Yahoo! and the Decline and Fall of Flickr

For those of us who remember it, Flickr was once an amazing place. More than just a website or a bucket of features, it was a vibrant community made up by professional photographers and amateur photo junkies alike. Before Facebook would even allow you to upload anything more than a profile picture, Flickr was the place you went to share your life in pictures. And then, at least according to an article on Gizmodo, Yahoo! happened.

In 2005, Butterfield and Fake sold their company to Yahoo, whose deep pockets promised great things for Flickr’s users […] Yahoo had bandwidth and engineering to burn. Things were going to be great; things are always going to be great the first time you embrace a new corporate mother.

But things weren’t great. As Gizmodo explains it, everything, from the reasons Yahoo! went after Flickr in the first place to the way corporate buyouts work at their core, conspired to turn Flickr into what it is today: “an afterthought.”

The original article contains much more in way of detail and entertaining explanation as to how Yahoo! stifled innovation in favor of integration than we have room for here. So instead we’ll leave you with one final snippet and a suggestion that you take 20 minutes and read the whole thing.

Recently, Flickr rolled out a “Justified” view, a way to scan your friends’ recent photos where they are all placed together like puzzle pieces. It’s similar to the way Pinterest lays out images. It’s a dramatic, gorgeous way to look at photos—that mostly highlights how rarely many people update now.

As I scroll down I note that friend after friend has quit posting. At the bottom of the page I am already back in mid 2010. So many of my friends have vanished. It feels like MySpace, circa 2009.

How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet [Gizmodo]

  • Ndt

    Hardly surprising that people a fleeing in droves. IMHO, Flickr has one of the most unintuitive and difficult to navigate interfaces for viewing and finding photos of any website that comes to mind. All this from a web site who’s sole purpose is… to display photographs.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry to be a grammar Nazi, but shouldn’t it be Yahoo! happened, no Yahoo! happen?

  • Anonymous


  • Jackson Cheese

    Flickr is really good for one thing though. 
     When you think “hmm, I wonder if there’s any photos out there of that thing or that place that i’m thinking about right now”.  And Flickr will never let you down.

  • DL Cade

    You’re absolutely right, thanks for pointing that out :) It’s been fixed.


    Hmmm. Could the same thing potentially happen to Instagram?


    Hmmm. Could the same thing potentially happen to Instagram?

  • Michael

     I agree, especially the flickr discussion community is great.

  • Michael

     I agree, especially the flickr discussion community is great.

  • Knur

     I hope so.

  • mikekwan1001

    For how long have we been hearing about the “death of Flickr?” CHANGE THE F**KING RECORD.  If you don’t like it, don’t use it.

  • Anon

    As ill as Flickr is right now I still hold out hope that they will figure out a way to put the spirit back in. I have learned a huge amount from my days of surfing Flickr and had a lot of fun along the way. My account there has lapsed a while ago, I just don’t feel the fun any more. 

  • derekdj

    I’m sorry but I have to disagree, first of all Gizmodo has pretty much lost a lot of its credibility and gone the way of trashy reporting like the rest of Gawker. It’s on par with the National Enquirer in terms of tech industry facts. The Yahoo/Flickr story is a perfect example.

    Not only is Flickr a vibrant and active global photo sharing platform, it is a highly valued portion of the Yahoo portfolio. Sure Yahoo has had drama and lost out on search, but it is still a huge company and actually earns revenue, unlike other tech companies with pumped up valuations. If you look at the likes of Instagram as an example, sure there is a large user base but it doesn’t generate any revenue. Where as Flickr actually makes money off of Pro-subscriptions and has secured deals from major photographic estates, create common archives and Getty.

    The author’s friends might have abandoned Flickr, but as a practicing photographer my friend feed is updated constantly with quality photography. Which is another thing that Instagram and its ilk doesn’t have.

  • Guest

    that implies instagram was more than a tween hipster hellhole to begin with

  • Dave

    If there is a God.

