Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Wired’s Tired Flickr Article

On Tuesday, Flickr announced that they would making their automatic uploader application available only to Pro users. I didn’t write about this change because I considered it a non-story — the $35/year rate helps filter out people who aren’t judicious about what they upload.

But David Pierce of Wired thinks that this move spells the end of Flickr, in an article misleadingly titled “Uploading Photos to Flickr Is No Longer Free, So Bye Flickr”:

Just shy of a year ago, Flickr started offering 1,000 gigs of free storage to every user, along with an automatic uploader tool that would help you take every photo from your computer, your external drives, and SD cards, and dump them into one place. Flickr’s search engine was good, the new universal Camera Roll interface was great, and Flickr suddenly seemed to have a chance as a permanent archive of all of our photos. But then, this morning, Flickr announced that once again its best tools will only be available to paying users. It’s time to call it: Flickr is dead. Over. Kaput. In the search for a few more people willing to fork over $35 a year to fund more purple offices, Yahoo has killed its photo service.

Today’s announcements really only include one change of consequence: The desktop Auto-Uploadr tool is now reserved only for Pro users.

In two paragraphs, Pierce pitches Flickr as a great service with a useful UI, accurate search, and lots of space. Then, he says that Flickr is limiting “its best tools” to Flickr Pro subscribers, admitting that it’s only a single change, and protesting that this singular move will be found responsible for Flickr’s eventual downfall.

First, I’ll note that Wired’s track record for predicting the imminent demise of technology is spotty, to say the least.

More than that, this move seems to be unpopular, but it’s not unreasonable. Allowing the automatic upload of many gigabytes of photos at full resolution for free is a recipe for allowing users to dump onto Yahoo servers whatever random crap they have that matches an image format-finding regular expression. Launching this as a free product and shifting to a paid one feels more wrong than it is.

Pierce, continued:

The move feels a bit like ransomware, Yahoo forcing people who’ve already bought into the idea of Flickr as a permanent backup to start paying for the privilege.

The tone that Pierce strikes while describing this is entirely unsympathetic. Yahoo is not healthy, and to suggest that this amounts to nickel-and-diming users — or that it compares, in any way, to ransomware — is sensationalist garbage.

This move turns Flickr back into a niche product, a social network for photographers. And that’s fine!

“Fine”? I thought Pierce said this move killed Flickr and left its rotting corpse behind a purple dumpster. Can’t have it both ways.

Luckily for the rest of us, we can just head to photos.google.com. Google’s automatic uploading tool is still as free as can be.

Sure, it’s free if you like your photos compressed and “optimized”. If you want to upload your photos in full resolution at their original quality, you only get 15 GB of space for free; to get the terabyte of space Flickr promises would cost $120 per year.

I admit that I have no idea if this move will be a net positive or negative for Flickr. Maybe they’ll have fewer monthly uploads but more people will be paying, or perhaps plenty of people will, in fact, switch to a competitior. But, while I doubt that this is Flickr’s death knell, I certainly have no confusion about what a crappy article this is.