What if Flickr fails?

[2 February update… A new case has come up, of accidental deletion. More details here and here. The company has also updated its community guidelines. It’s still not clear why the company does not save deleted accounts. My provisional assuption is that the reason is legal rather than technical. But I’d love to hear somebody from Flickr (or somebody familiar with their systems) tell me that’s wrong. In any case, deleted accounts should be kept, somewhere, somehow, one would think.]

As of last October, hosted 5,000,000,000 images. I’m approaching 50,000 images on Flickr right now. Sooo… if I lop off a bunch of zeros that comes to… .001% of the total. Not much, but maybe enough to show on their radar.

Here is what I hope they see: some heavy Flickr users are getting worried. Those with the most cause for worry are at the ‘pro’ level, meaning we pay for the service. (In my case, I pay for two of the four at links above). One cause for worry is reports of sudden and unexplained account deletions. The other is the possibility that Flickr might fail for the same reason that, say, is now failing. That is, by declining use, disinterest or mismanagement by the parent corporation, or a decline in advertising revenues.

Of particular interest right now is a report by of Deepa Praveen’s Flickr Pro account deletion. She claims she lost 600 photos, 6,000 emails, 600 contacts, 20,000 favorites, 35,000 comments, 250,000 views and more. “Don’t I deserve a reason before they pressed the DEL key?” she writes.

Of course we only have her side on this thing, so far, so bear that in mind.

Meanwhile the closest thing I can find to an explanation in Flickr’s Help Forum is this thread, which leads me to think the most likely reason for the deletion is that Deepa voilated some term of service. But, I dunno. Maybe somebody from Flickr can explain in the comments below.

Still, even if blame for the deletion ends up falling at least partly on Deepa (which I hope it does not, and have no reason yet to think it should), one’s exposure on Flickr goes up with the sum of photos one puts there. And the greater risk is not of Flickr’s deletion of customers, but of the market’s deletion of Flickr. Because, after all, Flickr is a business and no business lasts forever. Least of all in the tech world.

Right now that world looks to advertising for paying many big Web companies’ bills, and for driving those companies’ valuations on Wall Street and in pre-IPO private markets. Some numbers… The online advertising business right now totals about $63 billion, close to half of which goes to Google. In fact the whole advertising business, worldwide, only comes to $463 billiion. (Sources: and Google Investor Relations.) That’s a lot of scratch, but does that alone justify the kinds of valuations that and are getting these days? A case can be made, but that case is a lot weaker if Facebook and Google remain mostly in the advertising business. Which, so far, it looks like they will.

Wall Street is less enthusiastic about , but still a little upbeat, perhaps because advertising is still hot, and Yahoo still makes most of its money from “marketing services.” Flickr is part of Yahoo. I can’t find out how much Flickr brings in, but I’m curious to know what percentage comes from Pro account subscriptions, versus advertising placed on non-pro account pages.

There are cracks in the edifice of the online advertising. This comScore report, for example, and an earlier one, both show that ‘natural born clickers’ (that is, people who like to click on ads, versus the rest of us) account for a huge percentage of all the clicks on advertising, which pays based on “click-throughs”. Chas Edwards says, “these ‘natural born clickers’ are not the most desirable demographic for most advertisers: They skew toward Internet users with household incomes below $40,000 who spend more time than average at gambling sites and career advice sites.”

Among all the revenue diets a company might have, advertising equates best with candy. Its nutritive value is easily-burned carbohydrates. A nice energy boost, but not the protien-rich stuff comprised of products and services that provide direct benefits or persistent assets. (I can hear ad folk’s blood begin to boil here. “Advertising is nutritive! It delivers lots of positive public and private good!” Please, bear in mind that I made my bones for many years in the advertising business. I co-founded and served as creative director for one of Silicon Valley’s top agencies for many years. My name was on a building in Palo Alto when I did that. I know what the candy is, how it’s made, how easily most companies who use it can get along without it, and how it differs from stuff they can’t get along without.*)

Regardless of whether or not you think the online advertising business is a bubble (which I do right now, but I’m a voice in the wilderness), we should face the fact that we are seriously exposed when we place our businesses and online lives in the hands of companies that make most of their money from advertising, and that aren’t diversifying into other businesses that aren’t based on guesswork.

