The new Flickr: Biggr, Spectaculr, Wherevr
Flickr received significant updates today, with the Yahoo-owned (and killed) property announcing that it will offer users 1 terabyte of free storage, enable full-resolution sharing across its website and applications, and release new applications for Android smartphones and tablets. The photo-sharing service is maybe, finally relevant again -- or that's what Yahoo hopes, anyway.
The rise of mobile computing hasn't been kind to Flickr. Though the iPhone is the most popular camera on the service, Flickr eventually ceded the photo-sharing market to Instagram -- which was exclusive to the iPhone for almost two years -- and has only recently begun to focus on smartphones and tablets. An updated iPhone app that finally -- finally -- brought social features, an improved design, and the ever-important photo filters was released in December, months after Instagram had become large enough for Facebook to acquire the company for $715 million in cash and stock.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer acknowledged Flickr's problems during an event today at Times Square, saying that "Photos make the world go round. Flickr was awesome once, and it languished. We're going to make it awesome again." The service had, she noted, languished for so long that "the Internet" asked her to "make Flickr awesome again." And, in order to do that, Flickr needed to embrace its existing users while also appealing to new, unspoiled customers.
Unlike other photo-sharing apps, which focus on ephemeral interactions and are more about communication than photography, Flickr has always been a service meant for people who want to preserve their memories. It isn't just about sharing a photo to Facebook or Twitter or -- and this will likely become increasingly important -- Tumblr; it's about having a single place to store those photographs and make them available at any given moment.
That's why Yahoo focused so much on the new storage options and the ability to share full-resolution photos today. "For us, the most important thing is that we provide unlimited uploads. We don't want to degrade the experience," said Flickr product head Markus Spiering. "What you have on Flickr is that we honor your images. We have full res everywhere, which is a huge differentiator." Even though Flickr added filters to its iPhone app with the December update, that's not what the service is about, and today's event made that clear.
The general response seems to today's announcements seems to be positive so far -- the new website is well-designed, the apps are perfectly functional, and the idea of having a place to store over 500,000 photos "forever" is appealing in a world where media and memories are often considered disposable -- but that might just be the tech community's obsession with novelty. Despite this, Yahoo has shown that Flickr isn't quite dead yet, even if it's been in a coma for the last few years.
Oh, and that Web page from "the Internet" asking Mayer to improve Flickr? It now reads "Dear Marissa Mayer, thank you for making Flickr awesome again." It seems that the Internet actually is impressed with today's announcements.
[Image courtesy Thom Watson]