What if Flickr fails?

[2 February update… A new case has come up, of accidental deletion. More details here and here. The company has also updated its community guidelines. It’s still not clear why the company does not save deleted accounts. My provisional assuption is that the reason is legal rather than technical. But I’d love to hear somebody from Flickr (or somebody familiar with their systems) tell me that’s wrong. In any case, deleted accounts should be kept, somewhere, somehow, one would think.]

As of last October, hosted 5,000,000,000 images. I’m approaching 50,000 images on Flickr right now. Sooo… if I lop off a bunch of zeros that comes to… .001% of the total. Not much, but maybe enough to show on their radar.

Here is what I hope they see: some heavy Flickr users are getting worried. Those with the most cause for worry are at the ‘pro’ level, meaning we pay for the service. (In my case, I pay for two of the four at links above). One cause for worry is reports of sudden and unexplained account deletions. The other is the possibility that Flickr might fail for the same reason that, say, is now failing. That is, by declining use, disinterest or mismanagement by the parent corporation, or a decline in advertising revenues.

Of particular interest right now is a report by of Deepa Praveen’s Flickr Pro account deletion. She claims she lost 600 photos, 6,000 emails, 600 contacts, 20,000 favorites, 35,000 comments, 250,000 views and more. “Don’t I deserve a reason before they pressed the DEL key?” she writes.

Of course we only have her side on this thing, so far, so bear that in mind.

Meanwhile the closest thing I can find to an explanation in Flickr’s Help Forum is this thread, which leads me to think the most likely reason for the deletion is that Deepa voilated some term of service. But, I dunno. Maybe somebody from Flickr can explain in the comments below.

Still, even if blame for the deletion ends up falling at least partly on Deepa (which I hope it does not, and have no reason yet to think it should), one’s exposure on Flickr goes up with the sum of photos one puts there. And the greater risk is not of Flickr’s deletion of customers, but of the market’s deletion of Flickr. Because, after all, Flickr is a business and no business lasts forever. Least of all in the tech world.

Right now that world looks to advertising for paying many big Web companies’ bills, and for driving those companies’ valuations on Wall Street and in pre-IPO private markets. Some numbers… The online advertising business right now totals about $63 billion, close to half of which goes to Google. In fact the whole advertising business, worldwide, only comes to $463 billiion. (Sources: and Google Investor Relations.) That’s a lot of scratch, but does that alone justify the kinds of valuations that and are getting these days? A case can be made, but that case is a lot weaker if Facebook and Google remain mostly in the advertising business. Which, so far, it looks like they will.

Wall Street is less enthusiastic about , but still a little upbeat, perhaps because advertising is still hot, and Yahoo still makes most of its money from “marketing services.” Flickr is part of Yahoo. I can’t find out how much Flickr brings in, but I’m curious to know what percentage comes from Pro account subscriptions, versus advertising placed on non-pro account pages.

There are cracks in the edifice of the online advertising. This comScore report, for example, and an earlier one, both show that ‘natural born clickers’ (that is, people who like to click on ads, versus the rest of us) account for a huge percentage of all the clicks on advertising, which pays based on “click-throughs”. Chas Edwards says, “these ‘natural born clickers’ are not the most desirable demographic for most advertisers: They skew toward Internet users with household incomes below $40,000 who spend more time than average at gambling sites and career advice sites.”

Among all the revenue diets a company might have, advertising equates best with candy. Its nutritive value is easily-burned carbohydrates. A nice energy boost, but not the protien-rich stuff comprised of products and services that provide direct benefits or persistent assets. (I can hear ad folk’s blood begin to boil here. “Advertising is nutritive! It delivers lots of positive public and private good!” Please, bear in mind that I made my bones for many years in the advertising business. I co-founded and served as creative director for one of Silicon Valley’s top agencies for many years. My name was on a building in Palo Alto when I did that. I know what the candy is, how it’s made, how easily most companies who use it can get along without it, and how it differs from stuff they can’t get along without.*)

Regardless of whether or not you think the online advertising business is a bubble (which I do right now, but I’m a voice in the wilderness), we should face the fact that we are seriously exposed when we place our businesses and online lives in the hands of companies that make most of their money from advertising, and that aren’t diversifying into other businesses that aren’t based on guesswork.

I just got off the phone (actually Skype) with folks working on a project that examines Facebook. Many questions were asked. Rather than repeat what you’ll hear me say when that show is produced, I’d rather point to one example that should prove at least some of my points: MySpace.

What’s to stop another company from doing to Facebook what Facebook did to MySpace? More to my point, what’s to stop some new owned-by-nobody technology or collection of protocols and free code from doing to Facebook what SMTP, POP3 and IMAP (the protocols of free and open email) did to MCI Mail, Compuserve mail, AOL mail, and the rest of the closed mail systems that competed with each other as commercial offerings? Not much, frankly.

So I think we need to do two things here.

First is to pay more for what’s now free stuff. This is the public radio model, but with much less friction (and therefore higher contribution percentages) on the customers’ side. In  (at the ) we’re working on that with . Here’s a way EmanciPay will help newspapers. And here’s our Knight News Challenge application for doing the same with all media sources. You can help by voting for it.

Second is to develop self-hosted versions of Flickr, or the equivalent. Self-hosting is the future we’ll have after commercial hosting services like Flickr start to fail. Fortunately, self-hosting is what the Web was meant to support in the first place, and the architecture is still there. We’ll have our own Flickrs and Zoomrs and Picassas, either on servers at home (ISP restrictions permitting) or in a server rack at the likes of RackSpace. But somebody needs to develop the software. has been working in this direction for years. Flickr Fan being one example. The end point of his work’s vector is Silo-free everything on the open web. We are going to get there.

Fortunately Flickr has a generous API Garden that does allow the copying off of most (or all) data that goes with your photographs. I’m interested in being able to copy all my photos and metadata off into my own self-hosted system. How much they would welcome that, I don’t know. But their API is certainly encouraging. And I do want them to stay in business. They’ve been a terrific help for me, and many other photographers, and we do appreciate what they’ve done and still do. And I think they can succeed. In fact, I’d be glad to help with that.

But mainly I want them, and every other silo out there, to realize that the pendulum has now swung full distance in the silo’d direction — and that it’s going to swing back in the direction of open and distributed everything. And there’s plenty of money to be made there too.

I think they might also consider going all-pro or mostly-pro. I say that because I’m willing to pay more than I do now, for a serious pro account — meaning one in which I have more of a relationship with the company. When the average price of first-rate cameras and lenses each run well into four figures, paying, say, $100+ per year for hosting of photos and other value-adds isn’t a bad deal. Hell, I used to pay that much, easy, per month, for film processing, back in the last millennium. And I did most of that at Costco.

So here’s hoping we can talk, that Deepa can recover what she’s lost (or at least see a path toward something better than the relationship she had with Flickr), and that the entrepreneurs and VCs out there will start seeing value in new open-Web start-ups, rather than the ad-funded and silo’d ones that are still fashionable today.

[Later (28 January)…] Thomas Hawk reports,

…after getting three previous non-answer emails from them over the past few weeks, this morning they seem to have finally given her an official answer on why her account was deleted.

From Flickr:

Hi there,

Like I said before, we saw behavior in your account that
went against our guidelines and required us to take action –
which was to delete your account. Our guidelines apply to
any and all content you post on Flickr – photos you upload,
comments you make, group discussions you participate in,

I am afraid I cannot give you any more specific information
than this.

Thank you for your understanding,

The only problem is though, according to Deepa she said she hasn’t participated in any discussions or group threads in Flickr for over a year. And she felt that her content very much adhered to the Flickr Guidelines.

I assume that Cathryn had no answer, and that this was the best Flickr could do.

