The Flickr Changes Free Accounts (Is this the beginning of the end)


I know a lot of people have used Flickr off and on over the years, it isn’t as big as it was in its heyday but it still keeps on going. Then 5 years ago they offered 1TB of storage and now they are shifting focus again, limiting the amount of photos and videos you can have on their platform to 1000, the compromise is now they can be their max resolution.

I have over 3000 photos but I usually don’t upload them directly they are auto uploaded via instagram these days. I can’t know when they started thinking about changing their service but I wonder what kind of conversation they were having with their users, not just the pros who aren’t impacted by the change anyway but the free users.

In their blog post about the change dated November 1st they say that “more than 97% of Free members have fewer than 1,000. We believe we’ve landed on a fair and generous place to draw the line.” Although they say this is aligned with how they operated in the past prior to 2013.

I am part of a lot of different websites and for uploading photos I don’t do it that often but I tend to use 500px because although they have a cap, its a weekly one which makes me put much more thought into what to upload.

For photos I tend to use Dropbox and Google photos to keep everything synced. This isn’t perfect but I think Flickr lost the battle more than a decade ago for being a place where people shared their photos. They were long ago overtaken by instagram, Google Photos and are sub par compared to smugmug for pro users even if they have a larger if erroding user base.

From a communications standpoint they pulled the rug out from under every free user that used their service. If I were coming up with a plan as soon as they knew they were going to change their free plan I would of put out the call for feedback from users, for everyone through surveys and to a statistically accurate sample size more indepth and be transparent about the results.

I would take a few months to really engage with them and especially those that use multiple photo sharing services. I am not saying they didn’t do this but the way they are rolling this out, how it impacts the people on their service makes me think they didn’t do that.

It was put out there the way it was to get it over with as soon as they could because they know that it was going to hurt no matter what. If they actively engaged the userbase, gave us a heads up about their thoughts in preperation for a change maybe people would at least be better prepared for their announcement.

They said that most users have less than 1000 photos but the problem with that is not all people have less. How does their decision impact that 3 percent with a free account. For me it’s the final nail in the coffin, it says that it’s time to get off Flickr not like it was even relevant to me anymore anyways with so many other options.

I think an alternative option would have been to give a longer lead time before the change occurs. I would have considered the costs of putting all the free accounts at the same starting line, meaning when the change happens from that point any new users will only be able to upload 1000 photos and current users will be able to only have 1000 new uploads.

This way it puts everyone outside the pro users on at a new starting line while also retaining the depth of photographic content Flickr has amassed over the course of the lifetime of the platform. It would mean it won’t decrease their cost of storage but mitigate its future growth.

I would have put an even more generous amount of photos allowed than 1000 because these days with a camera always with you through your smartphone 1000 isn’t all that much.

Although this may help them to shed their storage costs, what does it do to the platform itself. Does it help to evolve it as a place where photographers go to share their work? How does it compare to other photo sharing services and how are they being used.

It doesn’t really do a lot to make it a place for the user, I don’t see them engaging with their users, it feels like just the voice of God saying what will be. If they would have done this with more invovlement with their users both pros and free and been open maybe even if they would make the same decision their would be more understanding, more people could accept the change because they felt their concerns were being heard.

With how this was done that won’t probably happen, it will be a lot of user’s goodbye to Flickr and maybe no matter what they could do this was inevitable. Who knows, you don’t share photos on Flickr, you upload them there. They are right when they say when they last changed their storage plans it shifted the focus but this change doesn’t really change it back.

It will be hard for them to go back to being a place for photographers and that goes to how they are utilizing their platform and the long-term goals they want to represent. I don’t know what that could be or how they would do it but I think for many of us who used Flickr but maybe didn’t really use it, this is the end and maybe Flickr does need to shrink before it can find a way to go and to be relevant in today’s digital world.

*update* I know smugmug owns Flickr now and that a Chinese firm owns 500px so it looks like a lot of these photo platforms are changing due to the costs and the necessity of needing better business models than they started out with. I guess that is why instagram is so popular, it’s dead simple and provides just enough so that a user can feel empowered enough without having to really struggle.*