folks are spewing so much hate on the help forum and attacking anyone expressing support for change.

    Flickr social is way way behind the times and needs change!

  6. Marcel Mason says:

    The unnecessary and disparaging remarks regarding what you believe regarding “the silent majority” detract from what is otherwise a very good article.

    I’m part of the silent majority you talk about, and for the most part believe many of us are quite cognizant of the pressures flickr faces on the image sharing playing field. We realize that change is needed to maintain/increase relevance, have adopted a forward looking “lets see what comes of this process and how we can benefit from it” position, and see no real impetus to take a public position on those changes…. until of course someone comes along and labels us lazy and uncaring for apparently not doing so.

  7. Thomas Hawk says:

    Marcel, nobody said lazy, and it’s not bad not to care. A lot of people have a lot more going on in their life than to worry or care about design changes on a photo sharing site.

    Honestly I don’t care if it’s 50, 60, 70 or 80 degrees in San Francisco today, even though a lot of people *do* care about the weather. That’s not a negative on me that I don’t.

    Saying the majority of Flickr’s users don’t care isn’t meant to be negative, it’s just a fact.

  8. Sergey Sus says:

    100% with you Thomas! I’ve been longing for Flickr to become something more then a storage place for my photos. I want Flickr to change as much as necessary to engage me and my friends and family.

    Yes, asking people at every step of the way if they like a change is not the best way to innovate.