“Flick” This Controversy

It’s certainly been a couple of bad days for Flickr and Yahoo!. First on 30 January 2007, Flickr made a couple of very unpopular announcements. Here’s the full-text of those announcements.

30th January, 2007

A pair of items for your attention:

1. In our ongoing efforts to Make Flickr Better®, we’re introducing two additional limits: the new maximum number of contacts is 3,000 contacts (good luck with that), and each photo on Flickr can have a maximum of 75 tags.

We love your freedom, but, in this particular case, limiting these things will actually improve the system performance, making pages load faster across the site for everyone and cut out some unwelcome spammy behaviors. Both of these new limits apply equally to free and pro account members.

If you have questions or comments about these changes, we’ve opened a topic in Flickr Help.

2. On March 15th, 2007 we’ll be discontinuing the old email-based Flickr sign in system. From that point on, everyone will have to use a Yahoo! ID to sign in to Flickr.

We’re making this change now to simplify the sign in process in advance of several large projects launching this year, but some Flickr features and tools already require Yahoo! IDs for sign in — like the mobile site at m.flickr.com or the new Yahoo! Go program for mobiles, available at http://go.yahoo.com.

If you still sign in using the email-based Flickr system (here), you can make the switch at any time in the next few months, from today till the 15th. (After that day, you’ll be required to merge before you continue using your account.) To switch, start at this page: http://flickr.com/account/associate/

Complete details and answers to most common questions are available here: http://flickr.com/help/signin/

If you have questions or comments about signing in with a Yahoo! ID, speak up!

Then Yahoo! decided to start using pictures posted to Flickr for their new Wii portal. As near as I can tell no announcement was made about this; they just started doing it.

To many these things seem petty an unimportant but it’s caused quite the uproar in the Flickr community and said uproar is bleeding over onto other sites (e.g. Digg). Are these things really worth all the anger spilling out? It’s all a matter of perspective. The new limitations on contacts and tags aren’t anything I forsee as causing me problems. I don’t have anywhere near that many contacts and cannot imagine having them. As for 75 tags, that seems like it would take an obsessive amount of work to get that many tags on a photo.

Since that’s more of a none issue let’s move on to one causing a much bigger stink, the forced merger of people’s Flickr & Yahoo accounts. For those unfamiliar, Flickr used to be a separate company. Back in those days one could sign up with Flickr using nothing more than an email address1. Signing up with Yahoo! requires considerably more detailed personal information. This by itself is enough to cause some people to be very nervous about merging their accounts. There have also been reports about people having problems merging their accounts and concerns about how Flickr/Yahoo! will handle some people having multiple Flickr accounts. Especially since Yahoo! has a habit of deleting accounts they think are inactive if you don’t log in frequentally enough. It’s a lot to take in and many of the “Old Skool”2 Flickr users aren’t happy about it. While I do have a Yahoo! account, I’ve yet to merge my Flickr account with it. I liked having them separate, but very soon I won’t have any choice. While I sympathize with the Old Skoolers, I’ll be combing my accounts before the deadline and find the excitement over this issue to be more than a bit overblown.

The last issue is probably the most interesting as from a quick reading of Flickr’s TOS and an immediately small knowledge of copyright law; this seems like a sticky widget of a situation. According to Flickr’s TOS, any images pulled from Flickr must link directly back to that photo on Flickr. What Yahoo! did with their Wii Portal is to take thumbnails and initially link to a secondary page before linking back to the original photo on Flickr. Plus, Yahoo! was originally just grabbing any photo on Flickr tagged with Wii. This included photos marked as © All Rights Reversed and photos marked with Creative Commons licenses forbidding commercial use. This angered even more of the Flickr community and Yahoo! did eventually change their Wii portal to only grab photos with appropriate licenses.

Personally, I any one of these issues would be enough to stir up a hornet’s nest of trouble within the Flickr community. But having all of them happen so close on top of one another was enough to really get some people’s blood boiling. Will I be abandoning Flickr over all this? No, I like the community too much and I still plan on integrating this gallery on this site more into Flickr. However I will be keeping a much closer eye on where Yahoo! takes Flickr as we move on into the new year.

1 For the free accounts anyway.
2 This is what some of the Flickr users who signed up in the pre-Yahoo! days call themselves. For the record, I also signed up (for a free account) in those days and I don’t consider myself an Old Skool user.

2 Comments

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My first reaction was: What the hell is a Flickr?

My next reaction was: I don’t understand the big deal. Is it that things aren’t staying the same, and people on the web tend to be very conservative?

I don’t get it. In the old days, we used to store our photos on ROCKS, and WE LIKED IT!

1. Flickr is the best photosharing website there is. The main thing making it the best is the community. It is also where I’ve been posting more of my photos; which you can see here.

2. Pretty much. The people most offended by these changes have my sympathies but I tend to view the controversy as mostly nonsense. For those photos which got pulled over to Yahoo!’s Wii Portal, there could be a legal/copyright issue. However the only way I can see those people who’s photos which were used and were not licensed for said use getting any kind of remedy out of Yahoo! is to sue them. And if they sue Yahoo!, I’m sure Yahoo! would kill their accounts. So they’re screwed if they fight for their rights and screwed if they don’t (because if you don’t defend your copyrights you can lose them).

3. Most people don’t get it either, so don’t feel alone.

4. Wow! You had mobile photos with those rocks. In my olden days, we had cave walls. *grin*

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