Photographers Upset By Instagram’s Change in Terms of Service

Update: Instagram just posted a blog post clarifying their intentions with their new TOS. More specifically it sounds as if they are going to be changing the wording on the controversial portion of their new TOS and strengthening your ownership rights over your photos. Seems like all the backlash was enough to make them back pedal on this one.

From Kevin Systrom:

“The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question. Our main goal is to avoid things likes advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience. Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time.

Ownership Rights Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.”

Earlier today Instagram announced that they are changing their Terms of Service effective January 13th 2013.

The most controversial part of the change is outlined below:

“To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

Now I have no idea if Instagram actually plans on selling/licensing your photos or not — sometimes the lawyers get a hold of things like this and push the envelope too far with a TOS — but this change seems to go further to me than the typical giving up of rights to your photos for typical social media display purposes.

Facebook’s TOS by contrast reads:

“For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”

While this appears functionally similar to Instagram’s, Facebook doesn’t actually mention so specifically the idea of selling your content and you getting zero compensation.

Google+’s TOS tends to provide photographers greater protection with a provision that your content there can be used for the “limited purpose of operating, promoting and improving our services, and to develop new ones.” Nothing about selling off your photos to third parties there, folks.

“When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.”

Flickr takes it even one step further actually dedicating a specific blog post to this issue last year titled “At Flickr Your Photos are Always Yours.

This change today has upset a lot of photographers and content creators. The New York Times takes apart the new TOS here. Blogger Robert Wagner puts his view more succinctly in a blog post titled Goodbye Instagram and f*** you.

Personally speaking, I trust that Google will not sell my photos out from underneath me. I think their TOS is pretty clear about their limited scope of use. I applaud Flickr for taking it one step further with a blog post spelling out that you always own your photos on Flickr. Interestingly enough, even before this announcement I saw my first “I’m leaving you Instagram for Flickr” post this past weekend.

Wired has a post that shows you how to take your photos off of Instagram and delete your account.

Gizmodo seems to take a different view of this situation, calling folks concerned with today’s announcement whiny little babies.

What are your thoughts? Will you continue to use Instagram? Are photographers overreacting here?

My own view is that I think Instagram is pushing it a little too far with this one. I think I’d rather pay them a subscription fee like I pay Flickr than have them out there selling my photos.

Where Does a Former National Geographic Photographer and Current Yahoo Exec in Charge of Flickr Share His Photos? Yep, You Guessed it Google+

Update 12-01-2012, I think Yahoo Exec Adam Cahan just went public with a Flickr account.

Update 12-12-2012. Marissa Mayer just went public with her Flickr account today as well here.

Late last week over at All Things Digital, Kara Swisher reported on the appointment of the latest high profile Yahoo exec, Adam Cahan. In addition to reporting directly into Marissa Mayer and overseeing mobile for Yahoo (super important!) it was also announced that Cahan would be put in charge of Flickr, the photo sharing site that so many of us love.

On the surface this is great news. The fact that the guy who is now overseeing Flickr reports directly into Mayer may mean that Flickr’s profile is moving up internally at Yahoo. After a few years of Flickr layoffs and shrinking, it looks like Yahoo once again is staffing up in photo sharing!

In addition to staffing up, over the past year Yahoo has probably improved Flickr more than any other year in its existence. They’ve added a really nice new justified page layout for your contact’s photos and favorites (hopefully coming to search, photostreams and sets soon!), they added a new meet up page where they are getting active with photowalks again (check out this shot from their Austin photowalk this past weekend), they created a new liquid photo format that expands photos to the size of your monitor (slick!), they also increased the maximum size for photos for paid accounts to 50MB! (Facebook and Google+ downsize your photos).

So my question is, why with so much excitement going on around Flickr, why don’t Yahoo employees use or care more about the service?

A lesser known thing about Adam Cahan, the new Yahoo exec in charge of Flickr, is that according to the San Jose business Journal he’s a former National Geographic wildlife photographer. So here’s the guy who is in charge of Flickr, definitely talented with a camera, and where is he choosing to share *his* photographs? Yep, you guessed it Google+! Here’s a photo he posted earlier this year there for the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Of course, Cahan is just following by example really here, his boss Marissa Mayer chooses to post her own photos over at Instagram instead of Flickr.

Why is Flickr such a pariah that Yahoo’s own executives (even the one directly in charge of Flickr) won’t dare to use it personally?

Certainly Google and Facebook employees share their photos on Google+ and Facebook. So why aren’t Yahoo executives doing the same thing?

I believe that leadership is done by example. I also believe that every company should encourage dogfooding and should encourage their employees to use their own products. I think this sends a better message to users when you feel like people who work for the company use it too.