I would like to say this is unacceptable, except that it is acceptable. We accept it when we click “accept” to Flickr’s terms of service when we take out an account with them. And Flickr is no exception here. ALL websites and services like Flickr’s have similar terms.

And we can’t expect the sites to fix them. We have to do that, by proffering our own terms.

Which we’re working on. Stay tuned.

*I actually have hopes for advertising — not as the super-targeted, quant-driven, “personalized” stuff that’s all the rage these days; but as a new communications mechanism on the corporate side of real conversational marketing, in which the customer has full status as a sovereign individual, and takes initiative, expresses intentions, and engages through mechanisms he or she controls (and preferably also owns).

This entry was posted in Business, Future, Ideas, infrastructure, Photography, problems, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

111 Responses to What if Flickr fails?

  1. Dave Winer says:

    Let’s find an entrepreneur to run this company, and let’s fund him with a great business plan, ongoing support and introductions to investors, and let’s solve this problem. It’s not hard, the technology is all very well-known.

  2. Pingback: Storytelling Business Social Media Marketing PR & Technology Curated Stories January 12, 2011

  3. Doc Searls says:

    Thanks, Dave. Agreed. Let’s do it.

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    Very well written and thought out Doc. As one who frequently criticizes Flickr management decisions (lack of data portability, censoring Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Korea and Maktoob.com, deleting user accounts without warning or explanation — like above, censorship, etc.) I am constantly worried that I will wake up one morning and find my *own* account wiped out.

    Like you I have over 50,000 photos and years of social metadata tied to these images. I’ve invested thousands of hours (literally) in maintaining my Flickr account and being what I feel is a productive member of the Flickr community.

    Last year, without warning, Flickr nuked a group that I was an admin of with over 3,000 threads. Long conversations, important information and customer data that should have been preserved. Completely gone now. Erased from the web and existence forever.

    An open alternative to Flickr would be ideal, but it would take a lot of commitment from the community and a lot of hard work and support to really make it work. If people can get organized and get onboard for building, financing and growing something more open, I’d totally support whatever initiative you guys came up with 100%. I think it would take contacts from guys like you and Dave though and a deep commitment to really see something like this through.

  5. Dave Zatz says:

    I canceled my Pro Flickr account in 2007 after a censorship dustup covered by Thomas Hawk. I haven’t looked back.

    I suspect Pro accounts cost Yahoo more than free accounts, given the amount of data and traffic the deal in versus the collected fees.

    If you’re going hosted and want to pay, I suggest SmugMug who still seem to care about photographers and photography. Not sure what Yahoo cares about.

    As for me, I’m using Facebook more these days to share photos and albums with friends. It’s good enough for my needs and entirely painless. I don’t need my entire collection in the cloud. Or public.

  6. lomokev says:

    You raise some interesting points but you failed to mention the revenue that Flickr gets each time an image is licensed though the flickr getty collection. Last night I was speaking to a photographer that made £700 a mouth from images he sells though the Flickr Getty collection witch is (i think) 20% of what Getty chargers, so that is roughly £3500 Getty is taking a month for one photographer. Flickr gets there cut to 20% I believe so they must be making a fare wake from Getty and not just ads and subscriptions.

  7. Hub says:

    I have been mulling over something like that. Let’s bring photosharing to something distributed. identi.ca is an example of distributed microblogging where each installation of the system can be added to the federated network. Jabber also has this by design. Why not doing this for photo sharing, with groups (photo pools) and what not.

    My main motivation was originally to work around the problem arising in conferences “add your photos to the Flickr pool of the conference”.

    Also concerning the deletion of account, I have been told by somebody from Flickr at a party in Vancouver that this never happens, that only the user could do so. I never believed it, but I thought it might be worth mentioning.

  8. Iain Dooley says:

    I’ve personally never used Flickr but surely the “antidote” here is just “the internet”.

    Everyone who gets an ISP account gets some free webspace and with all the time and money people spend managing their Flickr account, couldn’t they also just spend that time learning to put their photos online themselves? I guess maybe because the barrier to entry on Flickr is so low, by the time people start seeing that the devil is truly in the detail, they’ve forgotten they could have just published everything on a website themselves.

    You can add blog comments using Disqus, you can engage with your community via Twitter or Facebook, or whatever the social network du jour is. The content is still yours if you have your own website.

    Everyone seems so hell bent on escaping the need to have their own website. Large swathes of musicians a few years back would put their myspace URL on their business cards for god’s sakes!

    Are websites really that hard? The “community” is just “the internet”. People can link to their “friends” by just adding a link to websites they like. That aids in content discovery. You can save your bookmarks in your browser to go back to things you liked before – hell you can even search them!

    It’s almost like the solution here is *less* technology and looking around at ways to cobble together solutions that seem to have been left behind a decade ago because they didn’t have drop shadows on them.

  9. Thomas Hawk says:

    Also concerning the deletion of account, I have been told by somebody from Flickr at a party in Vancouver that this never happens, that only the user could do so. I never believed it, but I thought it might be worth mentioning.

    Hub, this is simply not true. Flickr both has the ability and regularly actually does delete user accounts. Flickr’s Community Guidelines is horribly subjective, allowing them to delete your account for being “that guy” or if they think that you are “creepy.” I’ve had several friends who have had their accounts deleted by Flickr. It happens all the time, contrary to anything someone might have told you at a party.

  10. Hub says:

    Thomas, I do know it is not true ; as I said I didn’t believe her – maybe I was unclear: I didn’t believe when someone from Flickr told me account never get deleted.
    I was just mentioning that even in person they claim that the deletion does not happen, which IMHO make the whole matter even worse.

  11. Thomas Hawk says:

    lomokev. I bet Flickr actually gets a very paltry piece of the revenue from Getty stock sales.

    Even here though this could represent a wonderful business opportunity for a new site. Why not pay photographers more?

    Getty pays Flickr photographers a meager 20%, keeping the bulk of the money themselves and theoretically sharing some of their cut with Flickr.

    20% is not fair frankly. While it’s probably better than nothing, a much fairer (maybe 50/50?) stock photography model could be built into a new site allowing photographers to make more money potentially than they do at Flickr/Getty today.

    It would obviously need an immense amount of content and critical mass to compete with the 800 pound gorilla that is Getty, but it’s doable if the right company could get the right traction and growth as a new photo sharing site.

  12. Doc Searls says:

    Thanks, everybody.

    I think an open alternative to Flickr that still looks and works like Flickr is a bad idea. We need something different and better. I like the identi.ca example, but it’s not lost on me that identi.ca has failed to become, or to model, the open kind of microblogging we need to break out of Twitter’s silo. Yet. I still like StatusNet and identi.ca.

    Mostly what we need is a way for that kind of stuff to appeal to more early adopters who are non-geeks. But I think we can do it.

  13. Dave your suggestion is great.
    Doc, like you I have my concerns about ‘free’ online. I love Delicious. I may be the only person still using it (along with Adriana) but I’d seriously notice if it went. The recent flurry of squeeks about its possible demise made me sit up.
    Could you / Dave approach Yahoo and sign them up to Emancipay?

  14. Doc Searls says:

    Iomokev, you’re right about the Getty Images connection. I’ve been approached (electronically) by Getty a number of times, and haven’t taken the bait; but maybe I should. I’ve made around $900 so far from companies paying me voluntarily for using a photo of mine. I always ask them to pay what they think is fair, if paying is what they want to do. But I’m sure I could do better if I did the Getty Images thing.

    It’s funny, I’m not an artsy photographer, and most of my best stuff isnt’ on Flickr. It’s candid shots of individuals, usually in family settings. Some are visible only to friends and family. Mostly I shoot stuff I want to show up in the public domain. Towns shot from the air, for example. Civic and geological features that serve to help illustrate articles on one thing or another.

