Photography Technology

Mountains out of Molehills

CEO of photosharing site Zooomr, Thomas Hawk is taking Flickr to task for the changes it announced yesterday.

In his post, he uses customer complaints from Flickr’s forums to make his point that Flickr has lost its way with these changes and that it must reconsider them. After reading through the post, it seems to me like just a bunch of noise and childishness. Let’s take a look at what is actually changing here:

1. In our ongoing efforts to Make Flickr BetterTM, we’re introducing two additional limits: the new maximum number of contacts is 3,000 contacts (good luck with that), and each photo on Flickr can have a maximum of 75 tags.

Okay. Well, I could see this complaint as somewhat half valid. There are people out there who use Flickr to promote their work professionally, and they want to reach as many people as possible. Putting a limit on the number of people they can have as contacts kinda does suck. But at the same time, Flickr’s contact system is a lot different then say MySpace’s friends list system. Just because someone makes me a contact, doesn’t mean they have to be mine. Me personally I only make people contacts under a very small set of circumstances:

  1. If I know them personally.
  2. If I read their blog regularly.
  3. If I LOVE their photo work.

I think it is a safe bet if you have upwards of 2,000 contacts that you aren’t looking at everyone’s photos in that much depth. I also doubt you know all of these people personally. I think it’s a pretty safe bet that if you have that many contacts, it’s an effort to get people to add you to their contact list as self-promotion.

While that is okay, it’s a little disingenuous. As really, I doubt you care about these ‘friends’ all that much. Isn’t there enough shameless self-promotion on the web already?

Where’s the line between it and spam really? Maybe I shouldn’t cast judgment, but with their ‘Good luck with that’ comment, it certainly seems like Flickr feels the same way.

There is also a positive benefit to this; it requires people to be more mindful of the people they add to their contact list. In the end, it strengthens the community, as it encourages users to consider things more carefully. Flickr also claims it will allow their systems to run better, and I can imagine that being so. Having more than 3000 of anything in a database will bog things down. Capping people’s contacts will almost certainly improve speed and take some load off the servers. Yes, it will save them money, but they are a business, it doesn’t make their service any less awesome.

Next up: The 75 tag limit. This is also about shameless self-promotion in my eyes.

If you’re tagging your photos that heavily, you’re tagging them for the purpose solely of other people finding you, not for accurate results, and almost definitely not for easy personal organization.

Limiting tags in my eyes is also a good move for the community as it once again will require more thought put into things. And really, 75 tags? I rarely put more than 5 on something. 75 is a very high number. I doubt few people at all will be limited by this.

Oh, but it seems—with the exception of Mr. Hawk—not many users are making a big deal over these changes, it’s more about the second change.

2. On March 15th, 2007 we’ll be discontinuing the old email-based Flickr sign in system. From that point on, everyone will have to use a Yahoo! ID to sign in to Flickr.

For many, this is a big change. And like it or not, those people are by far the minority. 

Flickr has seen such a dramatic growth in users over the last year that the ‘old skool’ users are dwarfed several times over by the newer users. There are more than a few users bitter about this move, but these are mostly the same users who were skeptical when Yahoo! bought Flickr. The fear as near as I can tell is irrational. All the complaints I’ve read seem to be based on fear of change. They sound to me like angsty elitist teenagers who stop liking a band when they signed to a major label or something. It’s stupid.

In reality, what is the significant difference? The only thing this affects at all is your login and password. It does not affect people’s site address or your Flickr screen name. The change is minimal, and these users will experience no difference except having to type something different at the login screen. For example, my Flickr account is linked to my Yahoo! ID of ‘reallocalcelebrity,’ but my Flickr page address does not reflect that name: At the moment I have my username as ‘reallocalcelebrity,’ which does match my Yahoo! ID, but I can change this at any point if I want, it does not have to match my Yahoo! ID.

I thoroughly enjoy that many of the self-proclaimed ‘old skool’ users of Flickr don’t realize this. Many of the complaints reposted on Hawk’s blog relay to the misperception that they will lose their user name or be forced to change their page address, neither of which is the case.

The other complaint is that these users will be required to have a Yahoo! ID, and many feel that this will open the floodgates to them for spam and marketing emails. I kind of think this is a tad bit irrational. I have a Yahoo! ID/ Mail account, and I pretty much don’t use it, except for Flickr. Having the account has not added any spam to any of my inboxes or had any effect on anything else in my life at all. As Flickr also points out, you don’t even have to use the account for your Flickr alerts email either; you can give them another account and have them notify you at that account when someone adds you as a contact of comments your photos.

So in actuality, Flickr is making you sign up for a Yahoo! ID, but they are not making you use it for anything other than a login and password.

If you’re getting worked up over this, you need to put your world into perspective. In reality, this whole thing will blow over with little to no impact on anything, maybe a few ‘Old Skool’ users will jump ship to different services, but that’s their loss more than anything. In truth, Flickr’s going to work better and continue at its tremendous rate of growth while strengthing its community while becoming more profitable and integrated into Yahoo! The end result is more choices and features for the users. I’ve yet to see how this could be a bad thing.

(via Robert Scoble)

One reply on “Mountains out of Molehills”

Couldn’t agree more. I can’t understand what these people are complaining about. So you have to generate a username and password, and yes, it may be ugly because Yahoo’s been around forever.

If that’s the only trade off, so far, to the cash flow that Flickr receives from yahoo to increase bandwidth, and development costs, then these people are should count themselves as lucky.

And why the total backlash against Yahoo! I mean, I’m not a yahoo apologist, but I’ve never gotten upset with Yahoo over their treatment of me as a user either. What do these people think Yahoo! is going to do, come into their homes and steal their rare Dave Gibbons, comic collections? Get a grip people.

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