The message that Mayer and Cahen send when they shun Flickr and instead post their photos on competing photo sharing sites is that those sites are better than Flickr. The exact message that they should be trying to change if they really care about Flickr.

Now I’m all for Yahoo executives testing out the competition. Actually I think that’s smart. They *should* have accounts on Instagram and Google+ and Facebook and all that — but they should *also* have accounts at Flickr and they should be acting as Flickr’s biggest cheerleaders in the same way that Vic Gundotra does for Google+ over there.

There is a current conversation going on over at Flickr in their highest profile discussion group that Flickr is dying. Yahoo should care about discussions like this. Yahoo employees should actually be involved in them and trying to convince people that Flickr is not dying, that a comeback is just around the corner — but in order to be involved in conversations like this Yahoo employees need to actually, you know, have an actual Flickr account.

It’s not hard, really, you can even use your Facebook or Google+ account to sign into Flickr these days. Directly from the Flickr sign up page: “It takes less than a minute to create your free account & start sharing! Have a Google or Facebook account? You can use them to sign in!”

Flickr’s tagline is “almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.” That’s been it’s tagline for years now. So if this is true, why don’t Yahoo execs want to use it to manage and share their photos? If that tagline isn’t true anymore maybe Yahoo execs should think about changing it to “almost certainly *was* the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.”

I was thinking yesterday back to all the excitement that was around Flickr back in the olden days. Natural disasters tend to be things that galvanize social sharing, and especially photos. Back in 2005 when Katrina hit, Flickr was the go to place for people to post photos online about the disaster. Not only were the best user generated photos flowing into Flickr, they were flowing in fast and furious. Flickr was recognized for the Katrina photos in the national press. A group was started on Flickr to do a print auction to raise funds for Katrina survivors. The very next year Time Magazine named Flickr co-Founders Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake as two of the 100 most influential people in the world! Butterfield and Fake both had Flickr accounts by the way.

More recently hurricane Sandy hit New York. Was Flickr the go to place this time for photos? No. Everywhere you went in the national press it was 24/7 Instagram. It’s telling that Time Magazine — the very same Time Magazine that recognized Flickr and their founders/managers after Hurricane Katrina — recruited five professional photographers this time around to cover hurricane Sandy for them on… Instagram, the same photo sharing site where Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer shares her photos.

By the way, photos taken after Oct 15th tagged Sandy on Flickr? 36,000. Photos tagged Sandy on Instagram? Over 800,000. Now just today Instagram announced photos on the web.

On a personal level, my photos at Facebook and Google+ get far more views and engagement than they do on Flickr — not just a little more, a lot more — as in hundreds of times more. I’m still rooting for Flickr though. They were the photo sharing service that I started out with back in 2004. They still have the best photo organizational tools on the web and at $25 for over 70,000 full high res photos of mine they are a bargain. Competition in the photo sharing space is good for all of us. It benefits the user. I just wish I felt like Yahoo actually wanted to win more with Flickr. Maybe this will change though and some day soon I’ll be able to add Mayer and Cahan as contacts of mine on Flickr. I bet as a former National Geographic pro Cahan has got some great shots. πŸ™‚

PetaPixel / Gizmodo

Comments on this post at Google+.

Facebook Revamps The Main Photos Page — Photos Get Bigger, Squarer and More Interactive

New Facebook Photos Layout
Facebook is Rolling Out a New Photos Presentation Page.

Facebook is currently in the process of rolling out a new and improved photos page for users. I’ve been part of a beta group testing out this new page over the last week and I have to say that the new photos layout is a huge step forward for photos on Facebook.

It is inevitable that the new page will be compared to Google+’s photos page and while there are similarities there as also some differences as well.

Like Google+, on your photos page, as well as on the photo page of your friends, you can hover over any thumbnail and like or comment on a photo with a single click without ever leaving the page. This allows you to like many more photos in one place at once than you could previously do. This new hover and like/fave/+1 functionality is a major lubricant for social activity on photos.

Although it may feel like Facebook copied G+ here, if my memory serves correct, it was Flickr who first introduced this hover/fave action for us in their “photos from your contacts” page. So maybe Facebook and G+ are both actually copying Flickr here more than anything. One small cosmetic difference between Facebook and Google+ here is that on G+, the +1/comment stats are light gray that light up when you hover to interact. On Facebook the stat information is gone completely unless you hover and then it appears for you to interact with.

One nice hover tool that Facebook also introduces us to here is the ability to remove yourself from a photo directly from the hover action. I’ve never quite understood why people feel the need to tag me in photos that I am not in on G+/Flickr/Facebook, but when they do I usually just delete the tag and block them. It’s nice to be able to more easily do this now with the new photos page on Facebook.

