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Dear Marissa Mayer...please make Flickr awesome again (dearmarissamayer.com)
218 points by andrewudell on July 17, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 77 comments

Here's a little bit of perspective for everybody in this thread:

A good friend of mine, who travels the world taking breathtaking photos [as in: this is what she does to make her living] still hosts a lot of her photos on photobucket.

Photobucket, if you're lucky enough to never have used it, is a mess. It downsizes your pictures dramatically, it makes directly linking to them difficult, the UI is ugly; it's terrible.

When I ask her why she still uses it, she responds with "I don't know. I've always used it. It has all my photos."


Guys, we're all programmers, or designers, or both. To my friend, the place where she stores her photos is barely an afterthought. If it can get to a point where she can send somebody a link and have them see a picture, then good. She doesn't care, because she's too busy out making new photos.

WE care, because we spend our time making new websites, but don't get confused into thinking that the rest of the world (that would be: our potential users) care very much.

They don't.

People want an easy way to share photos that doesn't feel like it's getting in their way. Right now a lot of people are using facebook because it does that. They don't care if it downsizes everything, if somebody wants to original, they can send it to them.

I don't know what point you're trying to make with the story about your friend. On one hand you're talking about your pro photographer friend, and then you're talking about people sharing photos on Facebook. They're entirely different use cases.

There are already "pro" photo hosting sites that blow the socks off of Flickr, Picassa, and Photobucket. I use SmugMug, but there are others. The top tier SmugMug account is $150 a year and out of the box lets you price and sell photos and prints and a bunch of other stuff.

Unless your friend sells directly to newspapers or magazines, I would expect she'd know of these "pro" sites. If she depends on photo hosting to make her living, I find it hard to believe she considers photo hosting an "afterthought."

On the other hand, when she's just taking some casual photos, why wouldn't she use PhotoBucket or FaceBook? There's a huge difference between, "look at these stunning photos I'm trying to sell" and "Here we are partying last night."

> I don't know what point you're trying to make with the story about your friend.

How'd you miss the point so hard?

His anecdote was saying that the audience that should care the most about an amazing photo site and that produces by far the most amount of content for such a site doesn't actually care. His point is that us, the Internet Nerds, care more than the pro photogs.

Whether that's true or not, I dunno. If I make my living selling photos, it might be better for me NOT to host them in full glorious resolution on Flickr.

On the other hand, a lot of people automatically assume that tasks are hard, when they could be a lot easier. I make a point to try and periodically ask the business people in my startup to show me their workflow in our software. Occasionally they've concocted elaborate workarounds for something that could be made straightforward with a bit of code.

So it may be that "has all my photos" is more important than "is easy to use", but it's no excuse for Photobucket to not fix its issues. Because if you wait long enough, eventually ease of use will overcome "has all my photos". (Instagram)

Thanks for the perspective. All of us greatly needed your two cents as guidance.

Travels the world taking photos... whoop-de-doo. That's been going on for decades, and only because technology has only recently made it possible.

Post again when she does something original, like traveling the galaxy taking photos. Only then will whatever follows your first two sentences be read.

> Guys, we're all programmers, or designers, or both.

I'm quite certain HN participant aren't all programmers or designers. They're not all guys, either.

"Guys" is the gender-neutral term for a group of mixed gender people.

Here is an interesting discussion on the topic: http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/11816/is-guy-gend...

Also if this is confusing, I'd suggest taking classes on a language other than English. I know that at least in French, mixed-gender-groups take the masculine plural form.

In fact, here is another discussion (same site): http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/19074/what-is-a-f...

"Guys" can also refer to a group of women.

I often leave work by saying 'cheers guys' or 'have a good evening guys' to a mixed gender group and then ponder in the elevator down if, perhaps, I've offended females with my casual nomenclature?

I think it probably is slightly misogynistic. Not my personal intent, but inherited from history?

What term could I use instead? 'Guys and Gals' seems old fashioned and too wordy. And the set order of the list might imply something. 'People' seems too cold.

I reckon using "guys" as a gender-neutral term for a mixed gender bunch is ok.

>I think it probably is slightly misogynistic. Not my personal intent, but inherited from history?