    I suppose if I went for the money, I could devote the earnings to good lenses. 100% of my photos are shot with cheap, second- or third-rate lenses. In fact, I don’t use my (new, used) Canon 5D as much as I’d like because all my Canon lenses are meant for smaller sensors, such as the one in my 30D.

    Today, for example, we had amazing snowstorm. I would have loved to have the Canon 50mm f1.2 lens, which I’ve used and is amazingly good. Instead I have my third $100 f 1.8. Great for the money, but still has vignetting at wide apertures.

    Thomas (or anybody), if you’re willing to sell off some of your older lenses, lemme know.

  15. PXLated says:

    Since you prefer self-hosted Doc, do you invision this as similar to the way WordPress is set up – free, open source software for those that want to self host and a service for those that don’t? Maybe a cross between WordPress, Identica (for social) except photo related?

  16. Hub says:

    Doc, I’m not sure where the problem is with identi.ca and StatusNet, but I sure love the idea.

    Breaking out a proprietary silo is hard, mostly because of the mass effect. People are on twitter because everybody else, including celebs, are on Twitter. People are on Facebook because everybody else is on Facebook. Like in any market there are product that sells better than other, even if they were not first to market.

    The fact that you consider that identi.ca hasn’t succeeded (yet?) in gaining the popular traction amongst non tech savvy people shouldn’t be an indicator that nothing would.

  17. Tony Cochran says:

    Very interesting article Doc. You make lots of interesting points.

    Self hosting as you suggest is one possible solution.

    Personally I have almost everything digital that’s important to me backed up on local hard drives. Twice. One of the drives is stored in a safe in my residence when I’ll be away for an extended period of time.

    You got me thinking. Perhaps it’s time to start downloading my email again.

  18. The Flickr/Yahoo-management has no grip anymore at any kind of human interest/service/follow-up as they are too big in my humble opinion. Some time ago got in trouble with Yahoo’s accounting-department in England ending in losing a site in spite of having more than enough money at the bank but a credit-card delay due to a move from Spain to Thailand and noticing lots of complaints about a sudden deletion of accounts without giving a proper explanation and above all without giving a real chance to correct the “failure” in following their bible-of-rules with which almost no one can comply. One conclusion: the companie(s) are topped-up with robots not being able to understand the basic rules of politeness and services.
    Some days ago I got the following comment on one of my photos, and although I’m not a Jew the text was appalling to me: “i like nazis and im not going to be same shit like the fucking new world scare from jews and fucking jews control the world !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
    After complaining about this I got the following answer:
    “Thank you for contacting Flickr Member Support.

    We greatly appreciate the time that you’ve taken to help us keep Flickr a community that everyone can enjoy.

    We will review the URL(s) that you’ve provided against the Yahoo! Terms of Service and Flickr Community Guidelines for violations and take any necessary action.

    Please note that in some instances (commercial use, etc.) our actions may not be immediately apparent as we work with members to bring their accounts into compliance.”
    Well, surely the last lines don’t work out as they should do!!!!!
    The mentioned comment appeared now three days ago and Flickr could still not decide whether I’m too sensitive or the text doesn’t comply indeed with its bible-of-rules of the international Flickr-community………..
    To protect myself I didn’t took a two-years contract anymore with Flickr and started a separate album in SMUGMUG where the trouble-shooters are still with faces and acting as real humans! Just in case of……..

  19. buza says:

    With nearly 600,000 images in my Pro account (the vast majority of which are hidden with privacy settings), I’ve thought about this many times. While I’m not sure I believe that Flickr “deletes accounts often and without reason” at this point, surely it’s only a matter of time before they make me a believer if this is, in fact, how they operate.

  20. There are a few free software projects that aim to build self-hosted platforms: check out http://unhosted.org and http://couchapp.org

    The goal is once a data API becomes standardized, data can be shared freely across servers and clients, lowering the risk to end users of remote services shutting down.

  21. venkat says:

    Point well made.

    You should seriously checkout Tonido. It allows to run your own personal cloud and offers everything the web offers without relying on 3rd party.

    You can run tonido in your own hardware or host it in a vm what not.

    Feel free to mail me if you need more info.

  22. distractmefrom.com says:

    wouldn’t backupify (http://www.backupify.com/) solve your photo self hosting problem?

  23. Visitor says:

    Is the solution not simply, “sync”? If Flickr could sync with iPhoto or Dropbox or a folder on a drive then we benefit from the social sharing aspects of Flickr, but in the event Flickr accidentally deletes your photos you will have a local copy.

  24. Sam Pullara says:

    Backing up your photos up should be sufficient. Not sure why you would bother with the rest of it since you can always move to the next funded-by-someone-else photo startup and move your photos there if Flickr ever goes down. Where you store your permanent copies and where you display them don’t have to be the same place.

  25. About 3 weeks ago flickr deleted my account. The reason they gave was voyeurism. If look at my blog and really know what voyeurism is, you will see that there is none. In April they said everything was OK. Everything I added after that point followed the same formula. Someone complains in December and everything is gone. All of a sudden the clean bill of health given in April is now “you were warned”. It was a paid account with 550 images that was getting over 200,00 views per month, 1,940,000 total views, countless comments and many faves. Needless to say there are prudes, net nannies and victorians that think any picture of a pretty girl, even when taken in a public place is voyeur and creepy. Eventually, one of their complaints found someone who was likeminded on flickr and it was all over.

    One can say that there was a TOS violation for any deleted account, but how is anyone supposed to understand what “don’t be the guy, you know who he is” supposed to mean. Meanwhile every cross dresser, T Girl, escort and wife swapper happily posts their home made porn and everything is fine because their accounts are marked restricted. Candid photography gets me deleted.


  26. Aykut says:

    there is another option that comes with opera, opera unite, which is pretty nice idea since it turns your browser to a web server. but you need to use opera and need to have an my.opera account to get it work. its nice since you don’t rely on other services, it can be also a downside, since you need to be online with your opera on. also other people doesn’t need to have an opera to access.

  27. A WordPress style photo hosting platform would be interesting. The Gallery project comes to mind. I use it for some specific projects, and it’s hosted on my own domain. The problem with this kind of solution is that it essentially isolates my photos. The social aspect of Flickr is missing.

  28. Ruslan says:

    I’m trying to create cluster for images between images hosting like flickr, picasa, imageshack, uploadscreenshot, imagevenue and so on. When you upload picture on pix.am it sharing on 5 places and original saved on pix.am. Pixam checking all of images for working and if one of places remove your pics – pixam will upload new version and new. You share only one link like this http://pix.am/bp/22F.png and pixam control it for you and reupload it if some of service will delete it.

    I don’t know how good it is, but I’m using right now and it works well. If flickr fails, pixam just remove all link from db and will use other hosts for sharing and I don’t need to change anything. What do you think about cloud of images? Like a torrents, because I think people will have a problem with images soon.

  29. Deepa says:

    I am Deepa.
    Thanking you for presenting my story.
    My case this.
    If i violated some of the terms or conditions of the flickr service before terminating that service why cannot they send some sort of notice.

  30. tom_bombadil says:

    I’m afraid flickr will get swollen by facebook. Flickr is a social photosharing site, but sooner or later everything social will be facebook. Just as earlier said people use services where their friends are at and that is: facebook. I’d be sad to see that happen.

  31. Keith Clark says:

    I’m currently writing the code for a website that will surpass Flickr; I’m hoping it will be done and out to the public by August.


    CEO of Jana

  32. pbhj says:

    >Second is to develop self-hosted versions of Flickr, or the equivalent.

    I think Opera’s “Unite” a browser based web server fits in here somewhere. I actually got quite excited about it when it emerged (see link) but it seems to have gone the way of [the concept of] Google’s Wave – not taken off as it might.