Old Facebook Photos Layout
Facebook’s Old Photos Page.

In the past, Facebook’s photos page had a very stale 4×3 small thumbnail format. You had to actually click through to your “Wall Photos” as a separate album to even get to these. The smallish thumbnails were all the exact same size. There was too much white space around the thumbnails.

With the new Facebook photos page Facebook has recropped all of your photos as square photos. While some photographers dislike the squaring of photos on the web, I actually love the square. It’s my favorite crop of all and I think it works well from a design standpoint in showing off the photos. G+’s photos page, btw, uses more of a justified mosiac page that retains a photographer’s original crop and squeezes them all together to fit on a page. I love the justified/mosaic view as well — in fact, I have a hard time deciding whether I like the square or mosaic layout format the most, I just love them both so much.

One of my favorite new features about the new Facebook photos page (that G+ doesn’t have yet) is that it gives you the ability to make some photos bigger than others. Facebook’s new square thumbnails themselves are bigger now than the old 4×3 thumbnails and with less white space on the page, but even better, you can now choose to highlight favorite photos turning them into even larger oversized timeline sized squares.

New Facebook Photos of You Layout
New Facebook Photos Layout on the “Photos of You” Section. Note the awesome Facebook tshirt I’m sporting in the highlighted photo. πŸ˜‰

One area where I think that this new manual resizing and highlighting of photos is going to be huge is in the “Photos of You” section. Let’s face it. You’re so vain. I bet you think this blog post is about you, don’t you? Giving people the ability to highlight the photos of themselves that they look the best in will be irresistible to many.

Whether the new Facebook photos page is “inspired” by Google+ or Flickr or not, I think it’s great to see the continued evolution of photo presentation on the social web. In general our photos are getting larger, better looking and easier to engage with. This is wonderful.

One negative about the new Facebook photos page is that like the old photos page it still comes with ads on the right side of the page (unlike G+’s page which is advertising free). I cropped these advertisements out of my screenshots because, well, they don’t look very elegant. Obviously Facebook counts on this advertising revenue to keep the lights on and I can’t begrudge them for running advertisements next to my photos as their service is free, but it still detracts from the aesthetic experience in my opinion. I’m not sure what the answer here is. Would I pay $25/year for an ad-free version of Facebook like I do with Flickr? I think I would.

More on the new Facebook photos page from The Verge.

Cut Through the Facebook Clutter With Facebook Camera

Cut Through the Facebook Clutter With Facebook Camera

Two weeks ago when I was down visiting with the photos team at Facebook one of the things that Dirk Stoop (pictured above) showed me was this awesome new camera app that Facebook was launching for the iPhone. I couldn’t talk about it until they released it, but today they released it and I have to say that Facebook is seriously uping the ante with photography on the web with this awesome new app.

The app is bound to invite comparisons with Instagram, who Facebook is in the process of acquiring, but there is one huge difference. With Instragram your photos really only reside in one place, on mobile in the Instagram app. With Facebook Camera your photos exist in three places. In the Facebook Camera app, in the Facebook mobile app, and on Facebook on the web. In this way Facebook’s new camera app is more of a complement to your existing Facebook experience than it is a standalone photo experience like Instagram.

The end result though is that your photos on Facebook are going to start getting alot more attention.

I’m increasingly coming to the opinion that far away the most important part of a social networking experience are photos. Photos dominate our social experiences. Everybody has a camera now with the proliferation of camera phones.

Put more succinctly, photographs are becoming the new language of the social web. A picture paints a thousand words. Old text posts are getting lost and buried and what is replacing that is our short-attention span preference for photos.

We want photos from our friends and we want them fast and furious. We don’t want our new photo communication experience to be bogged down and cluttered up with dumb non-photo things like status updates, or lunch updates, or check ins, or rants, or dumb jokes, or any of that other stuff. Give us the pure stuff. Give us the photostream and nothing but the photostream.

Take a look at the most popular +1’d posts on Google+ from the last week. With a couple notable exceptions, what do all of the popular posts have in common? They all have an image. Photo, photo, photo, photo. If you publish anything on the web anymore without a photo it had better be damn interesting, important or insightful or some sort of immediate breaking news. Everything else, MUST have a photo. Publish text without a photo and you fail. Publish text with a kick ass photo and you succeed. Photographers of course are welcoming this new trend. Those of us with mad photo skills end up getting the most attention. And we’re just about to get a whole lot more with Facebook Camera.

