Flickr Turns 20 Years Old Today

Flickr Turns 20

Flickr is celebrating its 20th anniversary. From the early days of the internet through to today, the photo-sharing site that is now home to everyone from amateur photographers through NASA has certainly come a long way.

Flickr founders Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield didn’t set out to make a revolutionary photo community twenty years ago, the company says as it looks back at its history. No, the two were trying to make a community-focused online game. But the Internet had other plans and one aspect of their work took on a life of its own.

“It was the right tool at the right place at the right time,” says George Oates, an early Flickr designer and current head of the nonprofit Flickr Foundation.

“People were building blogs, social media sites, and whole online identities. These all leaned heavily on digital photography. And unlike other photo sites of the time that tried to replicate physical photo albums, Flickr was built from the ground up as a new, digital way to experience and connect through photography.”

From “20 Years of Significant Moments in Flickr’s Development” on Flickr | Flickr

A lot has changed since its inception on February 10, 2004. Through the years the site has evolved and added new features, but Flickr didn’t make it to 20 without a few bumps in the road. After first being bought by Yahoo, being sold off to Verizon for $4.83 billion in 2016 (that deal closed in 2017), Flickr found itself facing the threat of closure in 2018. Unwilling to let the site die, SmugMug acquired the website for an undisclosed price.

“Flickr is core to the entire fabric of the internet,” SmugMug and Flickr COO Ben MacAskill says. “There are billions of photos, millions of users, and countless memories on there. There was no way we, as a fixture of the photography industry, could let all of that just… vanish. It would go against everything we stand for as a company and would be a massive loss for humanity. So, we bought Flickr. And today it’s stronger than ever.”

SmugMug says the once-in-doubt platform now boasts tens of billions of photos, millions of users, and over 100 thousand groups spanning every photographic interest imaginable. Flickr also maintains thriving relationships with museums, universities, and government institutions such as the aforementioned NASA and the United States Library of Congress. The company also collaborates extensively with nonprofit and advocacy groups, most recently partnering with the Conservation Alliance on their Mobilizing for Monuments project.

“Photos have the power to change the world,” Alex Seville, Head of Flickr, says. “The stories and experiences that get shared every day on Flickr are downright magical. They represent beautiful memories, growing creativity and artistry, and communities that deserve to have their stories heard. At Flickr, we’re making that vision a reality. And we’re only getting started.”

Celebrate with the Flickr team by checking out the company’s 20 Years of Significant Moments in Flickr’s Development blog post and also check out what the site has planned ahead for 2024.