Do you _hate_ women? If not, then it's not misogynistic.

Enough already with the stupid guilt trips over everything and anything!

'Guys' is often used as gender neutral address to groups: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/guys

>I'm quite certain HN participant aren't all programmers or designers. They're not all guys, either.

Wishful thinking aside, I would guess that the percentage that are not:

"(programmers || designers) && guys"

is insignificant. Care to start a poll?

I mean this sincerely: why?

Facebook killed Flickr for casual users by proving that the context and network around your photos is what matters. Nobody takes photos to put them onto Flickr in isolation, they want to share them (Facebook is the new "family gathers around the photo album").

Instagram has taken over on a newer vertical: it's Twitter for photos (driven by what's happening around me right now, off-hand).

That leaves Flickr to scrounge over the pro and prosumer photographers. Are there enough pro/prosumer level photographers to really make a compelling case for Flickr? Maybe. But probably not at the scale its founders hoped when they set it up. They had the opportunity to create a place for every digital photograph ever taken to go. They've instead been beaten out of areas they were leading.

If you want to backup your photos online there are better solutions. If you want to share photos with friends, there are better solutions. I'm guessing that there are probably technically superior solutions for pro/prosumers, too. I've been saying for a while that Flickr's cards are marked, I don't think Marissa Mayer will put any significant weight behind it and if I were a Yahoo! shareholder I wouldn't want her to.

Consider for a moment that the pro/prosumer market is large enough to sustain several businesses which have much higher per-sale costs. Look at all of the camera gear companies out there. Definitely a sustainable business, but Flickr needs some serious rebranding and updating. They need to hammer in to users that putting photos from your $4,000 camera rig on Facebook is just silly.

>They need to hammer in to users that putting photos from your $4,000 camera rig on Facebook is just silly.

The people putting photos into facebook don't have $4000 camera rigs. They have $500-1000 camera rigs, and the photos that they're taking are [often] taken using the pop-up flash, the kit lens, and automatic mode.

For them, putting photos into facebook is a completely reasonable thing to do, and their photos wouldn't gain anything by being stored on flickr.

Sounds like you guys agree:

IF you are a professional THEN flickr is the place for you. However, IF you are an amateur THEN Facebook is just fine.

We all agree that if you're taking a picture with a $4000 camera you lose something by throwing that up on Facebook.

I think this is it. Flickr content is much more searchable via tags, Facebook not so much. The focus in Flickr is subject matter and actual photography, with Facebook it's more about people and experiences within networks. Many Facebook photos are uninteresting to people other than the friends of the originator.

Publishers regularly search Flickr for photos to license and use. I'm a point-and-click shooter, but out of the blue I received two messages asking to publish one of my photos (which I had tagged descriptively). I was paid, and I learned how to complete invoices and W-9s, and had the joy of seeing my photo published with credit in a food magazine no one reads (Whole Foods sold it briefly). Yahoo could better highlight Flickr's ability to connect publishers with casual photo-takers, by facilitating thorough tagging of photo contents and improving the search ability. Flickr's definitely a much larger and open body of content than Facebook for this purpose.

There's (at least) one more level of granularity between professional and amateur though -- prosumer. Camera gear <$4000 && >$1000; a serious hobbiest if you will. I think the GP was saying that Flickr should market harder to that vertical, which makes sense to me because it's so much larger than the pros.

I consider myself a semi-serious hobbiest, my rig fits into the conditions above, and I still pay for my Pro account. I post a link to the album on Facebook, though.

> The people putting photos into facebook don't have $4000 camera rigs. They have $500-1000 camera rigs

If you're lucky. Mostly it's pictures off an iPhone or equivalent.

An iPhone is, among other things, a $500-1000 camera rig.

Yes, an iPhone is in that price range and is a camera among other things. However it's different from a $500 camera in a lot of ways - people buy them for lots of other purposes (texts, facebook, apps, angry birds, even voice) and pay for them on instalments via the contract. Many people come to taking pictures without having ever thought they were buying a camera, let alone putting down $500+ on one. People who would hate how technical a DSLR is love how simple and fun instagram is.

The camera in a smartphone is comparable to a $200 mid-range compact ( http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-COOLPIX-Digital-Camera-Optical/d... ) but not to $600 low-end DSLR ( http://www.amazon.com/Canon-Digital-18-55mm-75-300mm-Telepho... ) In fact the compact will have better zoom, flash, more megapixels... It will win on most metrics except ability to upload instantly.

Except those photographers are more likely to put their photos on Smugmug. Yahoo may have let too much air out of the Flikr balloon for it to be able to float.

Very true. There's little reason they couldn't aggressively attack that space though.

I think you're right to question the profit potential of an improved Flickr. But I think there's still room for a massive archival service that is separated from Facebook and handles the kind of instant photography provided by Instagram. Instagram's photo archiving interface is still pretty limited.

I think if you ask the average digital camera owner what happened to all the photos they took, they would say they haven't yet downloaded them from the card, nevermind uploaded them and categorized/described them. I use Adobe Lightroom to manage this process, but it's still klunky, even for a prosumer like me.

Facebook has a huge advantage with its social network...but it's not yet designed to handle photos (i.e. there's no searching for photos, albums are limited to 200 photos, jpg compression is poor, and you can't label/categorize photos). A service that provides a slick way to archive and manage massive amount of photos is still needed by the average user. In fact, I'd say the need has grown, as photo-taking opporutnities have exponentially grown, without a corresponding growth in photo-archiving services.

Dropbox is not a real alternative, except as a backup.

I don't think there's a lot of crossover between those verticals: people who want to share photos with friends, people who want to backup photos, people who want to categorise and tag specific photos [beyond what Facebook provides].

And I think each of them is well catered for by Facebook with the exception of organisational features beyond what Facebook offers.

But what you're describing is a photo-optimised interface for Dropbox, not Flickr. Flickr was (and still is) about communities around photographs. And they have failed at that.

I agree. It seems like there would be some opportunity for a revitalized Flickr to integrate with Facebook but also to include the more professional feature set.

Please forgive my ignorance but does iOS provide access for third party applications to Photo Stream? It would be great to provide a mobile application to connect to an Eye-Fi card when the phone is plugged in to automatically upload to different services (Flickr, Photo Stream, etc.)

In my mind, Flickr is to Facebook what Vimeo is to YouTube. It's a community, not a storage system.

I think the pro and "prosumer" photo community is plenty of room for a cool product with features targeted at their niche audience. Curation, craft, camera nerdery, etc.

Flickr just isn't evolving their product as well for photographers as Vimeo is for video folks. It's sad, really.

There's the photography community and then there's everyone else. For everyone else there's Facebook (don't mind shitty photo quality and management). I'm no fan of Instagram, and even if I was, I wouldn't stop using a DSLR.

I've been with Flickr for years now, am a Pro user, and nothing else comes close for a photography enthusiast. IMHO all it would take is few key redesigns and better mobile apps that would make the photography community really happy to stick with it.

And that's the thing: most people don't mind about photo quality (beyond a certain point) and most people don't care about management (beyond being able to make albums and tag people.

Flickr was the only option for a while, so they captured say 60% of people who published photographs online. Of that 60%, many were pro but a lot were consumer. When better alternatives for the consumers came along, they left. And it looks like regression on Flickr's part.

Actually I'd say that Flickr is now in a niche which it could make money from pretty well: if people stop expecting it to be the business it once was.

> Facebook (don't mind shitty photo quality and management)

And Facebook could upgrade that experience in about five minutes if they start getting threatened on that front.

Improving photo quality would be expensive at their volume.

Improving photo management is not in their interest. Having a small number of photos that are easily accessible increases engagement, because people interact more if they're looking at the same photos (comments, etc.) If they made it easy for people to navigate to separate places in a large photo collection, they'd need new ways to push people towards interacting with each other.

> Improving photo quality would be expensive at their volume.

Sure, but getting left behind as the photo sharing platform of choice is much more expensive. Also, they might make it a paid-for service. Flickr Pro is like $20/month? Facebook PhotoHD could probably be $5/month.

> That leaves Flickr to scrounge over the pro and prosumer photographers. Are there enough pro/prosumer level photographers?

And in that space smugmug and 500px are also aiming at the DSLR owners who are willing to pay double-digit $ per year.

You say that as if it's a bad thing. Competition raises awareness. Flickr could benefit from the existence of smugmug and 500px.

Competition is usually a good thing for consumers. And it probably is in this case, except right now I have the choice in making an account on smugmug where one prosumer photographer friend puts his pictures, 500px where another semi-pro photographer friend hangs out, or of flickr where several other friends who mostly have compact cameras are. That's not ideal.

While it's possible that Flickr could benefit from the existence of smugmug and 500px, IMHO it's more likely that one or more of this group of competitors will eventually be forced out of business, especially as the grandparent post makes the point that due to facebook, instagram etc, these sites are now catering to a niche. Of the three (flickr, 500px, smugmug) only flickr has the scent of failure on it. I hope they shake it off, but which one would you pick as a winner?

Facebook killed Flickr for casual users, stop.

That's all you need to say really. Flickr isn't about casual users. It's about the interface, categorization, and other usability features specific to photography that other platforms don't offer.

500px competes in someways, but the 500px interface is to "iOS" for me. Sometimes we don't want a cut down interface, we want all the power of a "desktop" interface - even if it is a website.

I can't tell if you're agreeing with me or not :)

Flickr isn't about casual users, but for a while it was bloated by casual users which made it look like a site with really big potential.

"I want to make the photo storage/sharing site for all people who take photos" is a bigger proposition (and potentially more lucrative) than "I want to make the photo storage/sharing site for all pro/prosumer photographers".

For a while people were judging Flickr by the fact that it had users from both camps. Then the consumers left and Flickr looked anaemic.

I'd even reduce that to flickr being usable for prosumers. I don't think there's much of a pro play there at all, in it's current state.

That said, I do think there's still an opportunity. I'd like to have a portable repository to back up and provide a home-base for archiving family/wedding/vacation photos at high resolution. Somewhere I can choose to share them to facebook, or also visa-versa.. something that sucks my instagram and facebook uploads over so that I could drop my accounts on those sites tomorrow without losing the content.

The big attraction, for me, is the groups and the discussions therein (i.e. the community), however, the tools they provide for these interactions are primitive.

The photos it imports from Instagram and Facebook would not be high resolution.

I think enough photographers have moved over to 500px (http://500px.com) to make Flickr a garbage dump of whatever you export from your digicam. And even still I feel people are preferring to do that through Dropbox now.

I'm not really sure what Flickr could even potentially have going for it anymore to 'become awesome again'.

I'm a [hobbyist] photographer, and I'm friends with several people who make their living taking photos.

I've never even heard of 500px. It certainly isn't at a point of making flickr a garbage dump.

Having a full suite of products to compete against competitors and providing alternatives to 500px, & other similar sites, is a good enough reason to maintain or rejuvenate Flickr and many of the other products & services Yahoo! has available, many of which have tens of millions of current users. You don't need a billion users or be the number one site to make a good profit and too many are forgetting the huge customer base Y! has maintained even while it has had its recent disruptive problems.

Some of my friends and I have used pbase.com for almost a decade now and we prefer it over the alternatives such as 500px we've tried. There maybe folks who find it old or dated, but it works well for what we intend it for and, just like Flickr, there are loyal users who don't want or need to use the most cool or awesome site, because often they really aren't and are too much trouble than what we currently use.

I haven't moved over to 500px...I've tried it out and appreciate its aesthetics, but am not yet convinced to make the move.

You're right that Flickr is more of a photodump than 500px...however, it is far more useful than just throwing the photos on Dropbox. Interface is everything, and being able to search by date, tags, keyword, and being able to group photos, or send them to groups, makes Flickr a wholly different service than one that is designed just to store files.

Services like Instagram and FB photos shows that users get value from places where they can indiscriminately upload photos. 500px is for pro photographers who want only their best photos on there.

>to make Flickr a garbage dump of whatever you export from your digicam.

Sounds like a potential (massive) advantage to me. Having your service be ground zero for export from your cam and contain all your content? That can be exploited to good effect.

Even better, work with camera and phone manufacturers to build Flickr into the camera. Take a picture, a copy goes to Flickr automatically. Make it a natural part of the photo-taking process -- one that you'd miss when using a device where it wasn't present. ("I have to do what to share my photo? Open an app? Connect a USB cable? Ugh.")

This is one of the few areas where Flickr/Yahoo could still conceivably compete with Facebook; since FB doesn't have a "Facebook phone" yet, they'd both be in the same competitive position of needing to get camera and phone OEMs to buy in.

You just described the level of integration G+/Picasa has with my Android phone: every photo I take is automatically uploaded to a (private) folder on there.

For many of us, Flickr's appeal is that it's (self-)curated: you've picked your best stuff to upload. Features like "explore" reward this; popular content is highlighted, while those who just upload every photo they take tend to not get any attention at all. They've effectively trained the userbase to share good content (insofar as the userbase is capable of producing, anyway).

It's the reason a lot of Flickr users, particularly the ones who produce good content, are interested in 500px: quality counts.

That dynamic would change quickly if everyone were encouraged to dump everything they take onto Flickr. It would devalue the service for many of us: nobody wants to see fifteen different perspectives of the same "moss on a rock", taken in rapid succession, but that's what your contact stream would end up filled with. You can only remove people as contacts for so long, before you decide it's no longer worth the trouble and jump ship.

Flickr isn't Photobucket or Picasa, and that's a good thing.

How about buying 500px?

I subscribed to Flickr Pro because I loved the idea of all of my photos backed up 'in the cloud' and available on my devices/computers without having to copy/sync, but it didn't work out that way. Flickr never developed any good connectors for uploading photos or integrating with photo software. Ultimately I tried a hodgepodge of different third-party attempts, most of which had issues. AppleTV's flickr implementation doesn't allow you to view your own private albums - another disappointment.

Note also that when your Pro lapses, they only let you access a subset of your photos, holding most hostage. I do understand the reasoning behind this, but the service wasn't meeting my expectations so I was frustrated having to pony up more money to access what I had in my account.

Flickr has such potential, if only they keep up progression.

The Lightroom Flickr plugin is pretty good, but that's more angled at pros really.

So, which solution do you use in the end ?

I've never been anything but a casual consumer of flickr, so I'm a bit out of touch--what is it that Yahoo changed to make it not awesome? Can anybody explain to me what changes they'd like her to make?

Before Facebook became huge, Flickr was probably the most promising social photo-sharing site.

But there's definitely still a niche for people who don't want to weave every single aspect of their online identity together in one profile. If Yahoo! can allow Flickr the independence to emulate the photo-sharing aspects of FB without the "we're tracking your every move" rapacious identity profiling of FB, it should be able to revive the brand. Not only that, Flickr might actually become the kind of "Facebook-like" place that Yahoo 360 tried to be, or that Google Plus is still working on becoming.

Like a github for photos?

As someone else said. It's that they didn't develop it. It had (has) great potential, but it languishes.

How can they not have an iPad app yet?

They have not integrated social into it very much. For example, one is able to comment, but one cannot arrange by timeline vs popular (there is no up or downvoting comments). One cannot say "show me all the comments I've made".

There is no easy way to showcase photos in a group (other than the pool itself). Basically the concept of "galleries" that they have for individuals but instead for groups. In other words better "curation" tools for groups -where most of the exciting conversations happen anyway.

Search is horrible.

They do have a very captive audience but they need to act before people migrate to other services. Facebook is okay but it's different.

On the other hand, they have not made using it "creepy" and they have resisted plastering it with ads (for the free users). I like that it's just my photos an my interactions with other enthusiasts and does not relate to my life elsewhere.

I'm a pre-Yahoo Flickr Pro user, and the most annoying thing for me is needing a Yahoo account. Every week or couple of weeks I'm presented with a Yahoo login popup that 1) is inconsistent with the Flickr UI and 2) prevents me from being able to use my password manager plugin in the usual way (I have to copy-paste credentials).

Otherwise, Flickr remains for me far superior to the other options out there. I don't use Facebook and don't have any interest in using Instagram to actively degrade my photos.