What Facebook Camera is going to do is pull lots of attention away from other ways that we consume mobile. The message to social networks is clear. If you want people to use your social network, give us the tools to remove the clutter of the non-photo world. I don’t want to read a long passage of text. I’ve only got 20 minutes on my BART trip home. Rather than read some long boring post, instead I can favorite/like/+1 200 of my favorite photos by my friends instead.

Facebook Camera is tipping the scales even more between photographers and non-photographers. A great number of people on Facebook will choose to use this new photo app instead of the Facebook mobile app, effectively burying any non-photo post on Facebook. Those that post non-photo clutter will soon learn that they will need to post a photo with their future clutter if they have any hope of their post being seen. Facebook will become a more visual interesting place.

Another thing this is going to do is it’s going to increase the number of likes everyones photos are going to get on Facebook. You’ll be able to consume and like photos far more efficiently with the photo app than the Facebook mobile app and these likes will be directly reflected on all versions (standalone app, Facebook mobile app, Facebook web). People will feel more love on Facebook for their photos and this will want to make them spend more time on Facebook and upload higher quality photos that are more likely to get more attention.

Google, of course, is also keenly aware of the importance of photos in their own network Google+. Today they launched an important Android app update (the same new interface that they launched a few weeks back for iOS). What does Google’s new G+ app emphasize? Photos of course. Photos dominate the new app — but Facebook’s app is smarter in a way than Google’s, because Facebook now gives you *two* ways to consume Facebook.

If you are a photo centric individual (and if you’re not you’d better quickly adapt and become one or get left behind) you’ve got a pure photo experience. If you are not a photo centric individual there still is the traditional app that shows you everything.

As far as the app itself, I haven’t played with it yet. Dirk showed it to me down at Facebook though and the most important thing is that it has one touch liking. It also is very smart in how it shows you albums. You see the hint of the edge of a photo and slide horizontally. You slide vertically (just like Instagram) down the screen to see new photos by your contacts.

Along with a superior way to browse photos on Facebook, the new app also has a camera that lets you apply a number of effects to your photos. The effects are more traditional than the artsy faux-film effects of Instagram, but they are a welcome opportunity for those who want to use the camera part of the new app. Of course you can still use whatever your favorite camera app is (Camera Awesome is still #1 in my book) and upload these finished photos on your phone directly to Facebook and have them consumed through this new app.

Today’s move shows how serious Facebook is about competing for quality photographers. Quality photographers will thrive on Facebook like never before. Facebook has seen Google’s success with photographers on Google+. They are going to compete for the serious social photographers and in the process push all Facebook users more towards communicating in our new language of photography. What an exciting time for photographers on the web. Between this new app and the pending Instagram purchase, Facebook is clearly now leading in mobile photography. This new app should put pressure on Google to also create a standalone photo application for Google+ and it should put even more pressure on Flickr to invest serious resources into redoing their mobile apps which are sorely lacking compared to Facebook Camera.

It should also be noted that although inevitably folks will compare this standalone photo app to Instagram, the app really doesn’t have anything to do with Instagram. The Instagram deal has not been completed yet and the Facebook Photos team had been working on this completely independently from Instagram. The new Facebook is iOS only for now, but I’m sure they’ll be out with an Android version too at some point in the future.

From a Business Perspective I Think Facebook is Interesting Because…

Stay Focused and Keep Shipping

Facebook’s stock price seems to be the story of the day for the tech world today. Henry Blodget has a story titled “Well, Now That Everyone Has Sobered Up, Let’s Figure Out What Facebook Is Actually Worth…” As far as Facebook’s stock price goes I’m not even going to begin to speculate — but I will share some things that I think are interesting to me from a business perspective.

It feels to me like Facebook is starting to heavily push the whole “liking” commercial businesses thing. I noticed this a few weeks back when my friend Robert Scoble seemed to be liking everything under the sun on Facebook. Scoble’s usually on the cutting edge and out way ahead of the mass market on this stuff, but the best I can figure it out the deal goes something like this.

Only a percentage of your friends see some of what you post on Facebook on any given day. By liking products, a link to your Facebook page is included with advertising on Facebook. The more things you like (that potentially advertise) the more your profile is promoted in advertisements by Facebook. Even if people don’t click on the advertisement, they just might click on your icon to get to your page. The more you like, the more exposure you get on Facebook. Most people want their friends to see more of what they are doing because most people like attention. Facebook provides you more attention the more things that you like — a fair trade.

Of course you won’t like dumb things, because what you like is reflective of who you are. If all your friends hate Walmart and think it’s uncool, you probably won’t like their page necessarily — but you probably will like cool restaurants that you like, or clothes, or food stuff, or services, or whatever.

