More Thoughts on Flickr 4.0

More Thoughts on Flickr 4.0

Having had a few weeks now to spend significant time exploring Flickr 4.0, I thought I’d write up another more detailed post about my ongoing thoughts on the recent update by Flickr.

1. Autotagging. Autotagging has received a mixed reception by the Flickr community as well as the broader press. Initially a lot of the Flickr diehards have very vocally opposed it.

On the one hand, every time Flickr makes any change whatsoever a certain segment of the community will vocally oppose it no matter what the change is. The “who moved my cheese” crowd is strong and vocal at Flickr, so it’s easy to dismiss at least some of the initial criticism from the community as typical and predictable. On the other hand, many people have spent hundreds of hours organizing their tags on their Flickr photos and have a certain sort of emotional connection around tagging as it relates to their photos, which are very personal.

Any time you try to use image recognition software to recognize things you will get false positives. This is no different at Flickr. The more sensational the press can spin a story, the more clicks they end up getting. This week you saw news outlets like the Daily Mail come out with stories highlighting that Flickr was tagging concentration camps jungle gyms and black people apes. CNN reported that “Flickr’s new auto-tags are racist and offensive.” This is bad because most of the general public make assumptions based on headlines without thinking deeper about the issues at hand and most are not intimately involved with the inner mechanics of Flickr.

We also saw Google called racist this week because the White House was associated with a search for a derogatory racial term.

Personally, I’m more optimistic about Flickr using image search technology going forward and hope that the bad PR doesn’t set their efforts back there. Flickr and Yahoo are not racist (either is Google). The people who work there are a very well meaning and forward thinking group. I’m sure they will work on their algorithm to get it more and more accurate, but part of that accuracy involves getting feedback from their community when inaccuracies arise. Longer-term I think we will all benefit from having more accurate and complete search available through Flickr.

There is also part of me that wonders if Flickr’s autotagging efforts are not part of a longer-term effort to better organize this content in order to eventually partner with their community in a more significant way with stock photography. Stock photography is a multi-billion dollar business. Flickr is probably the most potentially disruptive site out there to this industry. As Yahoo thinks about monetizing Flickr in a more meaningful way, the better organized their library the more successfully they might be able to do this.

I do think Flickr should offer a setting to opt out of autotagging and I’m guessing they probably will eventually. If autotagging is on by default 99.9% of Flick users will still be using it. By creating an setting to opt out this would be an immediate way to deflect the criticism from the vocal power users that dislike it.

2. Search. Unfortunately my initial enthusiasm for search has been fading fast the past two weeks. While search looks cleaner and I do like the new view of smaller thumbnails that allow me to browse search results quickly, I’ve lost one of the most important functions of search, which is to search by my contacts.

Over the past 10 years I’ve carefully and methodically built a very large number of contacts whose photography I like and want to see more of. When I’m interested in photos of a particular subject, location, event, etc., I always do searches filtered by my contacts. This allows me the highest quality search results and gets rid of all the noisy, watermarked, junky, inaccurate images that oftentimes come up a broader search of everybody’s photos.

With the new search functionality this filtering capability is completely broken for me. What bums me out even more is that this broken functionality for my search experience is most likely affecting only people with a large number of contacts (like me) and thus is not likely to be addressed or fixed by Flickr for a long, long time.

Search is one of the most significant ways I use Flickr and with the update it is now dramatically worse for me.

Also, although I do like the two smaller view options Flickr gives you for search (a small sized photo or a thumbnail option), I do find myself missing the old larger views at the same time. Sometimes you want to search Flickr with images small so you can go fast, but other times you want to search Flickr to more carefully examine photos and here at least a medium view option would be nice to have back.

Maybe Flickr could have three possible views, medium, small and thumbnail.

One of the new features with the new search is that you can now search by date taken in addition to date posted. While date taken and posted are somewhat similar, I do see how date taken will become more and more useful over time, especially when using Flickr to search for breaking news.

3. As far as the Camera Roll and the uploader, I’m finding that I’m not using either. This doesn’t mean they are not important though. For more casual users having a view like this makes sense as a way to try to organize their offline photos in the cloud. I think this is really important for most casual users and as a way for Flickr to appeal to a broader general audience.

Personally, I carefully keyword all of my photos in Adobe Lightroom before uploading them to Flickr and then I use Jeremy Brook’s brilliant program SuprSetr to build albums based on these keywords. The only negative with this approach is that Flickr limits my sets to 4,500 photos when using Jeremy’s SuprSetr. 🙁

Magic view was fun to look at once, but I probably will never use it or go back. I prefer the way that I’ve organized my photos more than Flickr’s auto-organization.

