Flickr Changes Have People Upset, But Why?

Posted on Wed 31 January 2007 in Dispatches • 3 min read

Well, there has been a whole lot of hubbub on the net regarding Flickr’s announcement of an upcoming policy change, which if you are not a Flickr user you probably haven’t seen as it is only internally displayed. Essentially, Flickr members will be required to use a Yahoo login to access their account, plus the introduction of two new limitations.

The first is essentially the culmination of what users were told to expect when Yahoo acquired the photo sharing service, and most of the reaction to that is residual angst from Yahoo’s ad-filled past (or present) added with the frustration of having to create YAL. Ultimately though, this change is minor and most of the concerns regarding this that you’ll read in the official bitch thread seem to revolve around how the service will change. Since I signed up via my old Yahoo account (after brushing the dust off), I can tell you that there isn’t really a difference. You can still use a different email address, and you aren’t required to make use of other Yahoo services. I don’t have any problem staying logged in, and it saved me the trouble of making a unique Flickr login. Honestly, I would have preferred an OpenID based solution, but this isn’t any different than Google converting its acquisitions to a centralized authentication scheme, so it is really kind of silly to freak out about.

The limitations also seem reasonable. Users are restricted to 3,000 contacts, and limited to 75 tags per photo. Why you would need more than that beats me, but there are people out there with 5,000 contacts or more. This seems to be associated with the crazy social networking practice of friend collecting more than anything else. It seems there needs to be a change in contact practice here. A lot of users have been using the contact feature as a way of tracking activity in other accounts, rather than the primary use I see for it, which is to grant certain viewing privileges to particular users. That’s no one’s fault, that’s how the feature was advertised. However, it seems that would be best handled via feed subscription anyway.

The tag issue just seems silly as anyone using that many tags doesn’t really understand how to meaningfully tag content to begin with. Of course, some of this is due to Flickr’s ill-advised feature that allows other users to add tags to your photos. Sure you can restrict that, but that also restricts the ability for others to add notes to your photo. Notes are fun way to apply comments to particular parts of your photo, letting untrusted users add tags to your photos is just asking for trouble. It would be nice to see those two permission settings split into distinct options.

In theory, this is a bummer for the pro users as the services they paid for have changed, and it has ruffled a few feathers. It probably would have been a good idea to use this opportunity to create extra enticement to switch to a pro account, by imposing the limits only on free accounts or even leaving a pittance of extra contacts/tags on the pro accounts. Then again, Flickr would probably have their users crying foul over that as well. As Jeremy Zawodny points out, these things are tricky. It doesn’t help that Thomas Hawk, the CEO of Zooomr, while an avid, and concerned Flickr user is using this opportunity to try to draw users to his company’s service. Add that to Don MacAskill offering 50% off of memberships at SmugMug to Flickr refugees, and you have got a competitor feeding frenzy.

Honestly, I don’t understand what the big deal is, and I’m pretty sure that with a little patience and a few culture changes at Flickr that this will all blow over. After all, Flickr is the most popular photo sharing site on the net, and I expect that it will continue to be even after the “Old Skool” users either stop whining or leave for some other service.