Marissa Mayer was Yahoo!’s long due luminary. This past week, while the limelight has been on Yahoo!’s Tumblr acquisition which Ms Mayer promised not to screw up, the company conveniently — and quite interestingly — kept their plans for Flickr under wraps. Today, Flickr just got a new lease of life but with confusing things happening to Flickr Pro.
A powerful product
Flickr was doubtless Yahoo!’s most powerful product albeit being underrated in recent times. What was once quite a revolutionary service had begun to grow stale in terms of design and feel while still retaining a powerful inner working. Flickr felt abandoned.
One of the biggest petitions Ms Mayer got when she left Google to take over the helm of Yahoo! was to resurrect Flickr — I remember I was one of the millions who signed that petition.
I always loved Flickr. It was powerful and social and accessible like no other photo sharing site, and it remains so even today. While Google+ and others have fast developed, Flickr is a whole new game on an entirely different playground nobody has dared to venture into given Flickr’s dominance with millions of account holders and over 8 billion photographs shared.
Flickr versus the competition
This is also why I still have and will continue to renew my paid, Flickr Pro, account on Flickr. (We will come to that shortly.) Now several other services are vying to dominate the market, including SmugMug, ZenFolio, 1px and perhaps the youngest of the lot, 500px. But should Flickr bother?
Yes, it should bother, but Flickr has no need to worry. SmugMug is excellent but way too overpriced for hobbyist/non-professional photographers without a fortune of inheritance. ZenFolio is a cheaper and older option, but does not offer as much customisation as SmugMug.
What 1px and 500px both do is make you feel inferior. There is no point denying it, but these websites have excellent photographs on the explore page most likely chosen by the attention they already get (views, favourites etc.) and 500px even square crops them — sometimes making them look better, other times giving you a bad surprise — and things can and do get monotonous.
Google+ deals with this monotony in an excellent manner by algorithmically bumping and re-ordering photographs making sure all photos get exposure; but this is still a social networking platform so your photograph is ultimately destined to drown in somebody’s stream depending on how frequently the rest of the world is posting. Google+ is great — perhaps the best of the lot — but Flickr is different. Google+ makes a lousy portfolio, but Flickr can be used as a full resolution image hosting service to pull from and hence speed up your own portfolio website elsewhere. And this brings us to the biggest news of the day.
1TB storage and full resolution photo uploads for free
Let us start with this: nobody offers an equivalent package anywhere. That alone should urge you to stay with Flickr or pick it if you have not already done so.
With the new look — which is simply brilliant, by the way — Flickr also brings in 1 terrabyte of free storage with a $500/year upgrade option to 2TB. I’m sorry I’m giving out my most evil laugh now, but existing Pro subscribers like myself continue to get unlimited storage for less than one-tenth of that price. Besides, if you do want 2TB, why not simply open a second account?
Yahoo! also now offers full resolution images. Earlier for free members it was “upload whatever you want, Flickr scales it down to low resolution and allows you to only download that low resolution file.” Pro members were allowed access to full resolution files. Now, free members — that is, all members — can upload, access and download their full resolution files.
Dropbox + social network
If you have to pay a $500 premium for Flickr’s 1TB, why not get a Dropbox to store your 1TB photos (if you even have that many) and share it on a social network like Google+?
I suppose Yahoo! has not given that a thought.
What about Flickr Pro members?
At first it appears that Flickr has done a misdeed towards Pro members now that it no longer offers Pro memberships for new customers and it has taken away the prestigious Pro badge from existing Pro members. But a deeper look will tell you otherwise.
Us existing Flickr Pro members get an ad-free experience. We also get unlimited storage, none of that $500 for an extra terrabyte offer. We also continue to get detailed statistics on our photographs which is extremely useful on the long run to keep track of uploads.
An overview of the all-new Flickr (and I’m very sorry for the major type: it should read Mosaic, not Mosaid.)
In place of the ex-Flickr Pro account are two new ones: Ad free and Doublr costing $50 and $500 respectively. Are they worth it? If you can handle Yahoo!’s jarring, unplanned placement ads, no; but if you are human enough to be utterly disgusted by ads, then $50 will rid you of it. As for the extravagant $500 Doublr, just get two accounts.
All in all, if you have the $25/year unlimited, ad-free, full-resolution option, you are in safe hands. What I’m most appreciative of is how Flickr chose not to disregard its Pro users. If you do not want to retain your Pro account, however, you can revert to a free account within the 20th of August and get a Pro-rated refund. If you switch after August 20th (and if you can) I suppose you will not be eligible for a refund. But be wise and stick with Pro, you will never get that value for money anywhere.
A word about the new design
Flickr struck gold with this design. While Google+ is going backwards with the two-column layout that Facebook tested and failed, and while it goes from big photographs to tiny ones, Flickr has been wise in redesigning itself with photographs in mind.
Now, the new Flickr layout, homepage, explore, sets and even searches are mosaics of big, bold photographs. It’s honestly just not something you can ignore, and it could prove to be Flickr’s much needed boost.
There are still some who hate the redesign, as there always are. In fact, most of them are right there on Flickr’s own thread about the redesign.
I think Flickr is finally headed in the right direction and I congratulate Yahoo! for that. If they play their next acquisition right (Tumblr) Google will have competition worth fearing: one of the oldest social media companies of them all, headed by an ex-Google employee. Talk about irony. [vhb]