I don’t use the uploader because for me Flickr is not a personal shoebox for all of my photos. Rather, for me, Flickr is a place to present and share my photos to the world. I don’t want random photos from my hard drive cluttering up my Flickr photostream even if they are private. 99.99% of the photos I publish to Flickr are public and the current web page uploader does a good enough job getting two batches a day up for me (except not last weekend).

4. The Flickr mobile app. To me the new Flickr mobile app is slightly better than the old app but it’s still far from ideal.

My biggest criticism is that sometimes it is so slow, laggy and clunky. Again, some of these issues may affect me more adversely than others because of the way I power use Flickr, but I find that going to my notifications can take 20-60 seconds sometimes on an LTE or wifi connection and that is just too long to have to wait. Sometimes it does go faster, but typically after not using it for a period of hours it frequently is just painful to use. It comes and goes, but I don’t have a consistent, fast experience with the mobile app. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and most of all Instagram are so much responsive for me when I use them than the Flickr app.

Another problem I have with the app is that frequently I’ll want to favorite a photo and so I double tap on it to do this, but Flickr misreads my attempted double tap and thinks I want to open the photo up and see it large instead. I’m not really sure that there is a solution to that problem, but it’s one that frustrates me that I don’t have with Instagram.

I also find that if I look at my contact’s photos for more than about 10 minutes or so I run out of photos to look at and Flickr defaults “suggested” photos that I’ve already seen and favorited months ago. Sometimes I’ll be sitting on the train for more than 10 minutes, or working out, or doing something where I want to spend more than 10 minutes browsing my contact’s photos and wish that Flickr could expand the number of photos I’m allowed to see from my contacts on the mobile app.

I don’t use the camera or the camera roll on the Flickr app at all. I use my iPhone’s camera and then edit with Snapseed or Priime which offer far more robust editing capabilities.

5. The new album view. The new album view is more of a postscript to the new Flickr 4.0 than a part of the initial release. Earlier this week Flickr changed the primary album view on Flickr incorporating supersized huge photos into the album view layout. I really like this change. I think photos look sooooooo much better full-sized and large (which is one of the reasons why I enjoy Ello so much). Predictably many in the help forum hate this new view as they hate all change.

I do think the header in the new album view is too large. I also think that Flickr should only choose photos to enlarge that are high res originals and that fit the crop format of their large view. Small sized photos or mobile photos don’t look as good as DSLR photos when blown up huge. Also having a bad crop on a large view, really makes that view look bad.

In other news around Flickr’s new release, Bernardo Hernandez, who was managing Flickr resigned shortly after the new launch. I like Bernardo a lot and think that he was a very good leader for Flickr. After so many years in the wilderness with really ineffective management, I think Bernardo (and Markus Spiering before him) did a really good job promoting positive change at Flickr. I hope that whoever ends up replacing him is as strong and committed to the potential for what Flickr can become. After leaving Flickr, Bernardo did tweet that Flickr would be offering up support for RAW photos, this was the first time I’d seen this mentioned anywhere online and think that RAW support would be a huge positive for Flickr — especially given that Google is supposedly coming out with something new in the photo sharing space potentially as soon as the end of this month.

It’s been refreshing watching how serious a contender Flickr has become in the photo sharing world since Marissa Mayer took the helm at Yahoo. Along with Bernardo and Markus, she and everyone working on the Flickr team deserve a ton of credit for orchestrating such a remarkable turnaround over the course of the last several years. Flickr continues to get better and better and really is turning into something much better than I ever would have thought 4 years ago. I still can’t believe that I’ve been on Flickr over 10 years now and am definitely looking forward to the next 10.

Yahoo and Flickr Renege on Their Paid Advertising Free Accounts

The New Yahoo Advertising Tool Bar on Flickr is Ugly

One of the things that I’ve liked about being able to pay Yahoo and Flickr $24.95 per year, is that it comes with an advertising free experience. The deal between Yahoo and Pro accounts is simple, and can be summed up in Flickr’s own words: “No ads in your browsing experience.”

While new Flickr Pro accounts are no longer available, all existing Pro accounts were given an opportunity to grandfather in their Pro accounts and continue them ad free. If users want an ad free experience now, they have to pay double the price as the old Pro account, but it’s still an option.

In the past, when paid accounts on Flickr have complained about advertisements, Flickr pointed them to a toolbar that a user likely installed: “If you are pro, we don’t show you ads on Flickr, but you may have unintentionally installed a browser toolbar, extension or add-on that is serving them.”

I’ve always respected Flickr for offering this ad-free option, it’s a refreshing departure from Facebook, where we are bombarded with ads at every turn.