Now there are two ways that I think all of this liking business could be very, very valuable for Facebook. The first one is by Facebook selling analytics to advertisers on who likes what. Klout (who everybody seems to hate but everybody seems to have an account) is building their entire business, it seems, on giving people a score on how influential they are that marketers can use.

Facebook could be able to do one better. Imagine if the 26 million people+ who currently like Oreo Cookies on Facebook could be analyzed. If you were Nabisco and you could get the list of the top 5,000 people ranked by followers on Facebook who already “like” Oreo Cookies, how valuable would that list be for promotional value?

Let’s say all 5,000 of these people had thousands of followers each and Oreo was going to launch a new mint cookie. What if there was an option (or default) on Facebook that said, hey, let cool companies that I like give me free stuff ok? And now what if Oreo could send these 5,000 people all a coupon for a free package of a new mint Oreo cookie they were launching at their supermarket, or two free packages, or a free package in the mail with an Oreo tshirt — whatever.

Now, what if a percentage of these 5,000 influencers then took to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Flickr, their mommy blogs, etc. and talked up this new mint cookie. An advertisement is worth something, but a personal word of mouth type endorsement from all these people wouldn’t be a paid advertisement. It would be word of mouth type stuff — so much more valuable and effective than a mere advertisement. Many people say they never click on advertisements. Maybe this is true, but we know that SOMEBODY is doing all that clicking. How much more enticing would an actual legitimate post about a company’s product be though? What if Oreo could even incent influencers to spread the word, more.

“Reshare this post about us and we’ll send you a second or third free package of our delicious new mint cookie.” Facebook could provide Nabisco with a highly targeted list of the most influential people in the world WHO ALREADY LIKE THEIR PRODUCT! That’s the key. People don’t want to endorse crap that they don’t like or use. But they love talking up stuff they like natural.

I LOVE those sea salt and vinegar chips. You know the ones. In the dark blue bag. OMG they are the BEST! So addictive. Oh yeah, they are called Kettle. Would I take a photo of a bag of those chips if they sent me a free box of them. Probably.

That seems like pure gold to me.

But what about the privacy problem?

Privacy Schmivacy. Privacy concerns are for “old” people. (I’m just exaggerating here to make a point, if you are a privacy zealot please, please don’t hate on me). Besides who cares if a company knows you like their product. Do you really care if people know you like Oreo cookies? It’s not like you’re liking sex toys or something (well maybe *some* of you are).

The point is that if you are willing to publicly or to your friends say you like a product on Facebook, it’s probably not something that you are ashamed of and heck, if you can get free stuff from companies that you like, why the hell not opt in, everybody likes free stuff right?

What would this sort of detailed reporting be worth to a marketing director for a consumer products company? I don’t know. You tell me. This article says Kim Kardashian gets paid $10,000 a tweet. Instead of paying Kim $10,000, what if you could just give 5,000 of the next level of influencers down beneath Kim a free $2 package of cookies or Pop Chips or whatever? What if you could give the 100 people after Kim each a $100 pair of Nikes when they already like Nike shoes? Would you want 100 influential people facebooking/tweeting/walking around town talking about the cool new pair of shoes Nike gave them? They pay athletes to wear them, why not see if you can’t scale that sort of thing?

Everybody with any sort of influence is mostly on Facebook already. Facebook wants the world to be a more connected place. Why not connect products with the people who like them and will endorse them? Who is working with endorsement marketing for the levels below the celebrities? Is there a huge business opportunity here? I think there might be.

Another interesting idea for Facebook — I think by having your friends’ avatar on company pages in advertisements it probably increases the effectiveness of these ads for marketers — but what if you could take this further? What if Facebook actually allowed you to personally endorse products in your own words.

I love Blurb books and SmugMug photo sharing. I think they are great [and they both sponsor my show which is on Wednesday nights at 8Pm PST πŸ˜‰ ] What if I could complete a two sentence thing that said something like “Blurb books are the best, I’ve published 10 books through them and they are my favorite on demand book publisher,” or “SmugMug is awesome, they give 85% of photo sales markups to photographers, A+”

Now what if that testimonial could accompany an advert to all my friends and followers? Would that be a more valuable advertisement? I bet click through rates would go through the roof if they did that. What if Facebook actually turned this sort of thing into an affiliate program that you could sign up for and shared some of the advertising money with you (you mean you could actually get PAID to be on Facebook?)? Advertisers could buy a regular ad, or pay a lot more for a hyper effective friends testimonial ad.

Now how much revenue/earnings does Facebook make today? Who knows. Who cares. The point is that there are new creative ways that they just might be able to completely redefine advertising using highly personal and targeted tactics. One thing they do have today (and probably for a while going forward) is the audience. Will they do stuff like this? I don’t know, but I think they could if they wanted/needed to. I think Facebook could do alot of things if they needed or wanted to. I think the money flow stuff can be turned on and off at will almost.

