Good bye Flickr. So long, and thanks for hosting all my photos (or why I left Flickr)

Sep 17, 2016

James Ingles

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Good bye Flickr. So long, and thanks for hosting all my photos (or why I left Flickr)

Sep 17, 2016

James Ingles

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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Nine years, that’s how long I have been a Flickr user for and I have always found the service to be fairly good value. I like the way Flickr looks and how it presents my photos, I like the fact that I can use the Flickr App to share and show my photos to people on my phone when I’m out and about, I like that I can join groups, and I like that I can post photos to these groups. Flickr isn’t perfect but I believe it’s still pretty good and it’s better than some other hosted photo sharing services.

I have never had any reason to dislike Flickr enough to want to find an alternative since I have never really taken my photography seriously. However I have plenty of reasons to stop using Flickr now that I take my photography more seriously and Flickr has been acquired by Verizon. And it seems I’m not the only one who thinks it’s time to give up on Flickr.

Flickr’s future has always been fairly bleak since it’s acquisition by Yahoo who subsequently killed Flickr and lost the internet. Flickr did get marginally better after Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer announced that Yahoo was going to make Flickr awesome again. But the redesign was more of a diversion tactic to distract people from a bigger change: the change Yahoo made to it’s business model which, as Derek Powazek puts it in his PC Worldarticle about Flickrs relaunch, was to “overprice its ad-free and paid memberships in order to force more people to see more ads”. But why would you want to provide worse value for money to paying subscribers? There is one simple answer: money. Because selling ads and forcing people who don’t pay for add-free subscriptions to see those ads by inserting them in their photo streams would earn Yahoo more money than it would otherwise earn from people paying to not see the ads. Anyway that doesn’t matter now that Verizon has acquired Flickr. I really doubt that things are going to get any better for Flickr or it’s users. In fact I think that Verizon is going to be more detrimental to Flicker and it’s users than Yahoo ever was. I hope I am wrong and only time will tell but I’m not about to stick around to find out.

In the mean time I don’t expect anything to happen with Flickr until later in the new year when the acquisition is due to be completed. However anything could happen between now and then including the deal falling through which is possible but unlikely. Flickr really is being sold to Verizon.

Even once the deal is complete I don’t expect that Flickr will disappear any time soon or even at all. I believe that the Flickr service is just going to go from bad to worse in the hands of a corporation that can’t be trusted to do the right thing given it’s history of being a complete and total pain in the neck to it’s customers and employees.

You don’t need to look hard for examples of Verizon’s bad behaviour, which includes but is not limited to; Taking Away Your Right To Sue, Trying to sell app installations on its customers phones, waging war on it’s employees prompting 40,000 workers to walk off their job, opposing netneutrality rules and suing anyone who gets in their way of destroying or at least watering down netneutrality rules. It’s not hard to find unhappy Verizon customers. On one consumer affairs web site there are over three and a half thousand complaints about their mobile phone service, just one of the services that Verizon provides, the same site lists almost two thousand complaints about Verizons FiOS service. Then there was that time that Verizon told a customer to get a lawyer and subpoena if you want that itemised bill. Don’t get me started on Verizons sneaky use of perma-cookies. Not only does Verizon rip off it’s customers is even rips off entire cities and states. Shall I keep going? It’s little wonder why Verizon got to the quarter finals in the Consumerist’s worst company awards. It’s clear that Verizon is without a doubt a thoroughly abhorrent and reprehensible company that people absolutely detest and it’s one reason I am ceasing my use of Flickr. I don’t want to support such an atrocious company by using any of it’s services.

Another reason I’m leaving Flicker to self host my own images is because I have more than a few issues with hosted services which boil down to freedom. I want full control of my own images, data, rights, and the freedom to administer my site in whichever way I see fit.

A little less than two years ago Yahoo decided that it was going to sell wall prints of photos made by it’s users that were licensed under the Creative Commons “commercial attribution” licence and that it was going to keep 100% of the profits made. While the move wasn’t illegal Yahoo still coped a lot of flack so much so that Yahoo decided to scrap the plan about two weeks later. While the whole controversy didn’t affect me, since I had decided to retain all rights to my photos, it did get me thinking: what happens if in the future Verizon decides to do something similar with Flickr that does affect me? I don’t want someone else using my images to make a profit, if anyone is going to make a profit using my photos it will be me. I’m the one that put the effort in to creating the photos ergo I should be the one to reap the rewards, including monetary rewards, for my efforts. Should Verizon try anything similar with Flickr I wouldn’t have many options. I could hope that the decision sparks enough outrage that they decide to reverse their decision, but I doubt it given how unscrupulous Verizon is. I could remove all of my photos and delete my account. Or I could self host my own photos.