    My prediction for the next decade is peernet > internet.

  33. The successful silo’ed systems in the past few years have all been about ease of use, user experience, immediate gratification. Facebook, Twitter, iPhone, even Flickr. Compare the Twitter sign-up page (https://twitter.com/signup) with the Status.net sign-up page (http://status.net/cloud).

    Possibly we need the user interface along the lines of a silo but build the system in a distributed fashion.

    Instagram also showed you don’t necessarily even need import options to start (though naturally I’d *like* it.)

  34. miles thompson says:

    We bought photos from flickr for a recent website upgrade.

    I found the ‘license through Getty’ option to be very helpful, but to be 100% clear I still found the images via flickr. I find the range of photos at flickr much more interesting exciting. Sure the quality varies a lot, but by the same token Getty images type collections seem like every photo has that ‘stock photo’ look.. which gets very tired, fast.

    So, I was sad that it meant less money to the photographer, but it was significantly easier for me personally, because I didn’t have all the fuss of separate invoices and IP assignment contracts to approve per photographer, mot of all it made the legal hassle for me (in the form of trying to get sign off from our corporate lawyer) to be buying from Getty than ‘some photographer in Arizona’. (To be 100% clear we did both).

    I think there is a definite business case for a ‘stock photo’ site for the federated ‘rest of us’ – they handle all the paperwork and IP rights assignment, the photographers handle the actual art work, and the flickr replacement handles the hosting and searching. Along the way you could definitely pay the photographers themselves a whole lot more.

    Just thought I’d mention it as a piece of market research from personal experience.

  35. miles thompson says:

    We bought photos from flickr for a recent website upgrade.

    I found the ‘license through Getty’ option to be very helpful, but to be 100% clear I still found the images via flickr. I find the range of photos at flickr much more interesting and exciting than Getty. Sure the quality varies a lot, but by the same token with these collections it seems like every photo has that ‘stock photo’ look.. which gets tired, fast.

    So, I was sad that it meant less money to the photographer, but it was significantly easier for me personally, because I didn’t have all the fuss of separate invoices and IP assignment contracts to approve per photographer. Most of all it made the legal hassle for me (in the form of trying to get sign off from our corporate lawyer) to be a lot less when buying from Getty (via Flickr) than ‘some photographer in Arizona’. (To be 100% clear we did both).

    I think there is a definite business case for a ‘stock photo site’ in this federated photo sharing space – they would handle all the paperwork and IP rights assignment, the photographers create the actual work, and along the way they could definitely pay the photographers (who deserve it) a whole lot more.

    Just thought I’d mention this as a piece of market research based on my personal experience.

  36. Bertil Hatt says:

    I’m wondering: Self-hosting, how do you want to do that, actually?

    Ask people to deal with installing a T1 to their place, and have a blade rack above their fridge? I’m all for showing the kids how it’s done, but we all look a little too much like Don Quijotte already, with our grey beards.
    Have a cloud-computing server, operated by say, Amazon, on which a user installs a (socially, distributed) photo-hosting solution? Amazon might appear financially safer than Flickr *now*, and have a shorter history of deleting accounts, but with competing cloud services coming and after popping their cherry Wikileaks, they don’t seem perfect either.

    Friends are a solution, but I won’t extrapolate saying that the friend who know how to handle racks isn’t always the most sociable character either. Local businesses? The reason those pool into huge city-sized factory is because of the similarly huge scale effects.

    If you consider banking (a service you can operate yourself, but most prefer to trust a large corporation for them) the solution there was more to facilitate transfer than distribution. The result are appalling, I have to agree.

  37. Rob says:

    This is exactly why we built http://www.backupify.com, because of growing concerns about moving data to the cloud and the willingness of people to pay a small fee to have copies in other places. Automated daily Flickr backup was our first product launch.


  38. Randall Bohn says:

    Sounds like what happened with GeoCities. I had one account closed for ‘violation of terms’ and lost lots of files. Yahoo! didn’t give warning or any chance to recover. I moved to a different hosting solution, and eventually GeoCities closed.
    I will still share photos on Flickr but plan to move my older stuff somewhere else. I realize that for me this is photos only and none of the social metadata, but I’m not as heavily invested as the rest of you.

  39. @Doc & @Dave,
    I am wondering if the OpenSource, decentralized, http://www.thinkupapp.com ( http://bit.ly/ThinkUpApp_Github ) can be forked or extended for this use? This way you have a decentralized, federated, view of both tweets and photos…What do you think?

  40. John Wall says:

    Hi Doc, if you are breaking the 1.8 I have the 1.4 and I love it (three 1.8s is about the break even on price). The 1.2 is great but an expensive addition…

  41. Eric says:

    A self hosted version of Flickr would fail on multiple levels:

    First, most users aren’t tech savvy enough to set up or run their own server. So you’d still need a hosted option.

    Second – single user servers are frail. Imagine the first time a self hosted user gets on the Explore front page. Either that server would get hammered and break and people would see a 404, or that user would see a huge bandwidth bill from serving a popular photo tens of thousands of times. Part of Flickr’s appeal is that it’s a reliable, free host for photos. Personal servers are neither.

    Thirdly, by forgoing central management you sacrifice any ability to manage the bad users – how do you filter for porn? How do you police stolen images?

    I sympathize with the ideal but I don’t see it working in practice. I think the best we can hope for is some Flickr competitor which offers data portability and an excellent TOS.

  42. Doc Searls says:

    Lots of good comments here, and no time at the moment to dig into all the subjects and ideas brought up. But here are a couple of quick ones.

    First, Deepa, I’ll take your word for it that you were not notified before your account was deleted, and were not given a reason for it. If you don’t mind my asking, however, double-check to make sure you weren’t emailed something from Flickr.

    Second, if anybody from Flickr is watching this thread, please contact me personally if you don’t feel comfortable commenting here. My Flickr account is here.

    Third, the WordPress example for self-hosting is a good one. You can self-host on your own server or on one you hire elsewhere, and it does not require a great deal of sophistication. What matters is that you can move your whole blog to another server, because hosting is a substitutable service. One big problem (for users) with Flickr, Facebook and other silos is that they are not substitutable. (Again, props to Flickr for at least having a generous API, making it easy to move one’s data elsewhere.)

    Fourth, Jeremy, thanks for pointing to Gallery. Everybody else, check it out. Might be what the doctor ordered.

    More later.

  43. Marie Ysais says:

    Today’s discussion reminded me that a few days ago someone I work with accidentally deleted one of our websites. At first we were all in shock at the accident and then we could have cried realizing years and years of work might be destroyed. With some effort we were able to use a back up to revive the deleted website.

    I guess my thoughts are not if but when flicker fails, what will happen? Some type of back up comes to mind in preparation to protect as much work and data as you can. As my guess is not if but when.

  44. Doc Searls says:

    Marie, I hope you’re right

  45. Thomas Hawk says:

    Doc, I wonder if Flickr would give a commercial API key to a competitor to let users get their photos out of Flickr. One of the problems at present is that there is no easy way to get your photos and all of the metadata out of Flickr, especially with large photostreams like ours. Flickr is a functional silo. If somebody were to build something different from Flickr, I think a big part of it being successful would be allowing Flickr users an easy transfer path to whatever the new platform might be.

    • Doc Searls says:

      Thomas, Flickr did allow it back in 2006, for Tabblo. I wrote about it here. Antonio Rodriguez’ original post describing how that worked is now gone, but I’m not sure it matters. I just went back to Tabblo for the first time in years (I lost interest after Antonio sold it to HP), and sure enough: I could pull in all the shots I wanted from Flickr. Here’s a quick Tabblo I just did: http://www.tabblo.com/studio/stories/view/1815025/

  46. Doc Searls says:

    Rob, et. al., I just set up a trial backupify pro account. Thanks for pointing me to it. We’ll see how it goes.

