May 21st, 2013

Forget Tumblr: Yahoo! Has Big Plans for Flickr

Like most of the media world, I assumed yesterday’s Yahoo! press event in New York City’s Times Square would be about the company’s purchase of the blogging site Tumblr. Imagine my surprise when it was actually an announcement about the redesign of the photo-sharing site Flickr, which Yahoo! purchased in 2005. In hindsight, the event’s decor should’ve given it away:

Flickr-Yahoo-Press-Event-NYC

© Meghan Ahearn

After New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg finished speaking, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer got down to business, announcing that one of her goals has been to make Flickr “awesome again.” Yahoo! SVP of mobile and emerging products Adam Cahan took over to highlight the three changes Yahoo! has made: offering one terabyte of free storage for every user; launching a new Flickr user interface that focuses on the photos; and launching a new user interface for Android-powered devices (Flickr already relaunched new UIs for iOS and PC systems).

In a world where things are usually discussed in megabytes and gigabytes, a terabyte is unique—and Cahan said as much. He equated that amount of storage to uploading over 500,000 photos at full resolution (which is how all Flickr photos will now be displayed). But it got me thinking: If everyone gets a free terabyte, what do Flickr Pro users get? The answer is: Nothing—because Flickr Pro accounts don’t exist anymore. Previously, Flickr Pro users paid for a number of special features, including unlimited photo and video uploads. The free terabyte does away with the need to purchase more storage, and the other perks are folded into the regular accounts.

So how does Flickr plan on making money? A little digging around on the site showed there are three account options for users to choose from: Free; Ad Free at $49.99 per year, which offers the same services as Free but without the ads; and Doublr at $499.99 per year, which is the same as Ad Free except users get two terabytes of storage. This suggests the plan is to make money by selling advertising, which is already being displayed on the Flickr site.

At the press event, Flickr’s Head of Product Markus Spiering went over some of the site’s new features including the revamped photo stream, improved slide show functionality and the new background color for the images (black). He seemed most focused on the new social aspects of Flickr, highlighting how easy it is to share Flickr images on various social-networking sites, and encouraging brands and institutions to create Flickr accounts. Is the ultimate goal to make Flickr some kind of hybrid between Facebook and Tumblr? It certainly seems that way, especially with functionality like People in Photos, which allows users to tag friends and family in their photos.

A day later, now that everyone’s had a chance to poke around the site, the new user interface appears to be what Flickr users have the most beef with. Cahan and Mayer touted the fact that the redesign does away with the negative white space, text boxes and blue links, and displays all images at their full resolution. After we posted the redesign news on Twitter and Facebook last night, a couple of PDN’s followers commented that they didn’t like the new interface. Those comments pale in comparison to the pages and pages of comments on the Flickr help page, which complain about everything from the new background color to the images being displayed at such a large size, it’s hard to navigate the site.

But complaining goes hand-in-hand with redesigns. I’m more curious to see what Yahoo!’s next step is because it’s almost as if they’ve just realized they have a treasure trove of imagery at their fingertips. Take for instance, the new Yahoo! Weather mobile app. The background of the app displays a Flickr image that matches the app user’s location, time of day and current weather condition. So, for example, if you access the Yahoo! Weather app in Brooklyn, New York, on a rainy morning, the image displayed will show you a photo of a rainy New York City morning, previously taken by a Flickr user. To help populate the app with images, Flickr created Project Weather, asking users to submit their own images to be displayed on the app.

I have a feeling this is just the beginning of seeing Flickr images everywhere you see the purple Yahoo! logo.