Facebook doesn’t strike me as being entirely concerned about the money side of things though and I think this is a good thing. Some of the Wall Street types gave Zuckerberg a hard time about not wearing a suit to the IPO roadshow. I thought it was brillant that he didn’t. I loved that he didn’t wear a suit to the IPO roadshow but did wear a suit to his wedding this last weekend. I think there’s a subtle statement in there somewhere.

I think Facebook is going to be just fine on the money side of things. I think they are doing about what they should be doing and should just continue focusing on making cool stuff (especially for photos). Forget about the stock price distraction. Instead just stay focused and keep shipping.

The Square Crop is My Favorite Crop and More Thoughts on Photo Layout and Design

The Square Crop is My Favorite Crop and More Thoughts on Photo Layout and Design

I know you’re not supposed to have a favorite crop, but the square crop is my favorite.

I’m not sure if anybody’s noticed or not, but I think in the past few days Facebook has added a few little redesign elements into our timeline views. Most notably it seems like the “your contacts” that they show you are better positioned. More and more these days I’ve noticed that from a design standpoint facebook seems to be favoring the square crop. I love this.

Look how square all of the photos look on my Timeline screenshot above. I get a big bold photo (square). I get thumbnails of 8 of my friends (I have no idea how Facebook chooses who to show here do you? — but again square). I get avatars of 58 friends I’ve added recently (again square). Square, square, square. Of course Facebook also just bought the most square photo site of all Instagram.

I’m not a designer, but personally I think this page looks GREAT. I can’t believe how far Facebook has come. I remember when I used to bitch at Facebook all of the time because they gave us these microscopic thumbnail sized photos on our pages and that was it — but now we get these gorgeous oversized square photos on our timeline page. We also have a tool to “feature” a photo on Facebook now (just hover over a photo on your timeline and push the star button).

Facebook also now has the absolute best full screen photo view in the business. (click on a photo, click on options when it comes up big, click on enter full screen). From here you can just use your arrow keys to go back and forth through someone’s full screen photos.

Now next Facebook needs to increase the size of the photos in the regular feed. They are still way too small there.

One thing for sure with photos online is that bigger is better. I love that on Google+ the photos keep getting bigger too. The recent redesign there showed us a big bump up in landscape sized photos in our stream. It also came with the introduction of the black bars that people don’t seem to like. I like them for some reason, but I’m weird.

There is one very simple way G+ could improve the photo though and that is to make square photos even BIGGER. If you let a square photo on G+ fill the entire envelope on a post, you’d make the square photo the largest photo of all on G+. This would look great. Look at my Flickr stream here. Notice how the square photos are bigger than the other photos. Smart, smart, smart flickr. Look how much better the square photo looks than the other ones simply because it’s bigger.

Again, bigger is better (just ask Jeff Wall or Richard Serra).

The other thing that I like, besides the square, are photo mosaics. This is my favorite page of my photography that exists on any site, anywhere on the internet. So many photos and with infinite scroll. You know what else is cool? The hover over fave. Hover over any photo on this page and click on that little +1 button (hey thanks for the +1 by the way!) πŸ˜‰

Flickr’s new justified view is another example of this. Look how cool my favorites on flickr look as a photo mosaic. Flickr also uses this view for the photos from your contacts. Flickr pretty much ripped off Google+’s page design here but that’s ok because Google then ripped off their hover over fave/+1. I love it when photo sharing sites rip each other off and take the best elements of design. Flickr does need to remove the photographer name from their mosaic views though. That looks ugly. They should only show the name if someone hovers over the photo. It looks too much like a watermark the way they are doing it now and we all know how ugly photo watermarks and signatures look on photos. Also Flickr still needs to give us more infinite infinite scroll. Six pages of photos is not enough. Maybe if they bumped it up to 25 pages that might work.

I’d love to see sites do more and more mosaics like this. That’s what I want to see in the future of online photo display — more mosaics and more squares. What about you?

Facebook Has Hit the Motherlode

Well, maybe they already hit it a while back, but I think they’ve ramped it up to a whole new level now. Over the past week I’ve noticed Robert Scoble (who as usual is ahead of the curve) on the vast majority of my advertisements on Facebook. Why? Because Robert Scoble has gone on a rampage the last week liking what feels like thousands of new things on Facebook. Robert’s liked things before of course, but not at the pace that he has been doing recently.

The trade off is simple. If Robert will unload all of his personal and commercial likes on Facebook, Facebook will show a link to his Facebook page to thousands of people on the site (thus generating more facebook traffic for Robert). Robert is enouraged to be as detailed as possible and tell Facebook every single company, band, app, TV show, movie etc. that he likes. You can find your like suggestions here.