I just got off the phone (actually Skype) with folks working on a project that examines Facebook. Many questions were asked. Rather than repeat what you’ll hear me say when that show is produced, I’d rather point to one example that should prove at least some of my points: MySpace.

What’s to stop another company from doing to Facebook what Facebook did to MySpace? More to my point, what’s to stop some new owned-by-nobody technology or collection of protocols and free code from doing to Facebook what SMTP, POP3 and IMAP (the protocols of free and open email) did to MCI Mail, Compuserve mail, AOL mail, and the rest of the closed mail systems that competed with each other as commercial offerings? Not much, frankly.

So I think we need to do two things here.

First is to pay more for what’s now free stuff. This is the public radio model, but with much less friction (and therefore higher contribution percentages) on the customers’ side. In  (at the ) we’re working on that with . Here’s a way EmanciPay will help newspapers. And here’s our Knight News Challenge application for doing the same with all media sources. You can help by voting for it.

Second is to develop self-hosted versions of Flickr, or the equivalent. Self-hosting is the future we’ll have after commercial hosting services like Flickr start to fail. Fortunately, self-hosting is what the Web was meant to support in the first place, and the architecture is still there. We’ll have our own Flickrs and Zoomrs and Picassas, either on servers at home (ISP restrictions permitting) or in a server rack at the likes of RackSpace. But somebody needs to develop the software. has been working in this direction for years. Flickr Fan being one example. The end point of his work’s vector is Silo-free everything on the open web. We are going to get there.

Fortunately Flickr has a generous API Garden that does allow the copying off of most (or all) data that goes with your photographs. I’m interested in being able to copy all my photos and metadata off into my own self-hosted system. How much they would welcome that, I don’t know. But their API is certainly encouraging. And I do want them to stay in business. They’ve been a terrific help for me, and many other photographers, and we do appreciate what they’ve done and still do. And I think they can succeed. In fact, I’d be glad to help with that.

But mainly I want them, and every other silo out there, to realize that the pendulum has now swung full distance in the silo’d direction — and that it’s going to swing back in the direction of open and distributed everything. And there’s plenty of money to be made there too.

I think they might also consider going all-pro or mostly-pro. I say that because I’m willing to pay more than I do now, for a serious pro account — meaning one in which I have more of a relationship with the company. When the average price of first-rate cameras and lenses each run well into four figures, paying, say, $100+ per year for hosting of photos and other value-adds isn’t a bad deal. Hell, I used to pay that much, easy, per month, for film processing, back in the last millennium. And I did most of that at Costco.

So here’s hoping we can talk, that Deepa can recover what she’s lost (or at least see a path toward something better than the relationship she had with Flickr), and that the entrepreneurs and VCs out there will start seeing value in new open-Web start-ups, rather than the ad-funded and silo’d ones that are still fashionable today.

[Later (28 January)…] Thomas Hawk reports,

…after getting three previous non-answer emails from them over the past few weeks, this morning they seem to have finally given her an official answer on why her account was deleted.

From Flickr:

Hi there,

Like I said before, we saw behavior in your account that
went against our guidelines and required us to take action –
which was to delete your account. Our guidelines apply to
any and all content you post on Flickr – photos you upload,
comments you make, group discussions you participate in,

I am afraid I cannot give you any more specific information
than this.

Thank you for your understanding,

The only problem is though, according to Deepa she said she hasn’t participated in any discussions or group threads in Flickr for over a year. And she felt that her content very much adhered to the Flickr Guidelines.

I assume that Cathryn had no answer, and that this was the best Flickr could do.

I would like to say this is unacceptable, except that it is acceptable. We accept it when we click “accept” to Flickr’s terms of service when we take out an account with them. And Flickr is no exception here. ALL websites and services like Flickr’s have similar terms.

And we can’t expect the sites to fix them. We have to do that, by proffering our own terms.

Which we’re working on. Stay tuned.

