Yahoo’s Bloodbath Is Making Flickr Users Nervous

YahooI have over 26,000 photos stored online using the Flickr photo-sharing service. Granted, I am a power user, but there is an amazing array of people who also have most or all of their images on the service’s site. After all, it is the most social and functional one of its type online.

Flickr is one of the most vibrant social ecosystems on the Internet. The photos range from a nearly infinite array of personal photos to the constantly growing archives of the Smithsonian. This massive investment in the platform is what is fueling the nervousness raging across the Web in the wake of news leaked from Flickr’s parent company, Yahoo!

Rich Jennings at ComputerWorld sums it up:

The Interwebs were up in arms yesterday, at leaked news that Yahoo would kill a handful of its ‘web properties.’ Well, few mourned the death sentence meted out to pointless services such as MyBlogLog or Yahoo! Buzz, but the denizens of were positively apoplectic.

Since Flickr is not on the list, why would its users be nervous? It’s really simple. If Delicious, which has millions of links curated over the years since its 2003 inception, can get dumped, it engenders little feeling of security for those archiving their photos online. This is bad for Yahoo! because Flickr is one of its only currently successful properties.

Even though news has been released through the Delicious blog that the service is not actually being shut down, in a post by Yahoo’s Chris Yeh, the ripples of unease have spread across the Web, damaging Yahoo’s already shaky reputation. Just take a look at this collection of tweets compiled by Business Insider documenting the immediate reactions to the news.

Rob Pegararo of the The Washington Post notes the reaction of Delicious users and wonders why if there is that large a community behind it Yahoo has failed to monentize it. He writes,

Then again, this is Yahoo. Outside of AOL, it’s hard to think of a tech company that has vaporized more value than this beleaguered Sunnyvale, Calif., firm.

To cite one widely-quoted comment on Twitter [broken link removed]: ‘The easiest way to shut down Wikileaks would be to have Yahoo! acquire it.’

As one result, users of Yahoo’s Flickr photo-sharing service seem a little nervous lately. Sure, Flickr is a great site with an enormous and active user base that represents one of the best alternatives to Facebook and Google’s Picasa for photo sharing. But it’s also been neglected by Yahoo’s management — see this furious open letter to Yahoo chief executive Carol Bartz by Flickr user Thomas Hawk. Can you be sure that the site won’t wind up with least-favored status on Yahoo’s org chart?

For a company that is based on the movement of information over the Internet, Yahoo seems to continue to fumble. Even though word is out that Delicious is not being taken down, but rather seeking a new home away from the Yahooligans, it came out 24 hours later. An eternity in online PR time.

Let’s pull one more quote from Jennings’ article that applies here:

How naive to expect that a PowerPoint slide displayed at an all-hands meeting wouldn’t get leaked. How PR-illiterate do you have to be to not have a statement ready for such an eventuality?

Yahoo has not done well in recent years. Partly this is due to confusion over what it is — Search engine? Community site? Online advertising outlet? This lack of clear identity has continued to erode the brand while PR failures like this one accelerate the process.

Then came the dreaded news (bringing us full circle to the beginning of this post) that Flickr had indeed suffered staff cuts, and not small ones either. Charles Arthur, a reporter for  the Guardian, reports:

It turns out that Flickr did not, after all, escape from the scythe now being swung among the Yahoo staff. (Well, at least it proves that Carol Bartz knows it exists.)

Comparing the staff list on the cached page content of Flickr staffers [broken link removed] from Tuesday with that today, it seems that what was a 56-strong team has been trimmed by five — Tara Suan Kirchner, Joe Mud, Adrienne Bassett, Cris Stoddard, Jenn Vargas. (Thank you opendiff!) Although I’m hearing separately that six people in all have either been laid off or quit (one of the names on the ‘present’ list is gone, we understand).

That’s a 9% cut, deeper than the 4% that Carol Bartz announced across the organisation in her memo of Thursday.

As you may imagine, I am far from the only loyal and long-time Flickr user who is researching the best way to download and archive my pictures. I adore the service — it is one of my favorite social platforms, and I use it daily. There is just too much chaos and mismanagement going on in the Yahoo camp these days for me to trust it.