  47. Thomas Hawk says:

    Doc, Tabblo was hardly a real competitor or a threat though. They were doing scrapbooking which was a totally different thing to me. They also gave an API key to Clustershot to do the same thing which allows people to transfer their Flickr photos for stock photography sales there.

    More interesting to me would be if they would give one to Google Picasa or to some new start up that they felt was a much greater competitive thread.

    When Zooomr applied for a commercial API key from Flickr we were denied. Initially Stewart said something to the effect of why should Flickr waste bandwidth cycles for a competitor. Stewart later softened his response though and said that he’d give Zooomr one but only if Zooomr first delivered to Flickr *our* API with documentation. With one engineer we weren’t really in a position to do that work at the time so Zooomr never got a key.

    Personally I think all competitors should get API keys no matter what. I think data portability is important. But I wonder how willing Flickr would be today to give one to a competitor. I wonder why Picasa hasn’t requested one and built a Flickr to Picasa transfer app already. That would seem like a no brainer to me.

    Flickr might feel differently about a solid competitor unlike sites like Tablo or Clustershot or even SmugMug (where you can transfer your flickr photos today, but which is only a paid premium account). Would be nice to hear an opinion from someone at Flickr on where they stand with that issue.

  48. Thomas Hawk says:

    by the way according to this Advertising Pitch page for Flickr that I found, http://advertising.yahoo.com/media-kit/flickr.html Yahoo’s currently claiming 51 million registered users on Flickr. Pro accounts don’t see advertisements though (and I’d think these would be the most lucrative accounts for marketers) so I’m guessing that ad rates on Flickr overall are pretty low as it is. No doubt they serve a lot of ads though. I could be totally completely wrong on how well their ads pay though.

  49. KD says:

    @ Eric, 12:27 today:

    You assert: “A self hosted version of Flickr would fail on multiple levels:” and go on to list several barriers. I’m not going to try to give solutions to those possible problems, but I do want to note that identifying problems is the first step to overcoming them.

    I agree that today there are barriers to having the sort of non-silo version of Flickr that is being discussed here. Your list might not be correct or complete, but there are barriers and your list is a start to identify them.

    I do not agree that those barriers cannot be overcome. Whether they are overcome depends on how much the general public becomes tired of being vulnerable to silos and whether someone/some group finds a way to provide a non-silo solution, and maybe make some money from it.

    I’d go so far to say that the solution might be generalizable to more than a Flickr replacement.

    I don’t have any such solution, but I don’t accept that one is not possible.

  50. Pingback: Doc Searls Weblog · What if Flickr fails? | The America News

  51. Doc Searls says:

    Thomas, agreed on all points. I think an attraction of a service like Flickr’s should be data portability.

    Dunno why Picassa hasn’t been more aggressive. I’m guessing it’s because Google has a history of moving into a market, establishing a presence and kinda just sitting there. Blogger, for example. Orcut. Picassa. Health. Blog search. There are many exceptions, but it’s a pattern. I agree with another writer over on your blog that Flickr may end up at Google. Hey, they had Google Video and bought YouTube anyway. Buy where the users are.

  52. Pingback: What will replace Flickr if Flickr fails? - Quora

  53. Pingback: De-silo-fy « Garrick Van Buren .com « Web Application Research, Strategy, and Development

  54. I have viewed Deepa’s blog and there is no content there that would be even remotely objectionable to any normal person.

    WordPress is nice, but it lacks groups. What I found was that putting my images in groups on flickr produced massive exposure. To get people to look at my blog I have to drop links all over the place. No mater where one decides to self host, things like the groups will not be available.

    I am starting to believe that some of the account deletions at flickr are part of a program to make the site more attractive to advertisers by eliminating any material that could be controversial in even the slightest way. There are enough people out there that don’t like any form of candid or street photography to create a steady stream of complaints that results in flickr mislabeling accounts as voyeur and deleting them.

    My account which was suddenly deleted in December had been getting 200,000 hits per month and was on target for 300,000 in December. Could it be that flickr is looking to drop accounts that use too much bandwidth?


  55. Zack Sheppard says:

    Hi! I’m Zack Sheppard, Sr. Community Manager at Flickr.

    In regards to account deletions, we don’t comment on specific members except to the account owner themselves, however it’s important to note that we do give a warning to educate the member before deleting in most cases. There are some cases we feel deleting without a warning is an appropriate action, i.e. child pornography, hacking, and spam as only a couple examples (I’m not implying Deepa was deleted for one of these reasons). When someone asks why they were deleted we try to give them an understanding of what rules they broke to help them not break them again.

    Any community like Flickr will need some moderation of the guidelines to make sure everyone is playing by the same rules. That is a part of keeping the community healthy. We welcome passionate feedback and criticism from our members, and if someone feels like we made a mistake we want to know. But it’s important to note that our intent is never to censor our members, and we believe the comments out there about Flickr ‘censorship’ are misleading.

  56. Doc Searls says:

    I don’t know where to begin, Ron, but I know where this ends, especially since Flickr has not weighed in on this thread at all either publicly or privately. I’m impressed at what you did with 550 photos, compared to what I’ve done with 50,000. Basically, more views in two months that I’ve had in the duration. But then, I don’t do many groups, and I’m not into the art of it; at least not much.

    If you’re right about the policing issue, we see a problem with all giant walled gardens. They’re walled, and gardened. They are not nature. They are not in the wild. And, while they are nicer than the wild in many ways, they lose out to it in the long run. Nature will take its course.

  57. Blake Irving says:

    I appreciate the thoughtful discussion here and I want to add clarity to this topic: Yahoo! is absolutely committed to Flickr and its community of members. The board, myself, and the entire leadership team love this product and believe it is incredibly in sync with our product strategy for Yahoo! Flickr has a huge worldwide audience, an amazing brand, and it’s profitable. We’re excited to continue evolving and supporting Flickr so we can make the service even better.


    Blake Irving
    EVP, Chief Product Officer, Yahoo!

  58. Doc, I love your metaphor. Keep in touch.

  59. Doc Searls says:

    Zack, thanks for weighing in. Very helpful and much appreciated.

    I hope privately you can connect with Deepa so both sides can come to an understanding about what happened and what might be done either to rectify the situation or to see it doesn’t happen again — or to somebody else.

    Blake, thank you as well for letting us know Yahoo maintains its commitment to Flickr. It’s also good to hear that the service is profitable.


  60. Zack, what you guys did to me is unforgivable. You can go look at the old “Photo Houston” account, but I am sure you will find some self serving reason for deleting it. I know some people don’t like candid stuff, but it was not voyeur. In April I was told everything was OK and all content added after that point followed the same formula that I had previously used. Eight months later your people call April’s clean bill of health a warning and delete the account. I could not get the mod to tell me which images had concerned them in the first place. You guys are making up the rules as you go along.

  61. Pingback: Reintroducing Newstangle, or How I learned to stop worrying and love my blog | Invisible Inkling

  62. Michael says:

    I have been with flickr since late 2004 and so far I haven’t really found another service that works as well. I have a smugmug account but the entire experience is a bit… well, “hosty”. I can put my photos there and have some controls, but the flow, not to mention the community aspect, of Flickr has been the big selling point for me.

    So far anyway. I have not seen flickr really develope / change. It’s essentially frozen in 2005, recent redesign not withstanding.

    Why, for example, is there no support for services like flattr? Why not allow me to “skin” my stream with different background colours etc.?

    Additionally, if flickr could offer a REAL pro service (like Smugmug) I’d keep all my photos there.

    It seems to me that Flickr is falling into the same trap as most other acquisitions: Yahoo bought it and now has no clue what to do with it. They knew it was great but beyond that they have and had no idea how to use it.