*I actually have hopes for advertising — not as the super-targeted, quant-driven, “personalized” stuff that’s all the rage these days; but as a new communications mechanism on the corporate side of real conversational marketing, in which the customer has full status as a sovereign individual, and takes initiative, expresses intentions, and engages through mechanisms he or she controls (and preferably also owns).


  1. KD’s avatar

    @ Eric, 12:27 today:

    You assert: “A self hosted version of Flickr would fail on multiple levels:” and go on to list several barriers. I’m not going to try to give solutions to those possible problems, but I do want to note that identifying problems is the first step to overcoming them.

    I agree that today there are barriers to having the sort of non-silo version of Flickr that is being discussed here. Your list might not be correct or complete, but there are barriers and your list is a start to identify them.

    I do not agree that those barriers cannot be overcome. Whether they are overcome depends on how much the general public becomes tired of being vulnerable to silos and whether someone/some group finds a way to provide a non-silo solution, and maybe make some money from it.

    I’d go so far to say that the solution might be generalizable to more than a Flickr replacement.

    I don’t have any such solution, but I don’t accept that one is not possible.

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thomas, agreed on all points. I think an attraction of a service like Flickr’s should be data portability.

    Dunno why Picassa hasn’t been more aggressive. I’m guessing it’s because Google has a history of moving into a market, establishing a presence and kinda just sitting there. Blogger, for example. Orcut. Picassa. Health. Blog search. There are many exceptions, but it’s a pattern. I agree with another writer over on your blog that Flickr may end up at Google. Hey, they had Google Video and bought YouTube anyway. Buy where the users are.

  3. Ron Scubadiver’s avatar

    I have viewed Deepa’s blog and there is no content there that would be even remotely objectionable to any normal person.

    WordPress is nice, but it lacks groups. What I found was that putting my images in groups on flickr produced massive exposure. To get people to look at my blog I have to drop links all over the place. No mater where one decides to self host, things like the groups will not be available.

    I am starting to believe that some of the account deletions at flickr are part of a program to make the site more attractive to advertisers by eliminating any material that could be controversial in even the slightest way. There are enough people out there that don’t like any form of candid or street photography to create a steady stream of complaints that results in flickr mislabeling accounts as voyeur and deleting them.

    My account which was suddenly deleted in December had been getting 200,000 hits per month and was on target for 300,000 in December. Could it be that flickr is looking to drop accounts that use too much bandwidth?


  4. Zack Sheppard’s avatar

    Hi! I’m Zack Sheppard, Sr. Community Manager at Flickr.

    In regards to account deletions, we don’t comment on specific members except to the account owner themselves, however it’s important to note that we do give a warning to educate the member before deleting in most cases. There are some cases we feel deleting without a warning is an appropriate action, i.e. child pornography, hacking, and spam as only a couple examples (I’m not implying Deepa was deleted for one of these reasons). When someone asks why they were deleted we try to give them an understanding of what rules they broke to help them not break them again.

    Any community like Flickr will need some moderation of the guidelines to make sure everyone is playing by the same rules. That is a part of keeping the community healthy. We welcome passionate feedback and criticism from our members, and if someone feels like we made a mistake we want to know. But it’s important to note that our intent is never to censor our members, and we believe the comments out there about Flickr ‘censorship’ are misleading.

  5. Doc Searls’s avatar

    I don’t know where to begin, Ron, but I know where this ends, especially since Flickr has not weighed in on this thread at all either publicly or privately. I’m impressed at what you did with 550 photos, compared to what I’ve done with 50,000. Basically, more views in two months that I’ve had in the duration. But then, I don’t do many groups, and I’m not into the art of it; at least not much.

    If you’re right about the policing issue, we see a problem with all giant walled gardens. They’re walled, and gardened. They are not nature. They are not in the wild. And, while they are nicer than the wild in many ways, they lose out to it in the long run. Nature will take its course.

  6. Blake Irving’s avatar

    I appreciate the thoughtful discussion here and I want to add clarity to this topic: Yahoo! is absolutely committed to Flickr and its community of members. The board, myself, and the entire leadership team love this product and believe it is incredibly in sync with our product strategy for Yahoo! Flickr has a huge worldwide audience, an amazing brand, and it’s profitable. We’re excited to continue evolving and supporting Flickr so we can make the service even better.