Unfortunately, today Flickr has reneged on their advertising free account by forcing a new Yahoo tool bar on all Flickr users, both those with free ad supported accounts and those of us with paid ad-free versions. It’s an ugly intrusion to an otherwise beautiful new Flickr. It also advertises at me on *every* *single* *page* on Flickr — a bunch of Yahoo services that I *do* *not* *want.*

Complete with a Yahoo logo, the forced real estate takeover also offers me Home, Mail, News, Sports, Finance, Weather, Games, Groups, Answers, Flickr, omg!, Shine, Movies, Music, TV, Health, Shopping, Auto, Travels, Home.

There is no way to disable this forced tool bar. Worse it follows you as you scroll down the page. It never goes away. As of right now it is impossible to be on any page on Flickr without having these hyperlinked ads in your face.

I think these advertisements are just awful. I think they are distasteful and I think it’s unfortunate that Yahoo is so greedy that they cannot be satisfied with our simply paying them for an ad-free experience. If Yahoo cannot make enough money off of Flickr, then increase the price, or give us an option to pay more and remove this intrusive forced advertising bar.

Flickr is supposed to be an elegant, paid, ad-free, photo experience — or at least one version of it is. Forcing advertisements like this on ad-free accounts is wrong. Flickr should give all paid accounts an option to x out this ugly marketing based tool bar and make it go away.

There are few things as annoying as having a toolbar forced on you with a bunch of advertising links to things that you do not want. You can follow user reaction to this new forced tool bar in the Flickr Help Forum here.

You can and should do better than this Flickr.

Why Aren’t Search Engines Making Better Use of Their Social Networks for Image Search?

One thing I’ve noticed more and more over the past few years is what a poor job traditional image search engines do vs. social networks.

By using social information around photos (likes, faves, comments, +1s, etc.), social networks typically produce much superior image search results than traditional image search.

Take this search of Coachella 2013 for example.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 10.45.53 AM
Yahoo Image Search: “Coachella 2013”

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 10.46.24 AM
Google Image Search: “Coachella 2013”

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 10.47.28 AM
Flickr Image Search: “Coachella 2013”

The first image comes from Yahoo (or is it Microsoft these days, I can’t keep it all straight). It’s not very good. It shows too many images of just the lineup vs. actual fun interesting photos of the event itself.

Google’s image search results are better, but still not as good as many of the images I find on social networks.

Now I may be biased (as I shot this particular event) but I think Flickr’s search results are *far* better than either Google or Yahoo Image search.

I’m working on a project right now to photograph the 100 largest American cities. When I’m researching things to photograph in these cities I almost always go first to Flickr (because it’s the largest database of highly organized quality photos on the web). I will also look at Google+ too, sometimes. Google+ doesn’t have as many high quality images in the total database as Flickr, yet, but I find some pretty good stuff there sometimes still. Most of Flickr’s advantage here over Google+ just has to do with the fact that they are older and have more images indexed.

Lately I’ve also played around with graph search on Facebook for images — I haven’t been very impressed there at all though.

The one place I hardly ever go is to the actual Google or Yahoo image search engines — because the results are so inferior.

Here’s what I don’t get: *why* are the results at Yahoo and Google Image search inferior? Google and Yahoo have access to proprietary internal social data around photos in their social networks, why isn’t that coming through better in the signal for high quality images.

On my example search using Coachella 2013, not a single Flickr photo appears on Yahoo’s first page image search and not a single Google+ image appears on Google’s first page image search.

Shouldn’t these search engines be better mining organically and socially ranked superior content? It’s not that these engines don’t index it, they do, it’s just not ranking well.

Beyond just better image search, Google and Yahoo *should* have another significant incentive to better include their social images into image search.

All things being equal, assuming you could improve image search results, wouldn’t you want to drive more traffic to your own internal social network, rather than to some unrelated destination — and wouldn’t you want to reward the best photographers on your social network with more traffic vs. some random SEO rigged site somewhere?

Why aren’t image search engines doing a better job with social?

Another added benefit to driving image search traffic to your social network, is that the presentation there is usually better, more uniform and consistent. When I’m tempted to go further on an image from Yahoo or Google, I may end up at some odd sized photo, in some odd format. With a G+ or Flickr result I get a strong consistent image experience that I’m familiar with.

As an unrelated topic dealing with image search on Flickr — the best social image search on the web today — Flickr needs to give us the ability to block certain users from our search results. Many popular photographers will pollute image search on Flickr by falsely tagging things that are not in their popular photos, just to try to garner traffic.

Take this search on Flickr for dog for example. So many of the first page results are not photos of dogs at all. Flickr should allow us to block certain users from our search results in order to better refine them. When we block people from our search results, this should also be a signal to Flickr that this user should rank much worse in search. If users get the message that they will be penalized for purposely mistagging their photos, they will be less likely to try and game the system this way, resulting in better image search on Flickr for all of us.