Robert is voluntarily giving up tons and tons of data about himself in exchange for links back to his page. This is a gold mine from an advertisers perspective. We’ve already seen how closely you can tailor an advertising campaign on Facebook. We already know how much higher the click through rates are with personal endorsements from your friends on products.

But the future of the advertising world on Facebook will be when Oreo cookies wants to launch a new mint version of the cookie and wants to target advertise it not only to people who make over $50,000/year, but *especially* to those that also already like Oreo cookie the brand. No wonder why Facebook ad prices are skyrocketing. Thousands of companies now know not only all of Robert’s demographic information necessary to sell him things, but *exactly* what he already likes. This will be useful for existing brands or competitors that want to compete for your attention.

Rather than have to figure us all out based on nuance and vague criteria we are increasingly handing all of this data directly over to Facebook. This may always have been the case and maybe it’s just I’ve been noticing it more with Scoble liking so many more things over the past week all of a sudden, but it seems like the momentum towards people spending vast amounts of time liking things on Facebook has just started really.

Yahoo Suing Facebook

The Internet is Under New Management "Ours"
Note the photo of this Yahoo advert on the side of the bus originally read “The internet is under new management, yours” — I hacked it to make it read “The internet is under new management ours.” This is meant as parody.

Apparently Yahoo is suing Facebook. All Things Digital broke the story here. More coverage from Venturebeat.

Complaint for Patent Infringement

These are the specific patents that Yahoo is suing over according to the lawsuit document.

1. 6,907,566 Method and system for optimum placement of advertisements on a webpage.

2. 7,100,111 Method and system for optimum placement of advertisements on a webpage.

3. 7,373,599 Method and system for optimum placement of advertisements on a webpage

4. 7,668,861 System and method to determine the validity of an interaction on a network

5. 7,269,590 Method and system for customizing views of information associated with a social network user

6. 7,599,935, Control for enabling a user to preview display of selected content based on another user’s authorization level

7. 7,454,509 Online playback system with community bias

8. 5983,227 Dynamic page generator

9. 7,747,648 World modeling using a relationship network with communication channels to entities

10. 7,406,501 System and method for instant messaging using an e-mail protocol

Facebook Rolls Out New Lightbox View

Facebook's New Lightbox View
Facebook’s New Lightbox View

Google+ Lightbox View
Google+’s Lightbox View

Today for the first time I noticed that Facebook has rolled out a new lightbox view for photos. There were rumors of a new Facebook Lightbox view coming already out in the wild, but this was the first time that I saw it myself.

At first blush it looks like quite a bit of it was copied from inspired by Google Photos. Remember Vincent Mo, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. πŸ˜‰

The biggest change is that that comments on Facebook photos have been moved over to the right. Also it’s interesting to me that they seem to have dropped adverts on photos that have enough comments to require scrolling. This probably makes sense as it’s a way to reward high value (i.e. highly commented) photos on Facebook and below the fold adverts (where the adverts go under the comments) probably wouldn’t fetch as much as above the fold adverts anyways.

Also now, when you hover over the photo it gives you the opportunity to “like” or “tag” the photo. This is in addition to the options already to like and tag the photo that are to the right of the photo and always showing. Facebook really must want to drive “likes” and “tags” to their photos, which does actually make a lot of sense as increasing social activity on photos will drive engagement.

Simply clicking off the photo to the empty space around the photo or pressing the escape key will bring you back to the regular page you came from.

Personally I like the new lightbox view by Facebook. It’s better than the old Facebook lightbox. It’s still not as good as Google+’s which still has a larger photo — but along with the new much larger photo thumbnails in the timeline view, it’s a step in the right direction. It also tells me that Facebook has probably noticed the success that Google+ has had with photographers and is looking to try and find ways to make Facebook more attractive to the photography crowd. Facebook’s photos have come a long way since pre-Google+. Back then photo thumbnails were ensy weeny — the size of a postage stamp.

If I were Facebook I’d still make the lightbox view much larger though (like Google+). When it comes to a photo in lightbox view, bigger is definitely better.

Facebook also still needs to give us a way to crop photos in the Timeline view. Right now the imposed square crop doesn’t always best show your photo and the “resize” feature (press the star above your photo in timeline view) weirdly crops just the top half of the photo. Facebook already does have a cropping tool that you can use for your main cover photo in timeline view, so I’d think (and I hear) that better cropping ought to be coming for timeline photos at some point.

What do you think? Do you like the new Facebook lightbox for photos? And which do you think looks better, Facebook’s or Google+’s? Any other thoughts on today’s new Facebook lightbox design?