    Blake Irving
    EVP, Chief Product Officer, Yahoo!

  7. Ron Scubadiver’s avatar

    Doc, I love your metaphor. Keep in touch.

  8. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Zack, thanks for weighing in. Very helpful and much appreciated.

    I hope privately you can connect with Deepa so both sides can come to an understanding about what happened and what might be done either to rectify the situation or to see it doesn’t happen again — or to somebody else.

    Blake, thank you as well for letting us know Yahoo maintains its commitment to Flickr. It’s also good to hear that the service is profitable.


  9. Ron Scubadiver’s avatar

    Zack, what you guys did to me is unforgivable. You can go look at the old “Photo Houston” account, but I am sure you will find some self serving reason for deleting it. I know some people don’t like candid stuff, but it was not voyeur. In April I was told everything was OK and all content added after that point followed the same formula that I had previously used. Eight months later your people call April’s clean bill of health a warning and delete the account. I could not get the mod to tell me which images had concerned them in the first place. You guys are making up the rules as you go along.

  10. Michael’s avatar

    I have been with flickr since late 2004 and so far I haven’t really found another service that works as well. I have a smugmug account but the entire experience is a bit… well, “hosty”. I can put my photos there and have some controls, but the flow, not to mention the community aspect, of Flickr has been the big selling point for me.

    So far anyway. I have not seen flickr really develope / change. It’s essentially frozen in 2005, recent redesign not withstanding.

    Why, for example, is there no support for services like flattr? Why not allow me to “skin” my stream with different background colours etc.?

    Additionally, if flickr could offer a REAL pro service (like Smugmug) I’d keep all my photos there.

    It seems to me that Flickr is falling into the same trap as most other acquisitions: Yahoo bought it and now has no clue what to do with it. They knew it was great but beyond that they have and had no idea how to use it.

    Shame really.

    There is a consideration on my end to maybe do selfhosting again, but I would have to figure out how to quickly and nicely transfer 8000+ photos and keep all the data intact.

  11. Vitalife Matcha’s avatar

    Definitely good to hear the the service is profitable Blake. At least that gives us some reassurance that Yahoo! will continue their commitment to Flickr for some time to come.

  12. gopan’s avatar

    The solution deepa found was a self hosted site, surely not an alternative for flicker or anything of that category. But she wanted to showcase her captures and share her thoughts about various other subjects and she is blessed with good writing skills

    i helped her to develop her site http://www.deepapraveen.com/ which is nothing more than a simple showcase of a person made on the joomla platform

    Dave and Doc, i will be more than happy to be part of any developmental projects when its open source and less strings attached

  13. Ron Scubadiver’s avatar

    What ever happened to Zoomr? It looked pretty good to me, but it is closed to new accounts.

  14. Ian Falconer’s avatar

    Sorry to go all philosophical on what seems to be an eminently practical discussion but are we not missing some more fundamental questions here.

    We all generate so much data these days there is no earthly way that we can hold it all internally and to some extent our external cyborg selves penetrate silicon strata around the world, none of which we own personally. So;

    If your memories are held on a piece of hardware owned by another person what ethical duties does that person have with regard to your freedom to function as a human being ? Not legal duties note – ethical duties.
    Also what can you actually can legitimately sign away under a reasonable use agreement ? What are the civil limits to what bits of your being you can sign away without the person gaining the signature having some degree of backward responsibility to stop you from doing so ?
    If they have taken on the responsibility to act as a partial mind substitute do they not have a responsibility to act for the benefit of that mind as whole ?
    Can I sign away my own memories ? Am I competent to do so ? Or would the conscious act of surrendering mind function be deemed an act of madness ? Can I actually cease to own parts of my own mind ? If it is uploaded is that portion of my mind fungible ?
    What international law is that covered by ? International human trafficing or intellectual property ?

    Apologies for the ramble but I’m also thinking about the whole distributed memories thing and how the concept impacts the nature of culture and history from a philosophical and theoretical point of view, rather than a practical one.