  • Dave

     If you don’t like articles titled anything about the ‘decline of Flickr’….DON’T F**KING READ IT!

  • Unruled

    I came across this lecture just yesterday by the lead designer at Flickr, seems over the next 1-2 years or so we will see a redesign slot into place bit by bit.

  • Rajnish

    I just dont see anything else that is as good as Flickr. Especially the discussion community. People who value photography go to flickr. It is not for people who use camera phones and then say Flickr is dead.

  • mhmediaonline

    I’ve been using Flickr for a number of years and am always thankful that my images are not taking up disk space on my own computers. One thing that’s been a consistent bugbear though is the truly horrible uploading experience, which really should have been fixed years ago. They could take a lesson from Dropbox, they really could.

  • muitosabao

    Totally agreed. Got the same feeling you expressed. And i might add that I also have the feeling that flickr is losing a race, it’s not to FB or instagram, but to 500px for example. Flickr and FB are two totally different things. I go to facebook to see my friend’s vacation and or breakfast photos, and i go to flickr (and now more to 500px) to see quality photography.
    In fact, one of the reasons why i’m slowly going away from flickr im the direction of 500px is in fact the facebook effect, since flickr is being flooded with so many “vacation” photos. Just try and go to explore to find quality photograhy…it’s getting hard because there’s so many mundane and vulgar stuff.
    So i think it’s actually good that flickr never went the instagram route, with a mobile app, otherwise the site would be even more flooded with “chewing gum on the side walk with sepia color” or “sushi for luch” shots, diluting the quality of the site.

  • muitosabao

    500px is in my oppinion much better currently than flickr. Amazing layout, design and functionality, amazing iPad app with makes browsing images a pleasure, and at the moment, it doesn’t have it’s content diluted in floods of mundane stuff, so the quality of the community is amazing. Just compare the editor’s choice or popular sections on 500px to flickr’s explore, and you’ll see the diference.
    Lots of nudity on 500px though, and although of great quality usually, you can always filter it out if it’s distracting you.

  • Jajjan

    who has the time to look at all the mostly bad flickr images anyway?

    im always suprised about all this social media stuff.
    how people find the time for it?

    im rather shooting images or editing them then posting things on websites.

    §her are my latest shoot form my toilet”.. “my brother brushing his teeth”…

    give me a rest…..

  • Peterill

    and when flicker is gone one day?

    that a pretty stupid “strategy” to store images on flickr or in the “cloud”…..

  • Peterill

    btw: im no old granny.. im 31.. but this social media stuff is mostly for social retarded.. i my honest opinion.

    all these people who look 5 hours a day on small mobile phone displays make me crazy.. they are media zombies.

  • mhmediaonline

    Ah, I should have made it clearer – I use external drives, not my main HDD, but you’re right of course – a lot of people store data in the cloud, which may be 99% reliable,(!), but if it goes bust…

  • James Robinson

    I totally agree with this article, shame to see a site that we have all depended upon in the past to fall. 
    I write a blog, and posted an article about the downfall of Flickr and the uprising of 500px, let me know what you think…

  • Ellie K

    Agreed, regarding those tiny mobile phone displays. It defeats the point of using images at all. Well, it does for me. And it is particularly sad, given the glorious visuals to be enjoyed on even a very average quality, full size desktop or laptop monitor.

    Regarding social media: Why do so many people photograph their meals? I still haven’t figured that out.

  • Ralph Hightower

    I have been on Flickr for almost a year now. I have been on Facebook for less than 2 months. Flickr will be where I upload my photos to. Why double post? I’ll post the link to my set on Facebook and let people from their go to Flickr.

  • qlakk

     That’s very true. However, Flickr can fill this gap. I think both will continue to compete together, which is good, as the main ennemy of Flickr has obviously been the lack of competition during years. They have now to awake and fight like any other company. The only interesting question will be : how will they differentiate and what will be the moves of their 2 majors and dangerous competitors (FB and G+)?

