"How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet"—Mat Honan

An excellent long-read about Flickr and Yahoo by Mat Honan at Gizmodo today. Anyone who has loved and been let down by the once-great photo-sharing site now caught in the purple zombie's death spiral will nod in agreement throughout. The opening graf:

Web startups are made out of two things: people and code. The people make the code, and the code makes the people rich. Code is like a poem; it has to follow certain structural requirements, and yet out of that structure can come art. But code is art that does something. It is the assembly of something brand new from nothing but an idea.

Read: How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet. (Gizmodo)


  1. Might be good, but I hesitate to click the link. Ever since Gawker revamped their web sites to make the user interface more usable, their web sites have been essentially unusable. The only one I still visit is i09 and even that I only do once a  week due to navigation being such a pain in the ass.

  2. Might be good, but I hesitate to click the link. Ever since Gawker revamped their web sites to make the user interface more usable, their web sites have been essentially unusable. The only one I still visit is i09 and even that I only do once a  week due to navigation being such a pain in the ass.

  3. Might be good, but I hesitate to click the link. Ever since Gawker revamped their web sites to make the user interface more usable, their web sites have been essentially unusable. The only one I still visit is i09 and even that I only do once a  week due to navigation being such a pain in the ass.

    1. It seemed surprisingly pleasant to me, not just for Gawker but for the internet in general. It’s a long piece not split into several pages, and there isn’t much cruft to avoid looking at – it’s pretty much the same as reading the comments here at BoingBoing, there’s a persistent sidebar that you can just ignore and you can just keep scrolling down as you read.

    2. Between exposing my password and buying a stolen prototype phone and just the general trolling (for me this peaked when they had 10 iphone antenna stories in 24 hours, plus 2 a day for 2 weeks beforehand), I gave up on gizmodo a while ago. Don’t miss it one bit.

  4. Funny thing about this: I use Flickr, and I like it fine. I hang around a number of photo forums, and the people in them use Flickr more than any other three or four sites added together–in fact all the other “popular” sites are invisible on those forums. Perhaps the Gawkers shouldn’t assume that just because all their hipster friends have lost interest in photography and moved on to batik or instagram (gaaack!) or something that Flickr has died.

    1.  It seems Flickr is still successful with photographers who take photography seriously (pro or not). People who just posted pictures of their cats, themselves making a duck-face in a club, or what they’re having for lunch to show their friends have now moved to Facebook and Instagram. Google+ is becoming quite popular with pro photographers too.

    2. Yeah – I don’t get it either. None of the other social photo sites let you geek on the photo meta data the way flicker does. Well if you don’t care what camera is posting the most pictures lately, fine – go ruin a perfectly fine photo with some lame retro instagram filter.

  5. As a Flickr user since a couple years before the Yahoo acquisition, and now a dismayed Flickr user (though I still have a pro account), this was a great read. And its ending notes of ambiguous optimism are perfect – Flickr is finally trying to turn itself around and seem to be making correct decisions these days (and aren’t being sabotaged by Yahoo management as much), but it may simply be too late.

    And as one of the comments at Gizmodo notes, Flickr is still the de-facto community for photo enthusiasts who use more than a point-and-shoot or cell phone. It might be too late for it to take over social photo sharing etc. completely, but it can retain and grow that enthusiast audience if they’re careful (and if they’re ok with being a more niche-y site than they wish they could be).

    And they do need a major overhaul of the interface. They’re doing this now, piece by piece, but I’m not sure how far they plan to take it. They seem to be intent not to turn it into what everyone else (Facebook etc.) are doing with photos, and to make it simply a better version of what they’ve always been.

    They came out with a new Android app recently that adds Instagram-like stuff. It came out shortly before Instagram was launched on Android and it was such an obvious case of “throw it out the door no matter what as long as we beat Instagram” that it’s beyond pathetic. I don’t think anyone actually uses it. So they certainly aren’t doing everything right yet.