  15. Ron Scubadiver’s avatar

    Well, if flickr deletes an account and there is no practical way to back that data up, that seems like an ethical breach to me, unless their reason for deleting the account was criminal activity.

  16. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Ron, it might be an ethical breach, but it’s not a contractual one. Flickr, like all other services on the Web, employs terms of service that belong to a breed that lawyers call adhesion contracts. They make the rules, and are also free to change them. You, as a user, or even as a customer, cannot.

    I wrote about this a few months back here. And it’s something we’re working to change at projectvrm. (In fact, we’d love to have Yahoo joining in on that effort.) But it’s still early, and unfair, and unfortunately that’s the way the Web has been built since 1995.

  17. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Ian, many provocative thoughts there. Keep us apprised of where you (and others) go with them. Seriously.

    Meanwhile, I think it is possible for us to manage the river of data that flows from our activities online, and how and were we store and permission the use of it. Check some of the work going on in this list for more.

  18. gopan’s avatar

    VRM seems to be a revolutionary concept. isn’t a better support system which enables the customer to enjoy more interactive tools to get his issues resolved? or is it a completely different concept?

    every company has the right to constitute and modify the so called adhesion contracts for any service, cannot blame them since its needed to protect their interests. But the point is that some of those companies take this right in a complete insensitive way. we can easily understand that some of those actions, like the flickr deletion, shall be replaced with a more customer centric action like a warning or a deletion of the trouble causing pic alone.

    One should not use nuclear weapon to kill a rat even if it is available! rat poison is more than enough to do it.

    how can VRM help in this aspect, can it influence the formation of their terms and conditions? because that seems to be the beginning of many issues, as i said earlier, strong terms and needed for companies to run and avoid legal consequences. the issue is the misuse of their power.

    How much it is possible to have a controlling body or an independent grievance redress mechanism to contact the company on behalf of the affected customer and suggest things which is not completely against the interests of the company? can we have such a body accepted by the net giants?

    some of these questions are still questions and looking forward to see some discussions in that direction

  19. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Gopan, there are several questions and concepts at play here.

    First, I think of VRM as evolutionary more than revolutionary. It’s a necessary next step: equipping customers with tools of engagement with vendors.

    Second, one of those tools will be legal. We will be able to assert our own terms and conditions. Those means have never been there before, mostly because of the way the Web is built and has been used since 1995. Adhesion contracts have been pro forma for the duration; but it’s time we moved past putting all responsibility for relationships on the vendors’ side — especially in cases like Flickr’s, where it is impossible to scale relationship across fifty-plus million registered users. Working this stuff out will take effort on both the customer and vendor sides. this can be done. We’re doing our work, and I hope folks at Flickr and other companies will join us as we build better tools of engagement and trust on both sides.

  20. Gopan’s avatar

    i agree it has to come soon in the path of evolution, and someone has to take up the initiative and happy to see a group working on it.

    I live in India and if i am proud to be an Indian today its just because of three recent acts implemented here

    1) Right to Information Act http://rti.gov.in/

    2) Right to Education Act http://www.india.gov.in/allimpfrms/allacts/3119.pdf

    3) National Rural Employment Guarantee Act  en.wikipedia.org

    they are phenomenal just because it is addressing different groups and their needs

    the point is when its about a Govt. and the citizens the implementation of law always have a limitation, the Govt introduces the law and the people follow it.

    But when its about a vendor and customer, the concentration of power is surely the opposite still the vendor manages to impose all the rules.

    so as you mentioned a change must be part of the evolution. meanwhile we have to safe guard the interests of the vendor too.

    I posted those acts just to give some insight about a Govt action for betterment of the lives of people. looking forward to see some significant concept implementations from your end

    thank you for your time Doc

  21. Pierrick Le Gall’s avatar

    I feel very concerned by this topic, thank you Doc for writing such a blog post. My name is Pierrick Le Gall and I’ve founded the Piwigo project in 2002. Piwigo is an opensource photo gallery software, just like Gallery that Jeremy Brooks quoted earlier.

