Is It Worth Sticking With Flickr?

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Profile photo of Mark McGowan
I'm a UK based urban landscape and architectural photographer, looking for the hidden details of city life, trying to show the city from a different point of view. You can visit my website here.

Flickr is fast approaching it’s ten year birthday and has had over 8 billion photographs uploaded to it but in recent years it has been overtaken by services like 500px, Instagram and even Facebook when it comes to deciding where to share your photos on the web. It’s not so much that Flickr was offering a bad service, it was just offering almost the same service as when it started up.

After rumours that Yahoo! may be looking to let Flickr go or even close it down a new CEO, Marissa Mayer, was appointed mid-way through last year and things have started to change. So is it worth sticking with Flickr? Let’s look at the pros and cons…

The Pros of Sticking With Flickr

Explore – Flickr’s famous Explore has been given a complete re-vamp with a new ‘infinite scroll’ layout and a marked increase in the quality of the photo making Explore. Previously images as varied as Photoshop nightmares and acrylic nail displays were gaining acclaimed Explore status but the formula has been changed so that purer photography is pushed to the fore (maybe to imitiate some of the impact that 500px’s Popular and Editor’s Choice pages have had).

Flickr Explore

Contacts – The Contacts section has been given a similar redesign. The infinite scroll makes keeping up to date with your contact’s photos a lot easier and the mosaic arrangement is aesthetically appealing.

Mobile – A new iOs app was released late last year with a similar design feel to the Contacts and Explore improvements. Completely stripped down and rebuilt, it also introduced filters to compete with Instagram.

Flickr Mobile App

Free Stuff – Flickr offered existing Pro members three extra months subscription for free over Christmas. Everyone likes free stuff!

Community – Although the quality of images is higher on the likes of 500px, it’s the community aspect of Flickr that keeps me posting there. The other photo sharing sites do not have the same level of interaction that Flickr does and can sometimes revert to a comment/counter-comment culture. Flickr’s Groups are a great way to interact with people, anywhere from your own town or city to people from the other side of the world. I moderate a group for the city I live in that now has over 3,000 members and 70,000+ photos and have friends that I have met through Flickr.

The Cons That Need to Be Improved

User Interface – The general look of the front page and individual image pages, bar one or two tweaks, is virtually still the same as when it launched and looks very tired and dated. The user interface generally could do with sprucing up.

Flickr UI

Social Media Sharing – This point is tied into the one above. The social media options on Flickr look tagged on as an after thought, rather than fully integrated into the site. Flickr needs to positiion itself as the primary destination for photos to be uploaded to and then shared onwards – until the social media sharing has been revamped, this looks unlikely.

Groups – Although I’ve praised the community aspect of Flickr, Groups could definitely do with some work. It’s almost like a stand alone part of the site, with no notifications of replied to posts, new posts etc. You can subscribe to a group’s discussion threads via RSS but this is a too much of a catch all for bigger groups.

Manual Creation of Sets – Currently, without the use of third party apps such as SuprSetr, all sets on Flickr have to be created and modified manually. This is a minor point that ties in with a bigger one, a lot of the technology exists to improve Flickr but in third party applications and services. Splash the cash and Flickr could be improved immeasurably virtually overnight.

So it is worth sticking with Flickr? Personally, I think so. Given the strength of the existing community and hopefully what seems to be a rolling programme of improvements, it’s possible for Flickr to re-position itself as the primary destination for photo-sharing. A few improvements in key areas, especially the user interface and social media options would propel Flickr back to the top of the photo sharing tree.

6 thoughts on “Is It Worth Sticking With Flickr?

  1. Robert

    I like Flickr but I have to say the free 3 months was a sneaky way to opt you into auto renew upon agreeing to the “gift”.

  2. Dakota Visions Photography, LLC

    We have settled with blog, portfolio website, and social media including Google+ all integrated. Google+ provides improved SEO, the community aspect is much better, and there are many photography pages/ communities/ hangouts to choose from. Plus Google+ just added the ability to post full size photos. A well rounded strategy with many legs to the stool is much better than relying on one-site to do it all.

    1. Profile photo of Mark McGowanMark McGowan Post author

      Dakota – I agree it’s important to spread out your social media activity, what I was trying to ascertain here was whether Flickr was worth investing your time in still. Google+ seems to be the way forward for a lot of people, judging from the comments here.

  3. Chris

    I was an early adopter of flickr and had paid membership right up until 18 months ago.
    Why did I stop? I didn’t like the whole chasing of awards, my picture got more views than yours attitude and as you say, it felt outdated. My limited resources went instead to 500px which I think has shown me a wider variety of better photography while flickr felt like a home of the mediocre.
    I am using flickr more again these days, if it makes further improvements I may just throw some money at it too.

    1. Profile photo of Mark McGowanMark McGowan Post author

      Hi Chris – I’m not a big fan of the awards groups, I prefer constructive feedback to a shiny flashing GIF!

      For me, 500px attracts the photographer who is further along the learning curve – the enthusiast level and upwards say, whereas Flickr attracts everyone from the mobile phone shooters to world famous togs – horses for courses I suppose.

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