    Shame really.

    There is a consideration on my end to maybe do selfhosting again, but I would have to figure out how to quickly and nicely transfer 8000+ photos and keep all the data intact.

  63. Vitalife Matcha says:

    Definitely good to hear the the service is profitable Blake. At least that gives us some reassurance that Yahoo! will continue their commitment to Flickr for some time to come.

  64. gopan says:

    The solution deepa found was a self hosted site, surely not an alternative for flicker or anything of that category. But she wanted to showcase her captures and share her thoughts about various other subjects and she is blessed with good writing skills

    i helped her to develop her site http://www.deepapraveen.com/ which is nothing more than a simple showcase of a person made on the joomla platform

    Dave and Doc, i will be more than happy to be part of any developmental projects when its open source and less strings attached

  65. What ever happened to Zoomr? It looked pretty good to me, but it is closed to new accounts.

  66. Ian Falconer says:

    Sorry to go all philosophical on what seems to be an eminently practical discussion but are we not missing some more fundamental questions here.

    We all generate so much data these days there is no earthly way that we can hold it all internally and to some extent our external cyborg selves penetrate silicon strata around the world, none of which we own personally. So;

    If your memories are held on a piece of hardware owned by another person what ethical duties does that person have with regard to your freedom to function as a human being ? Not legal duties note – ethical duties.
    Also what can you actually can legitimately sign away under a reasonable use agreement ? What are the civil limits to what bits of your being you can sign away without the person gaining the signature having some degree of backward responsibility to stop you from doing so ?
    If they have taken on the responsibility to act as a partial mind substitute do they not have a responsibility to act for the benefit of that mind as whole ?
    Can I sign away my own memories ? Am I competent to do so ? Or would the conscious act of surrendering mind function be deemed an act of madness ? Can I actually cease to own parts of my own mind ? If it is uploaded is that portion of my mind fungible ?
    What international law is that covered by ? International human trafficing or intellectual property ?

    Apologies for the ramble but I’m also thinking about the whole distributed memories thing and how the concept impacts the nature of culture and history from a philosophical and theoretical point of view, rather than a practical one.

  67. Well, if flickr deletes an account and there is no practical way to back that data up, that seems like an ethical breach to me, unless their reason for deleting the account was criminal activity.

  68. Doc Searls says:

    Ron, it might be an ethical breach, but it’s not a contractual one. Flickr, like all other services on the Web, employs terms of service that belong to a breed that lawyers call adhesion contracts. They make the rules, and are also free to change them. You, as a user, or even as a customer, cannot.

    I wrote about this a few months back here. And it’s something we’re working to change at projectvrm. (In fact, we’d love to have Yahoo joining in on that effort.) But it’s still early, and unfair, and unfortunately that’s the way the Web has been built since 1995.

  69. Doc Searls says:

    Ian, many provocative thoughts there. Keep us apprised of where you (and others) go with them. Seriously.

    Meanwhile, I think it is possible for us to manage the river of data that flows from our activities online, and how and were we store and permission the use of it. Check some of the work going on in this list for more.

  70. Pingback: Whoa- There’s an online ad bubble? « ECPM BLOG

  71. gopan says:

    VRM seems to be a revolutionary concept. isn’t a better support system which enables the customer to enjoy more interactive tools to get his issues resolved? or is it a completely different concept?

    every company has the right to constitute and modify the so called adhesion contracts for any service, cannot blame them since its needed to protect their interests. But the point is that some of those companies take this right in a complete insensitive way. we can easily understand that some of those actions, like the flickr deletion, shall be replaced with a more customer centric action like a warning or a deletion of the trouble causing pic alone.

    One should not use nuclear weapon to kill a rat even if it is available! rat poison is more than enough to do it.

    how can VRM help in this aspect, can it influence the formation of their terms and conditions? because that seems to be the beginning of many issues, as i said earlier, strong terms and needed for companies to run and avoid legal consequences. the issue is the misuse of their power.

    How much it is possible to have a controlling body or an independent grievance redress mechanism to contact the company on behalf of the affected customer and suggest things which is not completely against the interests of the company? can we have such a body accepted by the net giants?

    some of these questions are still questions and looking forward to see some discussions in that direction

  72. Doc Searls says:

    Gopan, there are several questions and concepts at play here.

    First, I think of VRM as evolutionary more than revolutionary. It’s a necessary next step: equipping customers with tools of engagement with vendors.

    Second, one of those tools will be legal. We will be able to assert our own terms and conditions. Those means have never been there before, mostly because of the way the Web is built and has been used since 1995. Adhesion contracts have been pro forma for the duration; but it’s time we moved past putting all responsibility for relationships on the vendors’ side — especially in cases like Flickr’s, where it is impossible to scale relationship across fifty-plus million registered users. Working this stuff out will take effort on both the customer and vendor sides. this can be done. We’re doing our work, and I hope folks at Flickr and other companies will join us as we build better tools of engagement and trust on both sides.

  73. Pingback: Darryl Jonckheere » Algorithms Don’t Have Feelings

  74. Gopan says:

    i agree it has to come soon in the path of evolution, and someone has to take up the initiative and happy to see a group working on it.

    I live in India and if i am proud to be an Indian today its just because of three recent acts implemented here

    1) Right to Information Act http://rti.gov.in/

    2) Right to Education Act http://www.india.gov.in/allimpfrms/allacts/3119.pdf

    3) National Rural Employment Guarantee Act en.wikipedia.org/…/Mahatma_Gandhi_National_Rural_Employment_Guarantee_Act

    they are phenomenal just because it is addressing different groups and their needs

    the point is when its about a Govt. and the citizens the implementation of law always have a limitation, the Govt introduces the law and the people follow it.

    But when its about a vendor and customer, the concentration of power is surely the opposite still the vendor manages to impose all the rules.

    so as you mentioned a change must be part of the evolution. meanwhile we have to safe guard the interests of the vendor too.

    I posted those acts just to give some insight about a Govt action for betterment of the lives of people. looking forward to see some significant concept implementations from your end

    thank you for your time Doc

  75. I feel very concerned by this topic, thank you Doc for writing such a blog post. My name is Pierrick Le Gall and I’ve founded the Piwigo project in 2002. Piwigo is an opensource photo gallery software, just like Gallery that Jeremy Brooks quoted earlier.

    On one side you have the opensource software that you can install on any host for free, you can download it on http://piwigo.org . On the other side you have the “ready to use” hosted solution on http://piwigo.com where you can signup to get a Piwigo photo gallery ready to work in a few seconds. The wordpress.org + wordpress.com model is a major source of inspiration for piwigo.org + piwigo.com.

    Piwigo.com does not practice any vendor lock in method. Of course you can perform requests on Piwigo API to get many informations on your gallery, but much better than that: you can get your database backup (all your data related to your gallery such as user comments, albums organization, tags, ratings, visits statistics) + directory containing all your photos. Once you have them, you can install Piwigo anywhere and import your database.

    At Piwigo.com we’ve decided to have only paying accounts (with a 30-day free trial period), mainly because we didn’t want to display ads everywhere. On this point, we’re not following the WordPress.com model. The difference is that WordPress.com mainly hosts “words” (text data) and 1) that doesn’t cost a lot on bandwith and disk usage 2) and is easier for targetted advertisement.

    One major issue that Jeremy points out is the lack of “social aspect” and I agree with that. Some users don’t want this social aspect but some do. One big project for Piwigo in 2011 is to create a “Piwigo Network” architecture where each “slave” Piwigo can subscribe to a “master” Piwigo (or several). The master would display a list of filtered photos from each slave. This is still a project “on paper” but Piwigo has the API and plugins architecture ready for this kind of evolution.

  76. Doc Searls says:

    Thanks, Pierrick, Piwigo does look like an excellent solution. I’ll try it out soon.