Holy Mash Potatoes Batman! Flickr to Offer All Users 1 Terabyte of Free High Res Photo Storage!

New Flickr Photo Page Design

Wow! Well just when you thought the Tumblr acquisition was the big Yahoo news of the day, Yahoo drops yet another bombshell. All free accounts on Flickr just got upgraded to 1 terabyte of FREE storage!

Yep, you heard that correctly; the Flickr 200 photo limit for free accounts is being done away with. If you’re one of those Flickr users who, in the past, complained about Flickr holding your photos beyond 200 in a free account “hostage,” well, the Navy Seals at Flickr HQ have just set them all free.

Starting today, everyone will be able to upload full high res photos up to 50MB to Flickr for FREE up to 1 terabyte. For the .01% of the population who might store more than a terabyte on Flickr, Flickr will sell you an additional terabyte beyond your free one for $499 per year. So 2 terabytes at Flickr would cost you $499.99/year Flickr’s pricing and limits are here.

By comparison, Google would charge you about $1,199 for 2 terabytes of storage per year and only gives you 15GB of high res storage for free. Facebook doesn’t allow high res photos at all and won’t allow photos larger than 2048px on the site.

While this might sound really great for today’s free account users, it should be noted that the new free 1 TB account will contain advertising. If you want to opt out of advertising on your free account, you will need to pay $49 per year….


you are already an existing Pro account member. While Flickr will no longer offer new Pro accounts, existing Pros will be allowed to keep their Pro account and continue paying $24.95/year for full unlimited high res ad free storage (still the best deal in my opinion).

If a user wants to downgrade from their current paid Pro account today, Flickr will allow them to do this and claim their 1TB free/ad supported account and rebate back the residual remaining value on their Pro account early.

In my opinion, this is a game changer. Just last week at Google I/O, Google upgraded everyone from 5GB of free, high res storage to 15GB of free, high res storage, but upgrading from 15GB to 1TB is quite a leap from there.

Of course, on Google+ there are no ads, and on a 1TB free Flickr account a user would see ads.

You have to love competition in the online photo space and today Flickr is raising the stakes. This will likely put more pressure on Google and Facebook both to consider increasing high res storage for users as well.

While giving all users 1TB of free storage was the biggest news from Flickr today, it is only the beginning.

In addition to offering all users 1TB of free storage, today Flickr also ships their highly anticipated Android app. Many users were super excited late last year when Flickr rolled out their new iPhone app. I reviewed the iPhone app here. Now Flickr is bringing a similar, amazing mobile experience to Android users. I was able to see the new app prior to release and it is truly awesome — I’d say even BETTER than the highly regarded 4.5/5 rated iPhone version — one more reason to switch to Android right?

But there’s more…

In addition to an increase in storage limits and a new Android app, Flickr is also shipping today a complete redesign of the entire site. The new version is amazing and beautiful and full of mosaic walls of photos with infinite scroll everywhere. Gone are the days of tiny little thumbnail results using Flickr image search (my favorite feature in today’s new site redesign). Instead, now you see big, bold images of whatever you’re looking for.

Sets on Flickr were also given this same facelift. With the old Flickr, the sets page looked the same as it had since as long as I can remember (I joined Flickr in 2004). Sets contained super tiny little teensy weensy thumbnails of square icons for photos. Today’s release showcases photos in sets in much larger format.

The Flickr photo page now shows a giant, oversized version of your photo with just enough basic photo info above the fold on the page to tempt the user into scrolling down for more. The Flickr recent activity stream now shows giant, oversized photos by your contacts and lots of new information.

It really is a whole new Flickr in the best way possible.

Undoubtedly there will be some critics of the new Flickr site, just like there were critics when the automobile came out and some crotchety old folks still wanted to use their horse and buggy. This is, however, in my opinion the single most positive day for innovation being released by Flickr ever.

Last night when digesting all of the Yahoo Tumblr news, I posted on Twitter, Flickr + Tumblr = chocolate + peanut butter. I’m a huge fan of Reeces Peanut Butter Cups and I think that, in addition to this Flickr news today, future innovation coming from Tumblr and the Tumblr team will only be positive for Flickr. Already, I get the most viral views on my Flickr photos from Tumblr more than any other site. By deepening the Flickr/Tumblr integration, this will create even more synergy for Yahoo.

Maybe instead of titling this post “Holy Mash Potatoes Batman,” I should have titled it “How Yahoo got its Groove Back” — because with what’s gone on there over the past 24 hours, I’d say Yahoo, once again, is a power player in social media.