Comments on the new change from Facebook users.

Comments on the new change from Google+ users.

Update: Mike Schroepfer from Facebook comments in the comments below: “Thomas and everyone else – thanks for the feedback.

We experimented with blacking out the entire background. However, we found that may people were confused about how to navigate back from the viewer. The semi-opaque black background tries to strike a balance between having great contrast in the photo and giving people an easy way to click out/get back to FB as they need. Either way I think it is a huge improvement from having a white background.

If you have any other comments or suggestions I’d love to hear them.”

As a Person, Publisher, News Organization and Twitter User, I Think Google’s New Personalized Search Results are AWESOME!

Personalized Google Search Results
Personalized Google Search Results

Unpersonalized Google Search Results
Unpersonalized Google Search Results

The top story on Techmeme right now is Steven Levy’s “Is Too Much Plus a Minus for Google?”. Alot of people are talking about how including personalized Google+ search results is somehow bad or wrong. Earlier this week Twitter put out a statement saying that they thought this new search integration was “bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users.”

I disagree.

Sure, it may be be bad for *Twitter*, but to say it’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users is wrong. I have been hoping for the integration of social search into image search for years now. Back in 2006 I wrote a blog post when Yahoo first started showcasing Flickr images into their image search results. I was a fan. I’m not sure why everybody didn’t get all wound up when Yahoo started adding Flickr photos to their search but they now seem to be wound up that Google is essentially doing the same thing.

As a person, publisher, personal news organization (aka blogger) and Twitter user I *absolutely* want Google+ integrated into my search results.


Well look at the two images above. Both are searches for New York. The top one represents the results when I’m logged into Google. The bottom one represents when I’m logged out. Why is the top one so much better for me? Well, as a photographer, if I’m going to New York there’s a big chance that I’m going to want to be photographing in New York.

The unpersonalized results are pretty photos of New York but they provide me no additional information about the locations. The first result goes to a wikipedia page, lots go to travel oriented pages — they are nice postcardly type photos of New York but really do me no good.

Now the personalized results are *far* more useful. Google+ knows that I like shooting urban exploration photography. They also know that my friend Amy Heiden has a kick ass photo of urbex photography from New York. Now *that* image jumps to page one. This is great because I *know* Amy. We’re friends. So now I can check in with Amy and say, “wow! love that shot, would you mind telling me more about it and how you got in, etc.). This is far, far, far, more helpful and useful to me than the bland postcardly photos without Google+.

Two of the images on the page are like some of the postcardly overhead New York sky images on the generic unpersonalized page — only there is a huge KEY difference for me. They were taken by my friends Tom Harrison and Ingo Meckmann. There’s also a kick ass shot of the Apple Store taken by my friend Trey Ratcliff. These are not just people that I sort of know. These are people that I know well and have known for years. These are friends that I can check in with and say, “whoa! where did you get that awesome photo from, which skyscraper were you in.”

Personalized results on Google+ are wayyyyyy more helpful to me than unpersonal results. And this is exactly what Google should be doing. Helping me find the information that is most helpful and most useful to me. As a photographer, this means that I *want* them to give preference to photos by people that I know. People who I can talk to. People who will share information about these photos with me. I don’t want to see some bland photo by some Associated Press photographer who I don’t know, can’t talk to, and is too busy to share information with me personally.

It pains me that Twitter and Facebook want to take this away from me. That they want to take this really useful thing and somehow rob me of it. All because they are afraid that Google+ is going to be a bigger, better social network.

So as a user this is super helpful to me. What about as a blogger or publisher? YES! It’s also super helpful to me. Now my photos will be shown to all sorts of people who have chosen to follow me and my work. I get bigger distribution. It’s the dream of long tail content. I suppose if you’re not on Google+ as a blogger/publisher this gives you a pretty powerful incentive to get your ass on there ASAP, but what’s so bad about that? Google+ is a vastly better social network than Twitter (photos look awful as little links of text) or Facebook anyways.

It seems like Twitter and Facebook don’t want Google competing in the social network space. They want to keep it all for themselves. At the same time they seem to want to force Google to pay through the nose even to have access to their realtime data and firehose. If Facebook and Twitter don’t like this integration, let them give away this data for free to Google, or better yet, they can go build their own search engines. But they shouldn’t try to pull this integration away from me. Why should users get caught as casualties in their war against Google? As a person, as a publisher and yes… even as a Twitter user. (BTW Twitter, just because something might be bad for *YOU* doesn’t mean it’s bad for your users, like *ME*).

I for one welcome these new search results and am super excited about personalized search and how it is going to help me find the things I need to find more easily in the future.