  77. Doc, I am well aware that I have no contractual recourse against flickr and that their TOS is an adhesion contract. It is unfortunate that flickr has gone in the direction of creating an environment sterile enough to satisfy the most socially conservative individuals, or governments.

    What this world needs is a photo hosting solution with social networking and reasonable TOS. I like the WordPress model, but I have to do a bunch of networking to get anyone to look at my work. I’m not trying to sell anything, I only want people to see my photography.

  78. Doc, a well-written and much needed post. Corporations love data silos – they are viewed as “roach motels.” There is one way in, and you can’t leave, unless you rig something up to their API which less than 1% of people will figure out how to do.

    When building ZooFoo Backup we addressed this issue head on, as we had all run into the same thing with Flickr, Picasa, etc. ZooFoo Backup gives users a way to make a copy of their entire online account: the structure, titles, tags, descriptions, original file size, everything on their local machine. With the click of 1 button. (And it optimizes over time so it doesn’t need to return to the server for everything).

    I don’t want to sound like an ad here, but data roach motels just rub me the wrong way. And putting friction in the way of the user is something straight of the financial industry. If you have your data in a “roach motel,” and the host company implodes or changes direction, you’re done.

    Online photo firms should have enough respect for users, and confidence in themselves, that they should have no fear of allowing people to leave. I’m glad you brought this issue to light.

    Dan Cunningham
    Zoofoo.com Founder

  79. hi Doc, over at https://pixi.me/ – since 2004, we’ve freely hosted Gallery multisites (v2 at the moment) although you can download v3 which is more advanced & readily available from http://gallery.menalto.com/

    To cut down on dormancy, we don’t use an automated system. But most importantly, we believe in “data liberation” – giving users more control of their data, and have the ability to bail out of our free service without questions asked, and take all their data with them. Their photos along with the database can be restored easily with a fresh installation of Gallery on Amazon EC2 (via Jumpbox) or a VPS/VDS or your own home server.

    The first time I came across “data liberation” was after reading http://queue.acm.org/detail.cfm?id=1868432 – I found it to be an eye-opener.

    best regards,

    Steve Caturan
    pixi.me – lead Janitor

  80. John Boxall says:

    At the end of the day, cloud-based storage services are great – but ALWAYS have a physical backup.

  81. Considering where I am on Flickr, I hope it does not go down the tubes! I average 50,000 views/image and you can not get that sort of exposure anywhere else. I have experienced a bit of the heavy handedness when they recently blocked my account because I had put “See my profile for more information” in my photo descriptions. They said that any attempt to redirect to a personal website was against their terms of use. True, I do have my website etc. linked in my profile, but I did not even have a direct link to my profile in the photo description, just a note to see it!

    It seems as though Getty wants to keep a monopoly over Flickr’s massive storehouse of low cost images. I’m fairly sure that this has something to do with it, even though the terms of use was the same before Getty came along.

    If I were running the place, I’d go massively commercial and allow people to advertise. I would turn it into a very efficient ‘Big Getty.’ Flickr could take over the entire photo industry just as Apple did with iTunes. But where is the vision? I don’t know.


  82. Lea Thomsen says:

    I have a pro account too, but I am not even close to being pro. I upload all sorts of crap from mobile pic to the pics I spend much time in Photoshop with.

    Still I allways thought the price was insanely low, and I would gladly pay more. I particular like the statiscs part. But as with all cloud solutions I am constantly a bit weary, because as you point out Doc, you never know how long they will last.

    Some clever way of combining the strenght of a community like Flickr’s with the ability to ensure I don’t lose anything (comments and statistics included) would deffinately be a service I’d gladly pay for. But it would have to be as easy to use as the site itself.

  83. Gopan says:

    Many people believe that a paid service is much safer compared to a free or an open source solution, it is also true that people choose more expensive solutions in anticipation of more safety and prompt service.

    Logically this could be right! but flickr proves it wrong with its deeds, and it is reminding us that strategies are more significant than the charges, we may not get better service just because we paid more!

    Gallery is a very simple but strong platform without any doubt and products like pixi are great in their concept, still due to the reasons stated above people will hesitate to choose such a string-less option bypassing a paid service with Adhesion contracts.

  84. Pingback: Under the delicious fallen sky - CogDogBlog

  85. As I read through the other comments I see that there are many photo hosting solutions, but only flickr and facebook provide a significant community interaction. Facebook steals your copyright, so forget that.

    We can criticize the injustice at flickr, but they will not change. If anything, it seems to be getting worse.

    I wonder if there is a quick path to a community solution utilizing existing resources. Perhaps someone could set up a blog on WordPress.com which has the sole purpose of helping photographers to network with each other.

  86. Thanks Jeremy, Doc, Steve et al for the shout outs about Gallery. I founded the project back in 2000 for two reasons:

    1) I wanted to be able to host my photos in exactly the way I wanted to under my own url

    2) I didn’t trust any of the photo hosting services to stick around and care for my data as long as I planned to.

    I hope that Flickr doesn’t go under — that would be a terrible blow to the social photo sharing community. But even paid solutions offer limited guarantees. At the end of the day it’s still a business and is always subject to bad business decisions and fiduciary responsibility.

    The nice thing about a FOSS photo sharing product is that it will last forever. The data is yours. You have to pay a residual cost in terms of time and maintenance, but you get all the control.

  87. Pingback: pinboard January 20, 2011 — arghh.net

  88. Pingback: The Circle of Trust | SwimGeek

  89. Doc Searls says:

    Patrick, I doubt that Flickr will go down the tubes, but the risk is there. The whole Web as we know it is only about sixteen years old, and Flickr has only been around since ’04 or so.

    The issue, as I’m starting to see it, is the cost of scale. Hosting five billion photos for fifty one million people is a gigantic responsibility that can be maintained only by reducing costs of exposure for hosting potentially troublesome exceptions to rules (legal ones as well as community standards) that aren’t clear to begin with. All the company can do is reserve the right to obliterate anything that even begins to suggest a risk, and to indemnify itself against claims arising out of (even ordinary) usage.

    Like Lea, I’m actually willing to pay a lot more than the current $25/year fee for Pro-level users. I believe this begins to suggest a market, should Flickr wish to pursue it. That market would be much smaller than the zillion-eyeballs one, but it would also allow the company to do much better customer support, because customers would be paying for real service, and not just for freedom from value-subtractions (such as advertising) that ordinary non-paying users put up with.

    I think companies like Yahoo and Google are actually both privileged and vulnerable in this respect. They are privileged to have enough scale to start getting personal with users, and finding out how to build new businesses where users are glad to function as paying customers rather than as non-paying eyeballs for advertisers. They are vulnerable in their continued strategy of scaling to maximum usage at all costs, including the cost of ignoring other direct money-making opportunities.

    If they took advantage of those opportunities, they could also become partners with the likes of Gallery, ZooFoo and Piwigo — rather than just the problem all those other options solve.

  90. Doc, I believe avoiding risk to avoid litigation costs is only part of the story. I suspect the other part is a very conservative culture being forced on flickr from somewhere in Yahoo management.


  91. Gopan says:

    Just a small update on the original issue, Deepa made a website as an alternative (which is no way an alternative to flickr) method of showcasing her pics. She also enabled galleries for the visitors and well wishers of the site and happy to see a good response from people around the world. Some of them already shared their pics in her site. Every such individual sites have their limitations, there is no doubt about that, especially when its about advertisement and promotions. An individual cannot do what flickr or someone of that kind do. Still happy to see a small group developing there

    her site is hosted at http://www.deepapraveen.com/

  92. Gopan says:


    seems to be very tough to be so, who will go against the interest of the majority when its about business. They must be having a more robust reason to behave so, cannot imagine something positive anyway.