    On one side you have the opensource software that you can install on any host for free, you can download it on http://piwigo.org . On the other side you have the “ready to use” hosted solution on http://piwigo.com where you can signup to get a Piwigo photo gallery ready to work in a few seconds. The wordpress.orgwordpress.com model is a major source of inspiration for piwigo.orgpiwigo.com.

     Piwigo.com does not practice any vendor lock in method. Of course you can perform requests on Piwigo API to get many informations on your gallery, but much better than that: you can get your database backup (all your data related to your gallery such as user comments, albums organization, tags, ratings, visits statistics) + directory containing all your photos. Once you have them, you can install Piwigo anywhere and import your database.

    At Piwigo.com we’ve decided to have only paying accounts (with a 30-day free trial period), mainly because we didn’t want to display ads everywhere. On this point, we’re not following the WordPress.com model. The difference is that WordPress.com mainly hosts “words” (text data) and 1) that doesn’t cost a lot on bandwith and disk usage 2) and is easier for targetted advertisement.

    One major issue that Jeremy points out is the lack of “social aspect” and I agree with that. Some users don’t want this social aspect but some do. One big project for Piwigo in 2011 is to create a “Piwigo Network” architecture where each “slave” Piwigo can subscribe to a “master” Piwigo (or several). The master would display a list of filtered photos from each slave. This is still a project “on paper” but Piwigo has the API and plugins architecture ready for this kind of evolution.

  22. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Pierrick, Piwigo does look like an excellent solution. I’ll try it out soon.

  23. Ron Scubadiver’s avatar

    Doc, I am well aware that I have no contractual recourse against flickr and that their TOS is an adhesion contract. It is unfortunate that flickr has gone in the direction of creating an environment sterile enough to satisfy the most socially conservative individuals, or governments.

    What this world needs is a photo hosting solution with social networking and reasonable TOS. I like the WordPress model, but I have to do a bunch of networking to get anyone to look at my work. I’m not trying to sell anything, I only want people to see my photography.

  24. Dan Cunningham’s avatar

    Doc, a well-written and much needed post. Corporations love data silos – they are viewed as “roach motels.” There is one way in, and you can’t leave, unless you rig something up to their API which less than 1% of people will figure out how to do.

    When building ZooFoo Backup we addressed this issue head on, as we had all run into the same thing with Flickr, Picasa, etc. ZooFoo Backup gives users a way to make a copy of their entire online account: the structure, titles, tags, descriptions, original file size, everything on their local machine. With the click of 1 button. (And it optimizes over time so it doesn’t need to return to the server for everything).

    I don’t want to sound like an ad here, but data roach motels just rub me the wrong way. And putting friction in the way of the user is something straight of the financial industry. If you have your data in a “roach motel,” and the host company implodes or changes direction, you’re done.

    Online photo firms should have enough respect for users, and confidence in themselves, that they should have no fear of allowing people to leave. I’m glad you brought this issue to light.

    Dan Cunningham
     Zoofoo.com Founder

  25. steve caturan’s avatar

    hi Doc, over at https://pixi.me/ – since 2004, we’ve freely hosted Gallery multisites (v2 at the moment) although you can download v3 which is more advanced & readily available from http://gallery.menalto.com/

    To cut down on dormancy, we don’t use an automated system. But most importantly, we believe in “data liberation” – giving users more control of their data, and have the ability to bail out of our free service without questions asked, and take all their data with them. Their photos along with the database can be restored easily with a fresh installation of Gallery on Amazon EC2 (via Jumpbox) or a VPS/VDS or your own home server.

    The first time I came across “data liberation” was after reading http://queue.acm.org/detail.cfm?id=1868432 – I found it to be an eye-opener.

    best regards,

    Steve Caturan
    pixi.me – lead Janitor

  26. John Boxall’s avatar

    At the end of the day, cloud-based storage services are great – but ALWAYS have a physical backup.