There is still work at Flickr that needs to be done — groups (now rebranded communities) still need a refresh, for example — but after failing to innovate for years, Yahoo is showing the world that Flickr is indeed super important to their company and that photos are very important to a biggr, boldr, more beautiful Yahoo going forward. Yahoo is investing heavily in Flickr (they are hiring), the first Yahoo CEO ever has an actual active Flickr account, and staff morale feels super high. Flickr VP Brett Wayn and Flickr Head of Product Markus Spiering, are leading the charge, backed by strong commitment from senior management and an enthusiastic all-star team who is pushing out the most significant innovation we’ve seen at Flickr yet.

Congrats to the Flickr team on a wonderful release today. More from Markus on the Flickr Blog here.

You can find me on Flickr here and posting again on Tumblr now here.

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. 🙂

PetaPixel / Gizmodo

Comments on this post at Google+.

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

An Open Letter to Scott Thompson, CEO Yahoo Inc.

An Open Letter to Scott Thompson

Hi Scott,

I will try to be brief (it’s not easy for me), I’ve got a lot of work to do over at Google+ today (which is where I’m spending more and more of my time) — we have a photo hangout show there tonight that I should be working on right now.

First, congratulations on your new appointment as CEO. As a long-term critic of Yahoo I wish you the best and believe every new CEO deserves a fresh chance. I hope you succeed beyond your wildest dreams. The Street does not like the news of your appointment, but Yahoo’s stock would have probably gone down with *ANY* CEO appointment. The Street wants Yahoo to be sold off and your appointment makes that likelihood a little more murky (why hire a CEO to come get a boatload of severance cash if you’re just going to sell the company in 2 weeks anyways — unless the CEO is being hired to actually sell the company).

I’m going to give you some advice about Yahoo. It probably won’t make a bit of difference (it didn’t for Carol).

1. Flickr represents your *BEST* possible chance for social at Yahoo, but it’s probably too late. Social is key. Social is winning. Facebook is social. Google is social. Twitter is social. Every great web company *must* incorporate social going forward. It’s imperative. You can start from scratch or you can try to leverage your best shot at social which is Flickr. I know Flickr is not the most profitable thing Yahoo does — and I know that profits are very important to CEO types like yourself, but trust me, forget about the immediate profitability, social IS important for your longer-term sustainability.

Google has spent hundreds of millions of dollars so far for social on Google+ — with *NO* advertising or paid accounts. Why? Well for many reasons that have nothing to do with short-term profitability, but just assume that they can siphon off even 1% of the supposed $100 billion value of Facebook, that’s a billion dollars for spending a few hundred mil. Not a bad return. Of course they have plans to siphon off *FAR* more than just 1% and far better ways to monetize things in the longer run beyond even just the network itself.

2. It will be challenging to turn flickr into a full fledged social network. Too many people think of it as a photo sharing site. This is one of your challenges — but fix social for photographers and you’ll pull in other accounts… maybe. But the competition for social is fierce. The competition wants what little photo social Flickr has left by the way. They are siphoning it off right now as we speak. There’s a reason that Flickr’s uniques are down 20% since June (according to Look at this last flickr post by Ingo Meckmann. Ingo’s a great photographer by the way. This is what is happening to Flickr right now. Photographers are leaving. Google+ is siphoning off your flickr accounts and you’re losing your best social asset at Yahoo. Ingo’s move away from Flickr is just one of many, many, many such moves.

3. Flickr lacks vision and a leader. Maybe this is because most people at Yahoo don’t care about Flickr (again, it’s not the most profitable thing in the world). Maybe this is because Yahoo cannot recruit a strong leader. I don’t know. Again, this is your challenge. I’ve been on Flickr since 2004. Remember when Bradley Horowitz bought Flickr for Yahoo back in the day? Back when Stewart Butterfield ran the show there. Stewart was a bold visible leader. It helped that he was cofounder of the site and it was his baby, but he was a big personality who was out there banging the drum, interacting with the community, selling flickr to the world. Even if you didn’t always agree with his management decisions, he was at least visible.

Who is selling flickr to the world now? Nobody, that’s who. Do we even know who the General Manager of Flickr is anymore? Who is out there drumming up Flickr photo walks like Google+ is doing? Nobody. Who is out there talking about weekly Flickr innovation? Nobody.

Look at the big bold leadership of Google+. Look at Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz — the very top guys. These guys are constantly promoting their baby. They live and breath it. It’s in their blood. I had a little censorship hiccup over on Google+ the other day and within about 10 minutes of posting about it at 1am in the morning Vic Gundotra himself responded to the issue and it got fixed. Go to their Google+ accounts and look at what they are posting. Now look what your Flickr Chief is posting (sorry Markus, nothing personal). Who is rallying the troops at Flickr? Who is leading the charge?