  93. Sorry to be jumping in so late (thanks Doc for tipping me off).

    I’ve noted Flickr’s response here in the comment thread, but I’m still unimpressed. Many of you will recall Flickr’s deletion of Martin Dors’ photos years ago, after he posted a photograph of a young Romanian boy smoking a cigarette. Though Flickr rectified the situation, they were still unable to return all of Martin’s photos.

    I understand–though I might disagree in individual cases–that a company like Flickr has the right to remove the accounts of those who violate its TOS. That said, if someone is paying for that service, they deserve a warning and a chance to retrieve their photos before they’re taken offline. From what I’ve seen, several members in this thread were not given that opportunity.

  94. Pingback: Jillian C. York » Flickr and Account Deactivation

  95. I am becoming convinced there is a widespread cultural problem at Yahoo where they are trying to force their editorial view of the world on their users. For the last year I have noticed that the local news articles for Houston report every single fatal motorcycle accident. Motorcycles may be much more dangerous than cars, but there so many more cars than motorcycles on the road that if Yahoo was reporting every fatal car accident there would be at least one a day.

    Yahoo is trying to package as much as their news as video clips as possible and the price is a 30 second commercial. I used to think the internet was a way to get news quickly, but Yahoo aims to make it as bad as watching the news on TV.

  96. Mark Purcell says:

    There is only one answer to this and that is you have to have access to your own data, whilst it is fine for someone else to host it for you, there are no guarantees they will be around for the next 100 yrs, but I am certain you would like access to your own photo’s for the next 100 years.

    For every service you consume and every upload you make to the cloud, you need to have the data ready and downloaded daily/ weekly for when they go away. Not if, but when..


  97. Mark Purcell says:

    There is only one answer to this and that is you have to have access to your own data, whilst it is fine for someone else to host it for you, there are no guarantees they will be around for the next 100 yrs, but I am certain you would like access to your own photo’s for the next 100 years.

    It doesn’t matter what the issue is; account deletion, company bought/ bust, virus, insert event here, …

    For every service you consume and every upload you make to the cloud, you need to have the data ready and downloaded daily/ weekly for when they go away. Not if, but when..


  98. Deepa says:

    Yes I was not an active member of any of the groups for the past one year..I cant recollect any incident of posting a comment “which is offensive in nature or contrary to public law or morality”, (If that is the case Flickr can very well say that “Deepa” you did this in group “x” and that is in violation of our terms. I can admit that.)
    If I violated any ones copyright through my images, they can say “We are deleting your account for copyright violation”.
    If my stream is full of offensive materials. They can say your photo-stream is full of offensive materials so we are deleting your account. (If you visit my new photo-stream you came to know the nature of the photos I post).

    What I requested is a reason. A specific reason for deleting my account. OR give people a reason before or after the termination of service.

  99. Doc Searls says:

    Thanks, Deepa.

    I think they aren’t able to give you a reason. They obviously had a reason at some point, but whoever made the decision either doesn’t remember or isn’t involved in providing an answer. And the evidence has been destroyed, so they can’t re-visit it.

    The one thing they could revisit is their email records. They should have sent you a warning by some means. If they didn’t, they violated their own terms.

    Not that it would make any difference legally. Flickr’s terms of service allow them to do whatever they want, pretty much, and indemnify them from any complaints you might have.

    It’s a shitty system, and it’s not just Flickr’s. There are a billion other sites on the Web with similar rules and protections — for them. In this they have no choice, because the Web’s commercial architecture was set up this way sixteen years ago and hasn’t changed. This needs to be fixed, and I’m involved with a community of developers that are fixing it. I invite Yahoo and other companies to join us in that effort.

  100. Pingback: Flickr Will Not Exist Forever | Blog Wranglers

  101. Pingback: Lets make a dependable photo sharing platfrom

  102. Holden says:

    Amazing timing. Just yesterday I registered two yahoo accounts.

    ACCOUNTXYZ@yahoo.com *
    ACCOUNTXYZ@ymail.com (kinda sweet to use both, right?)

    So, then I also activated a FLICKR.com account on the ACCOUNTXYZ@yahoo.com. I thought it would be cool to use flikcr as well as email.

    But within 35 minutes, the FLICKR.com related yahoo.com address was locked!

    Attempting to send email to it, I received an error:
    “” X.X.X.X failed after I sent the message.
    “” Remote host said: 554 delivery error: dd Sorry your message to
    “” ACCOUNTXYZ@yahoo.com cannot be delivered. This account has been
    “” disabled or discontinued [#102]. – mta1090.mail.ac4.yahoo.com”

    I didn’t even use that address to send any email. Nor did I even get a chance to upload and flickr photos in that short window fo time!.
    What a whacked experience.
    I’m going to try and call the YAHOO customer service line to see if they can remove this paranoid lock down on this account.
    If I didnt even send any email nor upload any photos, HOW COULD I HAVE broken and ToS? I really am mystified by this yahoo.com behavior.

    Thanks for your post Mr. Seales, it made me feel that less alone. I don’t want to see Flickr or yahoo to fail, but having an experiences like this, convinces me that something is indeed wrong with their procedures.

    * sample, not the real account.

  103. Holden (edits) says:

    Amazing timing. Just yesterday afternoon, I registered two yahoo accounts, had troubles and found your timely post.

    ACCOUNTXYZ@yahoo.com *example
    ACCOUNTXYZ@ymail.com (kinda sweet to use both, right?)

    So, then I also activated a FLICKR.com account on the ACCOUNTXYZ@yahoo.com. I thought it would be cool to use flickr as well as email.

    But within ~35 minutes, the FLICKR.com related yahoo.com address was locked!! huh?

    So I tried to send email to it, I received an error:
    “” X.X.X.X failed after I sent the message.
    “” Remote host said: 554 delivery error: dd Sorry your message to
    “” ACCOUNTXYZ@yahoo.com cannot be delivered. This account has been
    “” disabled or discontinued [#102]. – mta1090.mail.ac4.yahoo.com”

    I didn’t even use that address to send any email. Nor did I even get a chance to upload *any* flickr photos in that short window of time!!
    Wow. What a whacked experience.

    I’m going to try and call the YAHOO customer service line to see if they can remove this paranoid lock down on this account.
    If I didn’t even send any email nor upload any photos, HOW COULD I HAVE broken any sort of ToS?
    I really am mystified by this yahoo.com behavior.

    Thanks for your post Mr. Seales, it made me feel that I wasn’t alone in my troubles. I don’t want to see neither Flickr nor Yahoo failing, but having an experience like this, convinces me that something is indeed wrong with the Yahoo procedures.

    * sample, not the real account.

  104. Pingback: Eta Flickr ixten badute? - IKTeroak

  105. Andrew says:

    Self hosting is still a non-starter because the quarrels over RSS/ATOM have made them technologies that simply have not improved in terms of user experience.

    The reason siloed, centralized systems have been making a come back on the web is that the main distributed information technology we have has stagnated. Twitter, facebook, flickr are all easier to use and are less prone to spam.

  106. Doc Searls says:

    So Andrew, why has that stagnation happened? Serious question.

  107. gopan says:

    Doc, Andrew must be talking about the extra efforts needed for a self hosted site to take care of SPAM and to promote it in the virtual world.

    When i have an account in Facebook or Flickr, i have an assured listing waiting for me in major search engines, That will definitely help me to reach more people, The social aspect of all these site will provide me visitors without much efforts. The mother portal will be having huge facilities to take care SPAM.

    All these can be a real challenge when i do it with a self hosted site. We can always create fancy looking sites but the visibility and the popularization is not easy without spending a lot of money in that direction.

    The RSS feeds are not an easy facility to incorporate in sites for a novice. That must be the reason for the stagnation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *