Come August, I will have had my Flickr Pro account for 10 years. I originally signed up sometime in 2005, but it took a while before I was convinced to part with my hard earned cash for a paid account. A decade, 15,000 photos and over 1 million views later, I consider that to have been a great decision. Money well spent. Flickr has had its ups and downs, but it remains, in my opinion, the best photo sharing/storeage site on the web.
Over the years, I’ve read countless premature obituaries by ‘internet photography experts’ declaring Flickr to be dead. Yet it’s still here and going strong. Rivals have come and gone but none have ever fully matched the feature set of Flickr, especially at their price point. As an old time Pro member, I get unlimited storage, can upload full resolution images, have the use of one of the most powerful organisers available on the net to arrange my snaps by set, tag and collection, an excellent mobile app and I can easily share them across social media. For this I pay just $25ish dollars a year. A bargain.
But Flickr does have a question mark over its future. It’s owned by Yahoo which has been in a fairly steady state of continual meltdown for years. I fear we are nearing cruch time for Yahoo, which begs the question – what of Flickr? I don’t think they will struggle to find a buyer. Who that buyer is and what sort of future they might envision for Flickr is something else though.
There are a few usual suspects, of course. Google for starters, who have a proven track record as serial buyers of web businesses. They also have an equally proven track record of sucking out the bits they want and then shutting the companies down. There’s also Facebook, who must already be the world’s biggest photo sharing website. But their native built-in app is frankly woeful. You could see why they might be interested.
Microsoft have an excellent range of office and productivity programs, including OneDrive, where you can store photos. But they’d benefit hugely from having a dedicated photography app. And then there’s Getty, who might well eye up Flickr’s vast library of excellent photography as a decent addition to their own stock. But I’d personally prefer a different owner for my beloved Flickr. There are three potential match-ups which I think make perfect sense, both from a business and user perspective.
The company behind the finest set of photo editing tools, Photoshop and Lightroom, periodically has a half hearted and half arsed attempt at building an online photo sharing presence. Purchasing Flickr would give them a ready to use and fit for purpose platform to build into their software programs as an optional add-on. Adobe, not so long ago, also launched a stock photography store. What better opportunity to add a huge library of shots to their shop front? Then there is also the opportunity to cross sell both Flickr and Photoshop/Lightroom with a new range of CC photography packages.
From a Flickr user point of view, Adobe could offer members a great deal. Aside from better integration through Lightroom (you can already link to Flickr from within Lightroom, but this could be done so much more slicky) and the opportunity to sell photos, Flickr has lacked a decent web editor since Picnic was bought by Google several years ago. Building in a Photoshop editing app would be a great benefit to many Flickrites.
Automattic already has a huge presence in the online publishing/hosting world with their hosted and self hosted WordPress products, aka WordPress.com and WordPress.org. It seems to me that expanding into photography publishing would be an obvious next step for them. Its’ s business they already know well – this would simply be images rather than words.
There would be the opportunities to monetise the site through a range of upgrades and/or Pro memberships as well as the potential for turning Flickr into one of the world’s biggest stock photo shops. They already have a huge captive audience for stock photography – WordPress users. Most authors like to use imagery to accompany their articles. It would be easy to integrate a Flickr stock shop into WordPress and generate a steady source of new revenue.
Flickr users could benefit if Automattic sprinkle some of their WordPress magic on the site. I’m thinking of two Flickr variants – Flickr.com and and a new self hosted Flickr.org version. Assorted themes and plugins should also freshen things up and make the site more lively again. Best of all, Automattic could offer the one thing that Flickrites crave most of all – stability and a certain future.
Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to the good old pre-Yahoo days when Flickr was an independent company free to develop the site with the sole consideration being to make the best possible product for photographers? In theory, yes. I suspect that a management buyout would appeal to many Flickr users, but such a move does come with many challenges. Financing the buyout is the first hurdle, and doing so in a way that doesn’t saddle the company with unsustainable debt. Could a Kickstarter type campaign work for them? I don’t know the answer to that question. Having the finances to weather storms is important, but other photosharing sites, such as Smugmug, have shown it is possible.
But there are clear benefits to a site having an independent, talented and dedicated team of photography enthusiasts at the helm, committed to bringing new, innovative developments to the site. Hopefully they could also add some much needed focus to the community that exists in the groups. An independent Flickr would, in my opinion, be in a weaker position that either Adobe or Automattic to develop Flickr as a stock photography shop, but that’s not to say it couldn’t be done and if it were successfully implemented then that could become the revenue source that makes a success of the company.