I’ve used Flickr since the late 2005 or so. Not only was it arguably the first true social media platform but it also had a great community of users to go along with its ease of use.
Over the years, it began to seem more and more antiquated, but I still used it because by that point I already had over 20,000 images hosted there. Now, out of left field, Flickr has gotten a facelift that brings its interface in line with the modern aesthetics. The user interface is lovely (if you like the trend of eliminating white space), and is consistent across devices and operating systems.
Let us take a quick look at some of the more prominent aspects of the sudden facelift.
In Times Square on Monday, the same day she announced Yahoo’s acquisition of social-blogging site Tumblr, CEO Marissa Mayer said it was Yahoo’s intention to make Flickr ‘awesome again.’
Those are the words of Edward Baig as they appeared on Delaware Online. Whether she succeeded or not is a matter of opinion. I think even fans of the changes would have a hard time justifying “awesome” — unless we’re speaking of the new free terabyte of storage.
As Baig notes, the changes fall under three headings:
- The interface. High-resolution images with little white space between them — a nod to the more minimalist look of the post-Instagram age.
- Consistent experience across devices. The new Flickr now looks basically the same on the desktop as it does on Android and on iOS.
- Storage. One full terabyte of storage for free!
Users: We Hate It!
If there is one thing in this world as sure as death and taxes, it must be the fact that users will always howl when a major change is made to one of their favorite websites. This is true no matter how good or bad those changes might be. That said, I must admit to being one of those who is rather underwhelmed.
CNET notes the most common reactions:
Several users chiming in on the forum say the photos are now too big and ‘in your face.’ Others say the large layout makes it difficult to interact with their fellow Flickr users. And some say they just find the new look confusing and messy. Many of them are asking Yahoo to at least offer them an option to use the old layout.
What lends these complaints some weight is the reaction from the parent company, Yahoo.
Yahoo: We’re Listening
The next day CNET published its story, the following statement from Yahoo came out:
Flickr users are the backbone of our community. We deeply value how much they care about Flickr and are constantly engaging with them. This week, Flickr made some big announcements including a new Android phone/tablet app, a new web experience, and 1 terabyte of free space for all of our users. We recognize that this is a lot of change and are listening to all of the community feedback that we’re getting. Additionally, we’re actively measuring flickr.com so we can fine tune the site’s performance and continuously make improvements.
Fine-tuning is always needed, but I don’t know if there was enough outcry to make the company abandon this extremely expensive and hard-to-implement overhaul. I’d be willing to bet that the PR-based damage control is more along the lines of what the company is considering.
Four Days Later, the Outage
First came the tweet from @Flickr:
Experiencing slowness or having trouble accessing the site? We’re on it, and are working to fix the issue as quickly as possible. #badpanda
Many users, including me, suffered outages lasting up to several hours at a time. The safe bet it that the user base of 89 million, combined with new mobile hi-res upload capability, simply flooded the servers until they gave up. Not an incident to inspire confidence in said user base.
The iOS 7 Integration
It seems that the next version of iOS, the operating system for iPhones, iPads, and other mobile Mac devices, will have integrated Flickr support. This makes perfect sense as their main current competitor is Google. By adding deep integration with competing social properties they can attempt to both build strategic alliances and impair the Big G’s encroachment on their devices.
With Flickr integration, iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch customers will have the ability to share photos stored and/or taken on their devices to Flickr with a single tap from the system-wide share menu. Flickr has been integrated into the paid iPhoto iOS App Store app and OS X Mountain Lion since 2012, but iOS 7 will represent the first time in which the photo sharing service has been integrated deeply into the entire iOS operating system.
It is likely, that just like with Facebook and Twitter, the new iOS integration for Flickr will allow for instant log-in to Flickr via various App Store apps. For example, the Instagram application currently offers users the ability to share Instagram photos to Flickr. However, users currently must login manually to Flickr. The iOS 7 changes could avoid users needing to sign in for each individual Flickr-connected app.
All in all, it is a stunning array of changes. I’ve seen a lot of chatter across social platforms among my fellow Flickr users, and the consensus so far seems to be that the platform is moving away from professional photographers, its longtime backbone, and towards what is sometimes pejoratively termed “the Instagram set.” I guess we will have to wait and see how things progress before we can determine how accurate that assumption might be.
George "Loki" Williams is the community and brand manager for award wining game company Savage Mojo, Ltd. and the owner of SocialGumbo, LLC, an online consultancy specializing in Web content and online communications. Loki has produced content for clients including the Open Society Institute, National Association of Broadcasters, Kobold Press, and Kaiser Permanente. His work has been seen or written about in The New York Times, The BBC, Air America, The Gambit Weekly, and NOLA.com, among others.