  6. I agree that Yahoo is about as smart as a room full of hair, but critiquing Flickr for not being Facebook or Instagram smacks of Web 2.x strawmanning.

  7. I remember when Yahoo! photos migrated to Flickr.  I could log in with my Yahoo! ID and password, but about a year later, I found that I could not download my own photos and they were copyrighted by Flickr.  Talk about bald-face, shameless theft.

    1. I just got shut out of my account when it happened. I ended up in one of those change-your-password Moebius strips.

    2. Huh?  What are you talking about?  Flickr has never claimed copyright over your photos or anybody else’s photos.  

      1.  You can even select licensing when you upload them. Private, CC, or whatever in-between.

  8. So, basically, people who aren’t really interested in photography aren’t really interested in flickr? That’s ok, they have Facebook and Instagram. Supply and demand. Flickr is still the only real alternative for photographers who want to interact free from the constraints of a walled garden or square images on a phone.

      1. I set an account up there as well, it’s an improved interface, not so sure yet about popularity etc. 

        In a way 500px is trying to do what Yahoo tried with the internet: Use humans to “value” photos and curate it. An interesting idea I think, we’ll see if it goes anywhere.

  9. The Gizmodo article is great writing.

    Also, I’m happy that Yahoo! is dying a slow, painful death.

  10. I’m still a loyal user of Flickr (with a pro account) but I don’t do as much “social” stuff – comments, discussions etc, as I used to, partly because a lot of the “community” dissipated.

    It’s still better than any other dedicated photo sharing/archiving site. Instagram? I enjoyed it for about a week until all the photos started looking the same.

    Still loyal, but maybe my expectations have changed.

  11. I’m definitely not sad that Yahoo is going down, but I am sad they’re taking Flickr with them.  I’ve used it for years as a pro member and find it a good repository for my photos.  I upload them to flickr and ifttt automatically posts them to facebook.  Photos I put on facebook are low-quality party pics with friends.  Nice travel photos go on Flickr.

    1.  I don’t think Flickr is going anywhere — I read this article as more of a “missed opportunity” rather than dire straits. After all, Flickr is one of the few sites where people are actually paying money for the service, rather than relying on ads or investor goodwill. It probably is too late for Flickr to overtake the snapshot market, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. If Flickr develops its reputation for professional, that will improve its signal-to-noise ratio, meaning that when you get hit with a Flickr picture, you’ll notice it more.

      Instagram and similar services will probably always be on top for grainy, effected snapshots, simply because I doubt people are taking their SLR pictures and passing them through Instagram. I’m OK with Flickr becoming more focused on serious photographers, because it means the community will be more focused.

  12. While I’m inclined to not be surprised by the supposition of this article, the attribution in it is horrible. I had a hard time trusting the information because of it.

    It amazes me that you endorse an article that is FULL of anonymous sources while at the same time promote this story on the subject of anonymous sources on your home page: http://boingboing.net/2012/05/14/anodyne-anonymity.html

    The context is a bit different but not at all far off. 

    Who ARE these former Flickr people and who do they work for now? How do I know they aren’t people working for competitive start ups?

    Very suspect. 

  13. I’m underwhelmed by Honan’s work generally, and this is no exception. Yahoo’s problems have been documented numerous times already, and they could have handled the Flickr acquisition perfectly and kept the userbase happy and still been steamrollered by Facebook. 

  14. Over 9000 hours playing Literati with people from all over the world. I have no hate for Yahoo! at all.

  15. The nice thing about Flickr  is the name recognition.  You can tell people that your stuff is on Flickr and they can actually find you.  I tell people I have stuff on 500px and it’s like telling them I use Diaspora for social networking.

    Flickr is primarily for photographers sharing with other photographers and checking in on the work of others I find interesting.  I find them because the photographer community tags and groups their photos or sets.  I have a Facebook page for my stuff but the community there honestly doesn’t seem as interested in viewing shots or commenting on them because it’s socially-based “nice” or “great stuff, you seeing Tim on the weekend?”  Flickr people at least take the time to tell you what is nice or what isn’t working or how a tweak could improve the shot.