  • Alex Cruceru

    I am waiting for the day when Facebook dies , along with other crapy internet site and willl see people using the film again and entering exhibition spaces and not clicking on the keyboard.That’s the moment I am waiting for.The decline started when people got lazy and now need everything in their face, without any effort, not even to write the damn link to a website.All need all-in-one things, is to hard for the brain to function by itself, it needs simple buttons on the interface so people won’t need to use that grey matter.I am sorry, but nothing is in decline anywhere, just the people and their minds.

  • HoldenKeith57

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  • Manuel Smirnoff

    Any site that displays thumbnails as cropped squares isn’t for people who are serious about pictures.

  • Manuel Smirnoff

    All the hipsters have moved to Instagram this week, so the hipster press declares Flickr so last year. Borrrrrrrrrring. Why, then is it the primary spot for people on every real photo forum to store their photos? It works just fine, that’s why.

  • Marcin

    According to Alexa, which measures web traffic, Flicrk is currently ranked 48 globally (37 in the US), while 500pix is in the 1698 place (1981 in the US).

  • qlakk

     Well, your position could be more balanced, we are now in 2012 you know, things are changing ;) I have been fed up with backing up dozens of thousands of files and pictures, so I am using G Drive, or Dropbox or both to store on the cloud my pictures (and also on my desktop if you understand how these services work). About Flickr, you can download all your photos VERY easily with this tool:

  • qlakk

     Agreed. Unfortunately, square crop is so hype and so practical! I perfer from far the justify version of Flickr to the square crop of 500px even if globally speaking, the visual appearance of 500px is still much appealing.

  • muitosabao

    agreed. it’s the only negative point i can point out to 500px

  • Ian Ludwig

     Agreed also. I go through contacts and regularly and remove those who haven’t posted w/in the last six months to a year. Perhaps the author needs to freshen up some and take a look at new people instead of relying on their old contacts most of whom have left or stopped posting.

  • derekdj

    Yes, Flickr definitely suffers from a flood of “vacation” photos, but I think that’s to be expected once a platform reaches critical mass. I use both 500px and Flickr. 500px community is much smaller but more professional, I find Flickr’s community to be more encyclopedic in scope. I can virtually “scout for locations”, search for tips, in fact before I buy any lens or new gear I usually look through Flickr to see real world examples by average photographers instead of the crafted stuff presented by manufacturers.

  • katie

    I’ve found Flickr to be really helpful in getting feedback and even had a few publications pick up my work from there. 500px has great work, but I don’t see as much documentary photography/photojournalism on there so still continue to use Flickr.

  • branden

    Totally agree, especially about the irrelevance of Gawker. In all their years of existence, have yet to see any signs of intelligence at Gawker.

  • Darren Rose

     I couldn’t agree more!

  • Adam Cross

    It’s also really great if you’re looking to buy a new lens for your camera and are wondering what kind of results that lens will give you – Flickr will never let you down

  • Jackson Cheese

    Instagram is like Twitter.
    Lots of media hype, but not a lot of actual real world use.
    I personally don’t know anybody who tweets, and only a handful of Instagram users.

  • Eduardo Larrosa

    as much as I love Flickr, I don’t think they have 1-2 years to do this… they’re already playing catchup and by then they’ll be completely irrelevant

  • Marja

    Like Darren, I also couldn’t agree more!  It takes way too many clicks to do something simple, like see a larger version.  Whenever I go there looking for random things, I cringe a little inside because if anything there piques my interest, I’m gonna have to work for it.

  • Dave

     And you could visit the exhibition by horseback.

  • Anatole Klapouch

    flickr, 500px… I like deviantart.

  • Matt

    Ya, Yahoo is going down hill and taking good things with it.  As soon as Scottt Thompson was appointed CEO I knew it was over.

  • mugget man

    I dunno, Flickr is still great for me. I have all my (good) photos up there as an online backup as well. I am not running to Facebook to share my photos, that’s for more personal stuff. It would be really difficult to get the same kind of exposure for your photos on FB.