Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Flickr Announces That It Will Only Keep Newest 1,000 Photos for Free Accounts Starting February 5, Alongside Service Improvements

SmugMug is making lots of changes to Flickr, which they acquired in April from Verizon, via Oath, via Yahoo. Yesterday, they announced that they would be supporting wide colour gamuts and move to Amazon Web Services from Yahoo’s data centres; today, they said that they would — finallydisconnect from Yahoo’s account and login system.

But perhaps the biggest Flickr news of today is the discontinuation of the virtually-unlimited terabyte of storage offered to free accounts. Andrew Stadlen, Flickr’s VP of product:

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.

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Second, you can tell a lot about a product by how it makes money. Giving away vast amounts of storage creates data that can be sold to advertisers, with the inevitable result being that advertisers’ interests are prioritized over yours. Reducing the free storage offering ensures that we run Flickr on subscriptions, which guarantees that our focus is always on how to make your experience better. SmugMug, the photography company that recently acquired Flickr from Yahoo, has long had a saying that resonates deeply with the Flickr team and the way we believe we can best serve your needs: “You are not our product. You are our priority.” We want to build features and experiences that delight you, not our advertisers; ensuring that our members are also our customers makes this possible.

This decision is understandable, but it is a little confusing: what happens to your pictures if you, like I, have an account that exceeds the thousand-photo limit? A footnote on Flickr’s announcement page goes partway towards explaining:

Free members with more than 1,000 photos or videos uploaded to Flickr have until Tuesday, January 8, 2019, to upgrade to Pro or download content over the limit. After January 8, 2019, members over the limit will no longer be able to upload new photos to Flickr. After February 5, 2019, free accounts that contain over 1,000 photos or videos will have content actively deleted — starting from oldest to newest date uploaded — to meet the new limit.

It sounds like they’re just going to literally delete older photos past the limit, which is pretty wild. It’s not every day that a company tells its users that, in the near future, it’s going to start deleting their data.

But what remains unanswered is if they are truly erasing old photos or if they’re just hiding them from public and user view. I would assume that, if you do pay for a Pro subscription after the February 5 deadline, these photos would once again be visible, but I don’t know that for sure. It is also unclear if there are changes for users with expired pro subscriptions. I’ve reached out to SmugMug and will update this post if I hear back with answers.

In the interim, my suggestion is to download your photos and videos, just to be safe. Head to your Flickr settings and click the button to request your account data.