  27. Patrick Smith’s avatar

    Considering where I am on Flickr, I hope it does not go down the tubes! I average 50,000 views/image and you can not get that sort of exposure anywhere else. I have experienced a bit of the heavy handedness when they recently blocked my account because I had put “See my profile for more information” in my photo descriptions. They said that any attempt to redirect to a personal website was against their terms of use. True, I do have my website etc. linked in my profile, but I did not even have a direct link to my profile in the photo description, just a note to see it!

    It seems as though Getty wants to keep a monopoly over Flickr’s massive storehouse of low cost images. I’m fairly sure that this has something to do with it, even though the terms of use was the same before Getty came along.

    If I were running the place, I’d go massively commercial and allow people to advertise. I would turn it into a very efficient ‘Big Getty.’ Flickr could take over the entire photo industry just as Apple did with iTunes. But where is the vision? I don’t know.


  28. Lea Thomsen’s avatar

    I have a pro account too, but I am not even close to being pro. I upload all sorts of crap from mobile pic to the pics I spend much time in Photoshop with.

    Still I allways thought the price was insanely low, and I would gladly pay more. I particular like the statiscs part. But as with all cloud solutions I am constantly a bit weary, because as you point out Doc, you never know how long they will last.

    Some clever way of combining the strenght of a community like Flickr’s with the ability to ensure I don’t lose anything (comments and statistics included) would deffinately be a service I’d gladly pay for. But it would have to be as easy to use as the site itself.

  29. Gopan’s avatar

    Many people believe that a paid service is much safer compared to a free or an open source solution, it is also true that people choose more expensive solutions in anticipation of more safety and prompt service.

    Logically this could be right! but flickr proves it wrong with its deeds, and it is reminding us that strategies are more significant than the charges, we may not get better service just because we paid more!

    Gallery is a very simple but strong platform without any doubt and products like pixi are great in their concept, still due to the reasons stated above people will hesitate to choose such a string-less option bypassing a paid service with Adhesion contracts.

  30. Ron Scubadiver’s avatar

    As I read through the other comments I see that there are many photo hosting solutions, but only flickr and facebook provide a significant community interaction. Facebook steals your copyright, so forget that.

    We can criticize the injustice at flickr, but they will not change. If anything, it seems to be getting worse.

    I wonder if there is a quick path to a community solution utilizing existing resources. Perhaps someone could set up a blog on WordPress.com which has the sole purpose of helping photographers to network with each other.

  31. Bharat Mediratta’s avatar

    Thanks Jeremy, Doc, Steve et al for the shout outs about Gallery. I founded the project back in 2000 for two reasons:

    1) I wanted to be able to host my photos in exactly the way I wanted to under my own url

    2) I didn’t trust any of the photo hosting services to stick around and care for my data as long as I planned to.

    I hope that Flickr doesn’t go under — that would be a terrible blow to the social photo sharing community. But even paid solutions offer limited guarantees. At the end of the day it’s still a business and is always subject to bad business decisions and fiduciary responsibility.

    The nice thing about a FOSS photo sharing product is that it will last forever. The data is yours. You have to pay a residual cost in terms of time and maintenance, but you get all the control.

  32. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Patrick, I doubt that Flickr will go down the tubes, but the risk is there. The whole Web as we know it is only about sixteen years old, and Flickr has only been around since ’04 or so.

    The issue, as I’m starting to see it, is the cost of scale. Hosting five billion photos for fifty one million people is a gigantic responsibility that can be maintained only by reducing costs of exposure for hosting potentially troublesome exceptions to rules (legal ones as well as community standards) that aren’t clear to begin with. All the company can do is reserve the right to obliterate anything that even begins to suggest a risk, and to indemnify itself against claims arising out of (even ordinary) usage.

    Like Lea, I’m actually willing to pay a lot more than the current $25/year fee for Pro-level users. I believe this begins to suggest a market, should Flickr wish to pursue it. That market would be much smaller than the zillion-eyeballs one, but it would also allow the company to do much better customer support, because customers would be paying for real service, and not just for freedom from value-subtractions (such as advertising) that ordinary non-paying users put up with.

