I have been a Flickr user for what seems decades. I joined at some point in 2005 (an age ago in Internet terms). Flickr was the only decent place to store your photos at the time, head and shoulders above the competition. There was a thriving community, great tools and a generous free option.
The community side of it was the highlight for me. I became a member of my local Flickr group – Flickr Nottingham – and enjoyed sharing my images and ideas with my friends there. I learned a huge amount about photography from there, along with another (now defunct) group called Take a Class With Dave & Dave. These groups helped me develop my skills as a photographer better than reading about it in books. Flickr was such a core part of my Internet use that I became a proud Pro member for quite a number of years.
Here are a couple of examples of my early photographic efforts. The first is one of earliest photos taken with my Canon 400D dSLR – a misty image from Attenborough Nature reserve:
The next was a special image project based on a Lichtenstein painting. I spent quite a lot of time editing this in the GIMP. I’m thinking there are much easier tools for achieving this effect now, but I was particularly pleased with how this one came out:
Both of these photos were produced during the Flickr glory days. The second was created back in 2007, so well over ten years ago now. I can’t remember putting so much effort into a single image since!
Sadly, as Flickr became more popular it couldn’t keep up with the increasing demands of its users, not of the rapidly developing advances in Internet usage. The likes of Instagram and Tumbr (and most likely Facebook) took away most of the community aspects and Flickr seemed to slowly get less relevant. The takeover by Yahoo was the final straw for many users, and while Yahoo tried to tempt in new users by offering a whole terrabyte of storage for free users, this just resulted in a rapid increase in pornographers and spammers. Not a great look.
I stopped paying for the Pro account around that time. It was still good value, but without the community aspect working there was no point at all in keeping a pro account, not with all that free storage. I still liked Flickr – I think it’s still the best way to share albums of images with friends and family – but there were limited reasons for me actually wanting to pay for it. The passing of ownership to Oath (who I detest!) was the sign that Flickr was almost certainly going to die a slow but inevitable death.
There was a ray of hope recently when SmugMug announced their acquisition of Flickr. Their own offering is lovely, and while it wouldn’t work for me (I’ve already embedded hundreds of images from Flickr into this blog – changing those would be a nightmare) I was pleased to see that a company focussed on a photography business would be taking over the reins. Their recent announcement about changes to the free accounts didn’t quite come over so cheerfully though:
Many of today’s announcements are unequivocally positive things: a new, simplified login with any email you prefer; improvements to the Pro account; and additional partner perks. The changes to our Free accounts are significant, and I’d like to explain why these changes are necessary and why we’re confident they’re the right path forward for Flickr.Flickr announcement
Beginning January 8, 2019, Free accounts will be limited to 1,000 photos and videos. If you need unlimited storage, you’ll need to upgrade to Flickr Pro.
Well, I have over 15,000 images on Flickr and this announcement means that I have a choice to make: upgrade to Pro or stop using Flickr. I’m fairly sure that a free account is now useless to me; I can’t easily reduce my images to 1,000 and while my old images wouldn’t (probably!) be deleted (they’re all published under a creative commons licence) I wouldn’t be able to add any new ones in.
So, what do I do? The new price of a Pro account is double to previous amount, so it is $49.99 for a year. While that is twice what I used to pay I have to say that this does seem to be good value. Compare that to similar storage with Google Photos or other services. While I like Google Photos it is much less flexible than Flickr for use in a WordPress blog; plus with the demise of Google+ there are virtually no community features.
There is an introductory 30% Pro up until the end of November, so I shall be waiting until later in the month and then paying for Pro. I like what SmugMug are saying about Flickr improvements, though I am sure that they have upset a large number of old users with the changes. I do think that these are very good business decisions for a photo site to survive, so for the next year I am going to support them. I’ll see how it goes from there.
Flickr has been one of my most loved online resources, and even when it stopped being a place to visit daily I still liked what it offered. SmugMug seem to be the ideal company to improve Flickr, so I am going to put my money where my mouth is. Let’s hope that Flickr can get back to being the place to host your photos!