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.