4. You have an excellent opportunity to turn Flickr into a stock photography powerhouse and you should. Why? Well for two reasons. First off there are only two companies in the world today who can compete with Getty Images. Google and Yahoo (with Flickr). It’s a multi-billion dollar industry ripe for disruption. But secondly, if you really reformed the stock photography market you’d attract all of the best photographers in the world today to Flickr. If you came out with something fairer than a 20% Getty payout and you really put the muscle behind promoting Flickr as a stock powerhouse, you’d retain many of your top photographers who are leaving and you’d attract many more. It’s a hook, and a big hook, what social person doesn’t like being *paid* to be social? Best of all, you get a cut. How many bored housewives with cameras are sitting out there who wouldn’t want to earn a few extra hundred bucks a month? Make this dream come true not just for some of the accounts on Flickr, but open it up to literally everyone.

5. Innovate, innovate, innovate. Apparently you are a tech guy. Flickr needs circles (like Google+). You need to spend about 3 weeks studying Flickr Groups and why they are one of the stickiest social things on the web over the past 10 years. Alot about Flickr Groups need to be changed (you need more robust blocking tools, you need better ways to track threads across groups, you need to integrate group threads into your mobile experience, etc.), but at core, they are highly social little mini social systems buried deep inside of Yahoo. Figure them out. Free them. Promote them. Use them to their full potential instead of letting them languish in obscurity buried in the basement of flickr.

6. Get a flickr account yourself. I gave Carol this advice too and she never took it. Really. You are CEO of Yahoo. You *should* at least have a flickr account. It would be best if you really used it of course, but even if all it is is a puppet account that your assistant posts vacation photos to for you, do it. If you don’t support your own product, why should we? More importantly, what kind of message does it send to your employees working on Flickr if you can’t even be bothered to set up an account.

7. Overhaul community management at flickr. It’s gotten better now that Heather’s out (I finally got off the Explore blacklist that Heather always denied ever even existed), but barely. Follow Google’s lead and beef up the community management team (I think Google has like 20 community managers or something like that). Get folks in there who will interact with the community, who will promote the community, who will celebrate the community.

Look at Vic Gundotra’s last post over at Google+. What is it? It’s a post celebrating an interesting article by Trey Ratcliff, one of the photo community leaders who has emerged on Google+. How do you think it makes Trey feel when Vic Gundotra himself comes out and brings up one of his posts? How do you think it made Mike Elgan feel last night? Look at how popular a flickr account Trey has. Who at flickr is reaching out to him and making him feel as special as Vic is making him feel? Who is community management?

Vic is leading by example here. And his community managers are doing the same thing. That’s so smart. This is one of the many reasons why Google is winning at social. I hope Brian Rose and Chris Chabot and Natalie Villalobos and Michael Hermeston and Ricardo Lagos and tag team of Dave Cohen and Vincent Mo, and Tony Payne and Chew Chee and Sparky and soooooo many more Googlers got big fat year-end bonuses at Google, because they deserve it (and wayyy more Googlers that I know I left out, sorry).

Where is the community manangement at Flickr? Where is the outreach? Where is the social?

Finally, try this. Hop on the Verge’s (don’t you love cutting edge new tech sites?) article about your new appointment today, or wherever and ask the question, “what is the best internet property that Yahoo has today?” Watch how many people say Flickr. Flickr represents your best chance to funnel positive technology out of Yahoo in a highly visible way. People care more about Flickr than any other Yahoo property. It’s highly, highly visible, despite profitability issues. Let your other sleepy little businesses provide the profitability why you hold Flickr up as your beacon and proof that Yahoo can innovate. Do something bold. Get rid of the paid account. Facebook and Google+ don’t charge for accounts. I know there’s probably a big gasp there as paid accounts are probably the number one thing contributing to Flickr’s profitability at present, but do it anyways. People will love it. It will get great press. It will be a big bold move and a signal that Yahoo has much bigger plans for profitability going forward than paid Pro accounts.

That is all Scott. Best of luck. If you ever want to talk about Flickr, I have many, many more ideas on how you can turn that failing ship around. Show us you’ve got what it takes.

Flickr is Dead

Screen shot 2011-08-12 at 1.39.46 AM


Which one of these two albums looks better?

Flickr (the same view since 2004)


Google+ (with added infinite scrolling this week)

You know what? It doesn’t matter. It’s totally irrelevant. The Google one looks far better, but that’s so beside the point at this point.

Last night I realized for the first time that Flickr really was dead.

Where did this realization come from?

It had nothing to do with the fact that Google Photos is rolling out new innovation on a weekly basis while Flickr is still stuck in 2004. I realized it when I went to Trey Ratcliff’s photowalk at Stanford. There were over 200 people there. *200 people*! It was the largest photowalk I’ve ever been on and I’ve done dozens over the years. And what was everybody talking about at the photowalk?





