Flickr's Bad Day

I love Flickr. It gives people like me who have no photography skill and no eye for a picture, something to do with their cameras and phones.

I signed up after it was cool but before it was bought by Yahoo! so I am technically, if not actually, old-skool.

It has therefore been amusing to watch the unfolding controversy around the dual announcement that they are finally enforcing the long promised Yahoo! logins and that they are also introducing limits on the number of contacts and tags.

Naturally this has provoked a shit storm of protest on the forums and in the blogs. I guess they knew that both these things would be unpopular with a vocal minority and decided to get it all out of the way in one go. They probably weren't expecting their corporate bosses at Yahoo! to start using wii tagged photos on a Yahoo! portal advertising page This has been going on for months apparently - it only became an issue when disgruntled punters started looking for things to be angry about.

The "controversy" is still raging. I don't really know why I posted to the forums, or indeed why I'm wasting my time expanding, my thoughts here. I guess it' just another example of how the anonymity of the internets makes it too easy to argue in a way that you just wouldn't in real life.

Still, in for a penny in for a pound.

Merging with Yahoo!

Yeah, it's a pain, but dear God it's not the end of the world. Signing up for a Yahoo! account asks lots of intrusive questions. But you can just lie in your answers, heaven knows I did. My one teeny, tiny, almost issue with this is that I don't tend to invite people to Flickr since I don't want to put that Yahoo! reg page in front of them.

What absolutely isn't an issue is that Yahoo! are corporate scum who kill babies in China or whatever. I mean that is an issue, if you are that way inclined, but the time to jump ship was at the time of acquisition. You don't somehow have cleaner hands because you don't have a Yahoo! ID. Your Pro subscription money and the advertising generated around your pics goes to Yahoo! no matter how you login.

Shit or get off the pot. Either you care that Y! are the devil and you should go to Zoomr or you don't and should Shut The Hell Up. Pleading for old-skool login to remain makes you look like a tit.

But I want 3000+ contacts dammit!

Flickr say they have a technical problem with large contact lists. Specifically they have conflated contacts into 'people whose photos I monitor' with 'people who can see my private photos' They say this leads to load issues when people view the photo pages of people with large contact lists (that's a lot of permissions to check).

Now a lot of people have called Bullshit on this and I can't understand why. I cannot in my wildest tinfoil hat moments, think of a reason for them to make this restriction if it weren't a genuine problem. Some very vocal people are saying dumb things like 'with all Yahoo!'s money you'd think they could sort this out'

Now maybe with huge investment they could fix this, maybe they couldn't. What is a reasonably safe bet is that they couldn't fix it in a cost effective way. It doesn't matter how big Y!'s coffers are, fixing this won't make them more money, or in fact make very many people happy. Deep pockets are an advantage in the sense that you can 'speculate to accumulate' not in the sense that you can invest limitless resources into features with very limited or non-existent benefits.

The people who want to keep most of their pictures 'private' but still have a big audience can do that by creating a private group and inviting people to that instead of 'friending' them (group membership trumps privateness). I bet they don't do that because deep down they know no bastard would take them up on it.

The people who track 3000+ photostreams aren't really tracking them in any meaningful sense. They're deluding themselves, or they are obsessive and need to get out more.

In any case, investing effort to fix this 'issue' will just slow down the delivery of new features for the huge majority of users who are not as lame as the 300 or so put out by this. I don't care how old-skool you are, your displeasure is not any more important than the people who post real issues to the bugs and ideas forums.

Yahoo! stole a tiny thumbnail of my hugely important copyrighted work!

Oh Jesus Christ! Call a lawyer! Quit Flickr and take your photos with you! Except of course you won't.

It probably wasn't the most clueful thing of Yahoo! to do, particularly on this particular day, but God Damn what a storm in a teacup. The people posting wii tagged photos that insulted Yahoo! were amusing, but you can see from the fact that the debate continues to rage long after Flickr posted an exceptionally reasonable response (that they would change the criteria to appropriately licensed CC content and that they'd "like to operate at a slightly higher level than mere compliance with the law". ), that people on the internet just like a fight.


Special mention for Thomas Hawke

One of the chief fuelers of the fire is also the CEO of Zoomr, a Flickr competitor. And while he has a long history with Flickr and is clearly a genuine user, it is very disingenuous of him to weigh in on what's possible for Flickr and compare it with Zoomr. Zoomr's user base is a fraction of that of Flickr and the engineering problems associated with (say) unlimited contacts are that much easier. He's made a rod for Zoomr's back assuming they ever hit the user population of Flickr.

Special mention for Me

Look, I'm an internet asshole too! I can't keep my opinion to myself. It's too tempting when the topic at hand is something you have genuine affection for.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe Flickr really are the assholes for not realizing this.

I should go and do something more productive.