I’ve been a steady flickr user since 2006 and have stuck with the service though its ups and downs, being a paid up “pro” member on and off throughout that time. In my experience flickr has remained, and still remains, probably, the best photosharing site out there. It’s combination of flexible privacy / sharing settings, huge free storage space and clean modern interface has helped keep it number one in my book. Not to mention it still has the best and most active groups feature out there. Under Yahoo the service, however, suffered from benign neglect for many years and steadily declined in usage and influence, surpassed by services like instagram. A change in leadership at Yahoo saw some really important changes such has the huge increase in free storage and that clean modern redesign which injected some new energy into the service. For about five minutes, until the neglect resumed and flickr seemed to continue drifting. Not to mention the persistent bugs, performance issues, and spam bots that pop up from time to time. Groups activity also seemed to slowly wane as the service drifted out of peoples consciousness. Nevertheless flickr remained the best overall site out there for photography. No other site seemed to match it as a complete package.
I held off writing my thoughts on flickr after the service was sold this past summer by Yahoo (Oath) to SmugMug, a well established and, I think, well regarded photo hosting / sharing service.
Well this week SmugMug made its move. Announcing a series of changes that have rocked the flickr user community. Starting next year instead of getting 1 TB of free photo storage flickr will be charging $50 US per year for unlimited uploads. That’s the big change. With that they have promised to improve the sites performance, squash the bugs, and deal with the spammers. On top of that they have promised to not sell user data to third parties like facebook / instagram / Google all do. This latter point is very important. They have promised not to engage in surveillance capatalism. So this is great news. I also don’t really have a problem with them charging for the service. That’s basically the way it was in the old days at flickr where you could only have a few hundred public photos before having to pay.
Fine. It’s costs money to run a service like flickr. I get that.
What bothers me about the ‘new’ flickr isn’t any of the above. Those are all reasonable points and / or welcome changes. What bothers me is the new 1000 image rule for free accounts. The new policy being that free accounts can have 1000 images but, and its a big but. If you currently have a free account with more than 1000 images flickr has said they will DELETE any images in excess of those 1000. When they say delete they don’t mean hide them from public view like on the old flickr, they mean delete.
This is crazy! Having been a user since 2006 I have almost 16,000 images on my account with various privacy settings. Only a tiny number are fully public so in effect flickr is saying that if I don’t pay up they’ll delete about 15,000 of my files.
Flickr is also making two contradicting excuses for this plan. On the one had they are saying that storage is expensive to maintain while on the other hand claiming that free account users are using only a tiny amount of the free storage provided anyway.
I my case flickr says I’m using only 4.9 % of my available storage with my 16,000 images. So I’m inclined to believe the latter argument.
The problem here is that flickr users who have been using the service as it was designed to be used, and offered to them, are now facing having much of their archive destroyed unless they pay up.
This feels like something very close to extortion. Worse than that it feels like censorship. Threatening to destroy an artists archive of work directly contradicts SmugMug / flickr’s claims to be pro photographer, pro photography and pro artist. Destroying someones work is just not something an artist focused enterprise should even consider. It should be so far removed from their value system that it never enters their mind.
Yet here we are with the clock ticking, its pay up, or else.
As for me I’ve begun the process of downloading all my photos from flickr. While I don’t mind paying for a service I like and use I won’t even consider it until this deletion policy is reconsidered.