In 2006, Web 2.0 entrepreneurs Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake graced the cover of Newsweek. The founders of Flickr were "putting the ‘We’ in Web."

It was months before a young company named YouTube would be gobbled up by Google in a billion-dollar deal, a year before Twitter was spun off into its own company, and more than a year before Microsoft would invest in Facebook at a $15bn valuation.

The social media revolution was in its infancy and Butterfield and Fake had already sold their popular photo sharing platform to Yahoo for a rumored $30m.

Today, Flickr is still around, and is home to more than 11bn photos, but as far as photo sharing services go, it has been eclipsed by Facebook and upstarts like Instagram and Snapchat.

While Flickr was always more photo platform than social network, one of the reasons the service likely failed to remain a leader in the space had to do with the rise of mobile.

While Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and others were all finding ways to build compelling photo-based experiences for the countless millions of consumers with smart phones, Flickr under Yahoo's umbrella largely failed to keep up.

But Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer apparently hopes to change that and last week the largest update to the photo sharing service since she took the helm at Yahoo, was unveiled.

Flickr 4.0 includes iOS and Android apps that have been completely revamped, as well as a plethora of new features. There's Uploadr, which automatically finds photos and uploads them to a user's private Flickr album, and Camera Roll, which organizes photos into a chronological timeline.

One of the most notable updates to Flickr 4.0 is the application image recognition technology. Flickr's updated search functionality uses this to help users find photos of interest, and offers a wide array of filters that users can use to refine search results. A feature called Magic View allows users to create dynamic galleries across dozens of categories such as people, animals and architecture.

The new Flickr has been well-received, raising the question: can Yahoo's redesign of the Web 2.0 pioneer turn Flickr into a true social media platform worthy of attention, including from brands?

While there's a lot to like about Flickr 4.0, the answer to that question might hinge on whether Flickr can become more of a social network.

As The Verge's Casey Newton observes

The app still bears the burden of being a photo archive and social network simultaneously, and the result can feel awkward. But the new version goes a long way in unifying the web and mobile versions of Flickr into something you can understand at a glance.

According to Newton, Flickr is now a contender for best photo backup solution, but brands should keep an eye on the Yahoo property to see if its new look opens the door to the possibility that it could eventually contend with next-generation services like Instagram.

Patricio Robles

Published 13 May, 2015 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (2)

Morgan Jones

Morgan Jones, Digital Manager at Freestone Creative

The problem for Flickr is everyone is in on the photos sharing game. Even Dropbox with Carousel have crafted a product that seamlessly merges cloud storage with social.

Lovely landing page as well.

about 3 years ago


Tuguldur Baatar, Digital Web Manager at Beds & Bars

I've been using FlickR since 2007 and it is still the best platform for enthusiasts to share photos and discuss. The platform business model is nothing like social platform so I'm not too sure why this is being compared.

The real competitor to is and has always been

In terms of limitation, I wouldn't really put it down to apps instead it was the service model, where a normal free user was limited to 250 photos and pro user has unlimited photo storage. Obviously this has changed but it was little too late in my opinion by the time 500px came about. The other issue I have with flickR is the platform is bloated and slow compared to the likes of 500px, Facebook or Instagram.

I wouldn't jump to a platform based on its social or app capabilities.

about 3 years ago

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