My question is: Why can't Flickr do everything the other photo apps/sites do? I don't really need/want it to, but can Flickr be all things to all people? Is that important?

From what I understand, they bought it and then let it hang to dry despite a solid community with lots of ideas.

I'm not a big Flickr user, but I've seen usage drop (people I know that were using it, moved somewhere else), but the site is a cool as it was when I started using it back in 2006.

If they start making changes so the users come back, I'm afraid those changes won't be for good of the actual users.

Modernize the UI & build a non awful mobile experience.

Once I had a discussion with an engineer of the Photos team on Facebook. We were discussing a probable employment opportunity for myself on the photos team. My resume was below average as per their requirement. I was told that facebook holds more than 85% of the world's social photos, much much more than Flickr. But still it had a team of less than 30 engineers doing all the stuff.

Flickr on the other hand, to manage a much smaller product had around 150 engineers. This was a year ago, so the stats might have changed.

I just thought this was relevant to this thread.

Didn't Instagram have a team of less than 10 people? (or close to that number) I'm not entirely sure what their market share was, but I believe they were growing pretty quickly prior to being purchased by Facebook.

There are just too many product posts to be made where Yahoo! can "please make awesome again".

I currently maintain a travel photo journal site for my sister, it has a database of about 30,000 photos, and I'm sure they'd love to be able to add more.

Now I'd LOVE to be able to ditch the code I've written and hand them over to a $nn/month commercial service offering even vaguely similar functionality. It doesn't need much. Just the ability to correct timezone issues and time offset problems between multiple cameras, a simple way to add approximate geographic data, and nice publishing options that aren't advertisements for the service I'm paying for.

This would be like a week's work for a site like twitter.

And even though I'd be willing to compromise greatly on many fronts, I've found nothing that even remotely resembles the broad theme of what I built. Yet it would be perfect for anyone who goes on a long holiday and takes lots of photos.

This sucks.

I've moved to OpenPhoto. It can use S3, and Dropbox accounts, your photos and your comments are your own. It's open source and the dev team is making strides.

I'm a 3-year-Pro user of Flickr...my first thought upon Mayer's new job was: "YES, my Flickr photos are safe"

But Google didn't do a lot of innovation in this space and maybe Flickr will be seen as a distraction to whatever Yahoo's new mission will be? Wouldn't be surprised to see it spun off. It has a large community but is way behind Instagram and Facebook in terms of becoming synonymous with photo-sharing.

And yes, the main problem is that the site has stagnated. In recent months, new features have been added...but not enough to make the site more share-friendly or visually attractive. I resort to using various IOS apps to manage my photos.


I'm afraid flickr is still better than Picasa/G+ photos (even though G+ photos are very good and a definite improvement over Picasa)

I believe flickr can still "be revived"

I think this comes from the desire for the Internet to be our little cool exclusive playground like it used to be - the communities were only filled by tech-savvy people who were interested in seeing what great things the Internet could do for them.

Now, the communities are more reflective of large-scale real-life communities, and the days of exclusivity are gone.

That doesn't mean we can't still have our cool, exclusive communities like Flickr where great content is shared and applauded and modified, etc. - it just won't be as special as it used to be, and it won't have a very wide impact.

Disagree. Flickr is still awesome.

flickr was the first of its kind. Huge potentials. It's too bad Yahoo! dropped the ball there.

Wat? I use it a lot for images I embed in sites and I think it's great. All I'd add is sticky settings in the iphone app (e.g. so I don't have to explicity deny location info for each photo individually), and a slightly more streamlined resize interface.

You're much more likely to see a whole new photo sharing service from Yahoo rather than an attempt to revive the Flickr brand. Once a brand has stagnated and everyone has moved on then it's extremely difficult to regain that audience, kind of like Yahoo.

First, PROTECT Flickr and ensure it's part of Yahoo's core, and then improve it.

But Flickr is pretty awesome as is. I use it almost daily. It's almost as valuable as Wikipedia IMO.

you guys should check out openphoto

I think 500px is taking on this space already. They appear to be doing fairly well.

You just stole my words.


You could probably just go down the list that 37 Signals made of companies that Yahoo acquired:


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