I guess it’s a good thing that there are now a lot of posts up on the available alternatives. TUAW’s Stephen Sande takes a look at three options for downloading/backing up your entire Flickr account, and PINBoard has exploded with people backing up their Delicious bookmarks to the service.

I really wonder what they could have done to handle this worse.

Source: “The Internet Freaks Out Over Yahoo Killing Delicious,” Business Insider, 12/18/10
Source: “Yahoo Targets AltaVista, Buzz, Delicious For Elimination,” InformationWeek, 12/18/10
Source: “Flickr staff among job cuts amid Yahoo bloodletting: what is its future?,” Guardian, 12/17/10
Source: “Yahoo! making you queasy? Here’s how to backup Flickr photos to your Mac,” TUAW- The Unofficial Apple Weblog, 12/17/10
Image by Yodel Anecdotal, used under its Creative Commons license.

About George Williams

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, among others.


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  1. Loki: You’ve got more skin in the Flickr game than I do. I’ve been on it since 2005, but have less than 700 pics online.

    But I’ll play devil’s advocate. Regardless of whether or not you agree with me, I know you’ll at least appreciate the debate.

    The only common thread between Delicious and Flickr is Yahoo. Now calling that a common thread is a stretch, but bear with me.

    Delicious has a great brand built up. It embedded itself seamlessly into users lives to the point of invisibility. It’s (oversimplifying) some code, millions of links, tags and not much else. It’s elegant in its simplicity. And user outcry has been pretty significant. I’ve backed up my links. But I’m waiting to pick another site for bookmarking. There’s a shot I may not need to do so.

    This reminds me of when Bloglines announced it was shutting down. I switched over to Google Reader. That was a move I should have made a long time ago. So when Bloglines received a stay of execution, and was purchased, I did not come back to it.

    In the case of Bloglines and Delicious, neither brand has the assets behind it that Flickr does. More importantly, Flickr has a paying user base and a serious community. Sites like CNN’s iReport views Flickr’s community as the gold standard. Which is all to say that if Bloglines got a stay of execution and Delicious very well might, I’d have to believe Flickr would survive — regardless of Yahoo.

    We should back up all of our sites. But if we’re truly loyal users, we should stay put with Flickr for the time being IMHO. The concern is completely understandable. But I think it’s early.

  2. Jane Pellicciotto says:

    I think I’ve experienced a possible outcome, having just been locked out of Flickr. I need to walk away from the problem before it truly makes me insane. I imagine I have to start from scratch.

    Having had a compromised Yahoo account in a number of ways and no help from Yahoo, I found out I could link Flickr to Google instead. So I set that up, signed in twice using it. All was fine until I deleted my Yahoo account. Now I can’t get into Flickr using Facebook or Google, telling me my Yahoo ID isn’t correct!

    Even setting up a new Yahoo account didn’t help. When I tried to link it to Flickr it told me that name was taken. That being me of course.

    The biggest problem is that users are completely locked out of any real customer service. If you’re going to be that large and lacking in actual customer service, you need to have failsafe websites.

  3. Toastie says:

    I’m a longtime Flickr user, and I just noticed how frustrated I am every time I need to do simple tasks with my photos. I know there’s the Organizr for putting photos into sets and collections, but I want to do this from an individual photo page. But I have to click on an Actions dropdown with *15* options, and then find the “Add to a set” 5 items down. Why in the world aren’t these options on a toolbar? This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but Flickr has been making lousy UI decisions for years now, and there are dozens examples of feature requests from users that get repeated on forums year after year.

    I often wonder why I keep re-signing with Flickr for another $25/year. Google isn’t cutting their Picasa staff. I feel like a moron for editing and organizing my photos with Picasa on my PC and then opening my Flickr Uploadr to put them on the web.

    Honestly, I started getting nervous about Flickr as soon as Yahoo acquired it some years ago, since Yahoo never impressed me with anything they did since they gave me a neat web portal…back in 1997.

    Please, Google, DO NOT acquire Yahoo. Someone, ANYONE, just acquire Flickr, and let the rest of Yahoo wither and die.