Not only was *everyone* talking about Google, there were tons of people from Google who were there at the walk.

Google Photos Community Manager Brian Rose was there (along with his sexy moustache). The Photo Team guy who built their lightbox Vincent Mo was there. Google+ Community Manager Natalie Villalobos was there (she used to work at Yahoo). Chris Chabot was there (and he was at Wednesday night’s photowalk in SF too). Mike Wiacek was there.

And these are just some of the people at Google that I know better than others.

There were so many more Googlers there as well. Lisa Bettany and Catherine Hall from TWIT Photos were there too.

I remember back when Flickr used to feel like this. Back when Stewart Butterfield used to show up at the SF Flickr Social meetups. Even though those were smaller meetups, they were full of the same high energy and spirit. Now the SF Flickr Group is basically dead. The meetups that used to happen every month don’t happen anymore. There are only three posts to the group in the past year and one of them is about reviving the group. I haven’t seen a Flickr employee in years. I’m still banned from their help forum for two years now — thanks alot guys.

Meanwhile I visited the Google Campus last week and got to spend an entire afternoon with an excited and engaged team who are full of energy and charged up about building the next great thing in photos.

Earlier this week, the Yahoo exec who is in charge of Flickr, Blake Irving, sent out an interesting tweet. He linked to an article that talked about the tipping point. The gist of the article was that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.

While it would be easy to point to the fact that there are more photographers and photographs still on Flickr than the fledgling Google+, the fact of the matter is that the most resolved 10% have now moved on from Flickr to Google+. It will take time, maybe even a few years for the rest of them to follow, but follow they will. I’ve seen this movie before. I blogged the tipping point back in 2005 before Flickr overtook Webshots for the first time.

Webshots is still around of course, but they are entirely irrelevant at this point. Remember how excited we all were about flickr back then? Sort of like how we are about Google Photos now.

And like Flickr killed Webshots, Google+ will kill flickr.

When we look back 5 years from now at the downfall of Flickr there will probably be plenty of people to blame.

Was it simply ineffective Yahoo management? Were the execs too demoralized about underwater stock options?

Carol Bartz still doesn’t have a Flickr account. Meanwhile Sergey Brin posted shots earlier this week of some kick ass underwater photography from a trip of his to Egypt.

Was it all of the turnover, including the layoffs themselves in the flickr group and lack of any meaningful Yahoo investment?

Was it the rotating team leadership after Stewart the problem? Was it the attitude coming out of Community Management that photographers were more of a nuisance to put up with and talked down to than a community worth engaging?

Who knows.

But Flickr is very much dead in the water. It will take time to really see it happen, but they’ve lost the soul of photosharing. They’ve lost the spirit of photosharing — the zest and passion and love — and while they got away with that for a long time due to lack of competition, things have now changed with Google Photos arriving on the scene, and to a degree 500px as well.

I’m sure I’ll get a bunch of haters responding to this post. Flickr is still beloved by so many of us. Myself included. I still upload photos up there every single day. Don’t hate me for sharing this opinion. And don’t bash Google Photos for whatever features you think they lack compared to flickr — but, but, but, Google+ doesn’t have groups, blah, blah, blah.

All that’s coming.

As I mentioned before, it’s not about the features, it’s about the spirit. And with weekly innovation on their invite only beta product, Google+ is far more likely to get the final product right than Flickr is to innovate at this point.

Please keep in mind that this is just my personal observation after watching the photo sharing space very closely over a long period of years. I very well could be wrong.

Mark Twain’s famous quote “the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” in fact comes to mind.

Update: This post was on hacker news this morning and as such is getting a lot of traffic.

If any of you don’t have Google+ invites and want one, I’ve got 38 of my 150 left and you can get one here. First come, first serve.

The comments on this post on Google+ itself are also worth reading.

Update #2: Peter Adams got a great group photo from last night. He was shooting with a Phase One system which is pretty awesome. Check out his group photo here — be sure to actually click on the photo to see it huge in the lightbox view.

Update #3: My Google+ invite link ran out of invites above, but Mike Wiacek sent me his invite link which should be reloaded with another 143 or so if people still need them, just click here.

Update #4: Looks like Mike and I are both out of invites now. David Miller just emailed me his invite link. You should be able to get one here if you still need one until they run out.

Update #5: TechCrunch picks up on the Flickr story here. Looks like we’re out of invites again. Instead of me posting more links in the body of this post, if you have an invite link and want to share it, post it in the comments and people can use them there if they still need an invite to sign up.

If You Want to See if You Have Any Testimonials Waiting For Your Approval on Flickr, Click Here…

If You Want to See if You Have Any Testimonials Waiting For Your Approval on Flickr, Click Here...