    I think companies like Yahoo and Google are actually both privileged and vulnerable in this respect. They are privileged to have enough scale to start getting personal with users, and finding out how to build new businesses where users are glad to function as paying customers rather than as non-paying eyeballs for advertisers. They are vulnerable in their continued strategy of scaling to maximum usage at all costs, including the cost of ignoring other direct money-making opportunities.

    If they took advantage of those opportunities, they could also become partners with the likes of Gallery, ZooFoo and Piwigo — rather than just the problem all those other options solve.

  33. Ron Scubadiver’s avatar

    Doc, I believe avoiding risk to avoid litigation costs is only part of the story. I suspect the other part is a very conservative culture being forced on flickr from somewhere in Yahoo management.


  34. Gopan’s avatar

    Just a small update on the original issue, Deepa made a website as an alternative (which is no way an alternative to flickr) method of showcasing her pics. She also enabled galleries for the visitors and well wishers of the site and happy to see a good response from people around the world. Some of them already shared their pics in her site. Every such individual sites have their limitations, there is no doubt about that, especially when its about advertisement and promotions. An individual cannot do what flickr or someone of that kind do. Still happy to see a small group developing there

    her site is hosted at http://www.deepapraveen.com/

  35. Gopan’s avatar


    seems to be very tough to be so, who will go against the interest of the majority when its about business. They must be having a more robust reason to behave so, cannot imagine something positive anyway.

  36. Jillian C. York’s avatar

    Sorry to be jumping in so late (thanks Doc for tipping me off).

    I’ve noted Flickr’s response here in the comment thread, but I’m still unimpressed. Many of you will recall Flickr’s deletion of Martin Dors’ photos years ago, after he posted a photograph of a young Romanian boy smoking a cigarette. Though Flickr rectified the situation, they were still unable to return all of Martin’s photos.

    I understand–though I might disagree in individual cases–that a company like Flickr has the right to remove the accounts of those who violate its TOS. That said, if someone is paying for that service, they deserve a warning and a chance to retrieve their photos before they’re taken offline. From what I’ve seen, several members in this thread were not given that opportunity.

  37. Ron Scubadiver’s avatar

    I am becoming convinced there is a widespread cultural problem at Yahoo where they are trying to force their editorial view of the world on their users. For the last year I have noticed that the local news articles for Houston report every single fatal motorcycle accident. Motorcycles may be much more dangerous than cars, but there so many more cars than motorcycles on the road that if Yahoo was reporting every fatal car accident there would be at least one a day.

    Yahoo is trying to package as much as their news as video clips as possible and the price is a 30 second commercial. I used to think the internet was a way to get news quickly, but Yahoo aims to make it as bad as watching the news on TV.

  38. Mark Purcell’s avatar

    There is only one answer to this and that is you have to have access to your own data, whilst it is fine for someone else to host it for you, there are no guarantees they will be around for the next 100 yrs, but I am certain you would like access to your own photo’s for the next 100 years.

    For every service you consume and every upload you make to the cloud, you need to have the data ready and downloaded daily/ weekly for when they go away. Not if, but when..


  39. Mark Purcell’s avatar

    There is only one answer to this and that is you have to have access to your own data, whilst it is fine for someone else to host it for you, there are no guarantees they will be around for the next 100 yrs, but I am certain you would like access to your own photo’s for the next 100 years.

    It doesn’t matter what the issue is; account deletion, company bought/ bust, virus, insert event here, …

    For every service you consume and every upload you make to the cloud, you need to have the data ready and downloaded daily/ weekly for when they go away. Not if, but when..


  40. Deepa’s avatar

    Yes I was not an active member of any of the groups for the past one year..I cant recollect any incident of posting a comment “which is offensive in nature or contrary to public law or morality”, (If that is the case Flickr can very well say that “Deepa” you did this in group “x” and that is in violation of our terms. I can admit that.)
    If I violated any ones copyright through my images, they can say “We are deleting your account for copyright violation”.
    If my stream is full of offensive materials. They can say your photo-stream is full of offensive materials so we are deleting your account. (If you visit my new photo-stream you came to know the nature of the photos I post).

    What I requested is a reason. A specific reason for deleting my account. OR give people a reason before or after the termination of service.

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