The Problem With Flickr’s Plea for Help

Flickr users received an email a few days ago asking for help to spread the world of Flickr. Don MacAskill who is the CEO of both SmugMug and Flickr, explained the platform is still losing money and needs our help to keep it alive.

Being that I’ve used Flickr since I started photography in 2011, this worried me. I never really got into Instagram and still don’t use it much as it’s part of Facebook (enough said). I enjoyed 500px years ago but it lost most of its popularity quite some time ago and still continues to lose users.

Although the thought of Flickr leaving us one day soon does worry me, I don’t think it is surprising either. Let me explain why.

The Problems

I wouldn’t put it down to one particular reason that Flickr is struggling but more a combination of reasons. As a long time user, here is what I see as their main problems.

An Unclear Purpose

To put it simple, Flickr has an identify problem. They want to label themselves as a community for photographers but also market themselves as somewhere to store all your photos.

Let’s be honest here, they aren’t doing the best at either. There are more cheaper and better cloud storage alternatives like Ondrive or Backblaze. The community side of Flickr hasn’t been as active for a long time now too with many users moving to other platforms like Instagram or 500px.

Flickr really needs to choose what it wants to be, a portfolio styled photography community like 500px in its earlier days or an online storage site for your photos and videos. With enough work and the right implementation, it could be both. This would of course require more money and since Flickr is apparently lacking in this area, this wouldn’t be possible at this point in time.

More Drastic Changes

In the email Don mentioned this about their changes since taking over Flickr:

“We’ve been hard at work improving Flickr. We hired an excellent, large staff of Support Heroes who now deliver support with an average customer satisfaction rating of above 90%. We got rid of Yahoo’s login. We moved the platform and every photo to Amazon Web Services (AWS), the industry leader in cloud computing, and modernized its technology along the way. As a result, pages are already 20% faster and photos load 30% more quickly. Platform outages, including Pandas, are way down. Flickr continues to get faster and more stable, and important new features are being built once again.”

The removal of the Yahoo login screen was something big that everyone was happy to see go, but we haven’t seen anything that big since. All the changes that were made have been more behind the scenes and performance related which is always needed, but not drastic enough.

Flickr’s Explore page has long been broken which SmugMug vowed to fix. This included improving the quality and giving an advantage to Pro subscribers. Sadly this page still remains broken with no update on when they will change it. The removal of Yahoo also meant no more 2 factor authentication. This is an important feature in terms of security and should have been implemented back already.

If Flickr really is in trouble, it needs to reinvent itself fast before it’s too late.

What Flickr Need to Do

If we want Flickr to stay, it’s not just up to more users to start paying for Pro. We also need Flickr to give us more justification for this pricing.

I feel that we also need to know SmugMug are in this for the long run. Below is part of an email I received just days before Don’s plea for help.

It does make sense for them to try convert users to both platforms, but also worries me. If Flickr really is at risk of disappearing, this may be a way of converting users over before closing the website. If Flickr was developed to a point where it could be a portfolio site that you can customize, it would end up being competition to SmugMug.

Now if SmugMug own Flickr, then they should be happy to compete with themselves as they win regardless. To sum this up, Flickr really needs to be work as an independent platform. Whether or not this will happen or if Flickr will survive is all a guessing game for now.

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