If you want to see if you have any testimonials at flickr waiting to be approved click here.

The screenshot above is of testimonials that I’ve written for people on flickr that have never been approved. These are photographers on the site whose work I actually liked enough to take valuable time out of my day and sit down and thoughtfully put together a short write up on why I valued them and their art on the site.

Some of these were written by me months ago. Some, in fact, years ago.

Unfortunately many of these will never be approved and were a complete waste of time on my part.

The reason why they’ll never be approved is the same reason why others that I’ve written have taken months and even years to be approved — because Flickr has no notification process in place for when someone writes you a testimonial.

Unlike someone’s Facebook Wall or 500px Wall, at Flickr, when you write something nice about someone on their main profile page, the only possible way that they’ll ever know about it (in order to approve it) is to actually go to the “Manage Your Testimonials” page buried three levels deep inside Flickr.

Because many users don’t know about this page, thousands (if not tens of thousands) of testimonials have been written on Flickr that never are published.

As a user of the site, knowing that there is a chance that my testimonial won’t be seen, it discourages me from wanting to write more of them. If I’ve wasted my time in the past, and the user won’t even find out about it anyways, why even write one?

Testimonials are some of the most powerful ways for people to communicate on a social network. They are generally more meaningful than a mere comment on a photo and are much more thoughtful as well. They are not just a comment on a specific photo, they are a comment on something bigger, you as a photographer.

The fact that Flickr has left testimonial notification broken for this many years makes me feel like they are simply just clueless about how social networks ought to work. It’s an epic fail and even worse when the way to fix it is so easy.

To fix testimonials flickr just has to do two things.

1. When someone writes someone a testimonial, forward a flickr mail to that person automatically from the system. They already have a mechanism to do this for other things on the site, why not testimonials?

2. When someone writes someone a testimonial, put this action in the recent activity page. This is the most viewed page on Flickr and will likely be seen by them.

By doing these two super easy things Flickr could double or triple the amount of testimonials written on the site. More testimonials = more page views. More testimonials means more people feel good about themselves and the site.

Or maybe it would be better if I just put this in a language that the Yahoos at Yahoo can actually understand. (More testimonials = more page views = more ad$$$vertising impressions) + (more testimonials = more people feeling good about themselves on the site = more Pro acc$$$ounts) = $$$.

Did I mention $$$?

This is such a no brainer. Instead of working on things like the boring old log off page (Zzzzzzzzzz.) that flickr redesigned last week, they should be fixing things that matter like this.

More Turnover at Yahoo, This Time Flickr Chief Matthew Rothenberg Is Out

Flickr Head of Product Matthew Rothenberg has announced on his Twitter account that he will be leaving Flickr. From Rothenberg: “Here goes: after 5 years, I will be stepping away from Flickr. Will miss working with such a talented, hard-working, and hard-drinking team.” Rothenberg added in a follow up tweet that he knows what he is doing next but not announcing it just yet.

Since the departure of Flickr Co-Founders Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake, there have now been three different managers of the Flickr product at Yahoo. Kakul Srivastava who took over the job when Butterfield resigned, Douglas Alexander who took over for Srivastava and then Rothenberg.

On his LinkedIn page, Rothenberg described his role at Flickr as being “somewhat akin to piloting a rocket-powered banana-delivery truck* at 20,000mph through a dense forest filled with dangerous and hungry apes. (*p.s. that truck is also on fire.)”

Recently Rothenberg posted a screenshot showing that over the past six months Flickr has been growing under his management, however, Flickr has also come under fire in various press reports recently for failing to keep pace with photo sharing at Facebook. This past weekend Flickr also received criticism for censoring a popular Egyptian Blogger’s photos of Egyptian Secret Police.

I’ve not seen any word yet on who will be taking over the reins at Flickr with Rothenberg’s departure, although Yahoo did last month hire Hotmail Veteran Steve Douty to oversee the Flickr property, among other things, as the Vice President of Communications and Communities.

Update: TechCrunch has an official statement from Yahoo on Rothenberg’s departure:

“Matthew Rothenberg has made the personal decision to move on to a new endeavor. In the interim, Markus Spiering will be stepping in as head of product management. Flickr continues to have an innovative, energetic and creative leadership team that is dedicated to its community of members. Flickr remains a key priority for Yahoo! and we are fully committed to making it the best photo-sharing experience on the Web.”

Spiering’s profile is on Flickr here.

Update #2: Rothenberg has written a blog post about leaving flickr.

Update #3: Rothenberg blogs now that he is headed to as the new head of product there. Ironically, is one of the url shorteners that is blacklisted on Flickr’s site.