    Yes, Yahoo! missed the social networking boat.  Yes, they are not the mobile photo sharing site that Instagram is.  But they do have a vibrant community of photographers who use actual instant film.  And medium format.  And night photography.  And people who own and use more than an app on their iPhone. 

    If it ends up being a niche the same way that small communities have always been niches, whether they be fans of obscure sports in their locality, hackerspaces, or blogs such as BoingBoing, isn’t that one of the things that people are looking for?  That such communities can exist and flourish in an era of increasing homogeneity is a pretty good thing.  If you’re going to be annoyed that Starbucks puts your local small coffee shop out of business, you can’t be annoyed that Flickr isn’t going to be turning into the be-all, end-all of photo sharing, networking, mobile phone apps.

  16. If anyone has found a better site than Flickr (Pro) for archiving thousands of DSLR photos of my kids in sizes large enough that I can feel OK about not keeping the RAW files, then please let me know. After my PC and backup both freakishly melted down at the same time, I switched to Flickr as my archive. (Another convenience is that I can order a DVD collection of all of my photos on Flickr at any time, really cheap.) I just find it easy to use. But if there’s better out there today, I’m willing to take a look.

    1.  You sir, are gutsy.  I fully admire your commitment to the cloud, and for that I salute you.  I’d keep an onsite backup of family photos as well, mostly in case Flickr really screws it all up, but I have been known to be openly described as “paranoid about other people controlling my data.”

      In answer to your question, I can’t think of another service that would do as you describe.

      1. Well, I periodically (every year or two) order a backup DVD via Qoop, which costs about $23 per full DVD. It seems like a pretty good deal, given the expense, time and pain involved in burning that many photos to DVD myself.

        1. That certainly sounds worth any amount of time.  But it depends on how long you’re thinking of archiving, most DVD’s have a shelf life under ideal conditions of 30-50 years. 

          I’m not suggesting that digital storage will be around forever either, just wondering out loud if there’s a better solution to archiving shots other than printing them out and making a book like we did a hundred years ago.

  17. This Flickr thing is frustrating for me because I’ve spent a great deal of time curating my images in Flickr over the years, I have few issues with the web UI,  and I’ve met some very cool people there over the years. Yes, their mobile apps are disappointing; ; yes they’re shackled to confused, dying beast of a company; and yes they didn’t have the prescience to invent an alternative interface like Instagram or Pinterest (but they have an API, so someone else could have).

    What should happen?
    – Should Yahoo sell them to Google so the site can be marginalized like Panoramio, be shoe-horned into the Picassa UI, or stuffed into Google+ to wither amongst the tumbleweeds?
    – Should Yahoo sell them to Facebook, to be judged and picked over by family members and co-workers; to be used in Facebook ads; subjecting Flickr users to a crappy/crashy Facebook UI.
    – Should Flickr try to follow trends, alienating more people than they please?
    – Should Flickr try to be a meme-generator, so it becomes nothing but Dolan Duck images?

    If it was up to me:
    – Yahoo should sell Flickr off.
    – They should focus on better apps.
    – Allow users to follow people on Flickr, without the intimacy of being a “contact”.

    I hope I didn’t contradict myself during this rant.

  18. i used to participate in social communities at onelist that became egroups that got bought by yahoo and started losing functionality and the people i knew there left.

    this is why i’m uncomfortable with reddit’s reliance on imgr. could imgr turn down an n-million dolar buyout offer from yahoo? my guess is no.

    this post made me realize that flickr might be holding some of my old photos that i dont have on this new computer, but when i search for myself i don’t show up,and i go to my old bookmark i get “this member is no longer active.”

  19. I believe I read this 10 years ago, but it was called “How AOL Killed Winamp.”

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