If the service is free then you are the service. This is true of Flicker, as it is with almost every other hosted service provider. Even if Flickr doesn’t sell my images to make a profit they are still using my data to make a profit by placing ads amongst my photos which is generating them revenue. The ads weren’t a problem when I didn’t take my photography seriously, but now I’m taking my photography more seriously the ads are a problem. Not only do I take issue with Yahoo generating profit by placing ads amongst my photos I also have an issue with the way the ads look. At first glance some of the ads don’t even look like ads and could easily be mistaken for an uninspired photo. I don’t want someone to mistake an ad that uses a terrible photo as one of my photos. Flickr has the right to put ads where ever they want if they are providing a free service, and I have the right to stop using the service. Placing ads amongst my photos that are designed to not look like ads is just another nail in the coffin for Flickr.

Other issues I have with hosted services include having to abide by bullshit arbitrary and arcane rules or risk being censored like Facebook has done in the past to Australian-based birth photographer Angela Gallo, because apparently birth photography is a type of porn. Then there was that time when Instagram (who’s owned by Facebook) censored a photo by Petra Collins by deleting her account. Most recently Facebook censored Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Nick Ut’s “The Terror of War”, otherwise known and referred to less tastefully as ‘Napalm Girl’. Facebooks reason for censoring the photo? It contained nudity which is a violation of it’s community standards. The move shows that Facebook doesn’t care about photography or photographers and that it knows nothing about the image it censored. If Facebook did know that Nick Ut’s image “The Terror of War” is a historically important and iconic image that has changed history and changed modern warfare would they have still censored it? Facebook has since reversed it’s decision but only after coping a lot of deserved criticism for it’s incredibly poor judgement, including criticism from Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg who herself was censored by Facebook. Those examples are just the tip of the iceberg, there are a lot more examples of social networks censoring people sometimes for no reason at all. I doubt any of my photos would ever be censored but I still don’t want to risk being subject to such bullshit censorship decisions and practices. I refuse to support and use any service provider that censors photographers.

Also of concern is the chance that any hosted service could be acquired, shut down (like what happened to many failed businesses and startup flops during the dot.com boom and subsequent bust), or both like what happened to Picturelife. What happens if I choose to use a hosted service that subsequently shuts down? Maybe I might get lucky like how Picturelife users got lucky when their photos were saved by SmugMug. However if I don’t get so lucky I’d have to find another hosting provider, re-upload, and organise my images. Depending on how many images I have shared that could be quite a lot of work, work that takes time, time that I would rather spend making photos or doing something more productive. Luck isn’t something I want to rely on. I want to be in total control of my photos.

Another issue I have with hosted service providers is that they can change the service at any time, they can add features, remove features, change pricing, and generally do what ever they want with their service. A hosted service provider might think they know what features I need and want but they really don’t. I don’t want a hosted service to decide what features I need or don’t need and to grant or revoke those features as they see fit like howInstagram is retiring the ‘photo maps’ feature from it’s service because hardly anyone uses it. Sure hardly anyone uses the ‘photo maps’ feature but some people still do use it. Sucks to be someone that uses the ‘photo maps’ feature. I also don’t want to pay for a service that has the features that I want just to have the service provider raise the price like whatNetflix has done in the past. Getting a bunch of people hooked on something then increasing the price is a dirty and indefensible tactic. If the web host I use to host my own site increases it’s prices or removes a feature that I need and use then I’ll simply find a better value hosting service or a hosting service that offers the features that I need. It’s easier to migrate a web site from one host to another than it is to find another hosted service to share my images.

Security is another reason I would rather host my own images. I don’t want to risk my security with a hosted service provider. A large service provider is an attractive target for hackers, the more people that use the service the more attractive it is to hackers. Hacks happen every day and a lot of companies won’t even tell you if they have been hacked which just compounds the problem. If a service I use gets hacked and that service provider doesn’t inform me that it was hacked then I can’t change my password to secure my account from people who would use it for nefarious purposes. Security is always an afterthought for any large service provider, they don’t care as much about security as they do about making money.

Self hosting doesn’t come without it’s own set of risks and challenges, and it isn’t going to eliminate every problem or risk I face, whether it’s real or perceived, with using a hosted service but it at least greatly reduces those problems and risks. It also gives me more freedom and control over my creative vision.

Sure there are advantages to using a hosted photo service, like not having to worry about the security and upkeep of a web site, or worrying about your site slowing down, crashing, or exceeding your allocated bandwidth (unless you have unlimited bandwidth) should a photo on your site happen to go viral or your site receives an unusually large amount of traffic for whatever reason. But for myself the disadvantages of using a hosted service provider far outweigh any advantages they provide.

What it comes down to is at the end of the day a service provider is there to make money, and as long as it makes money then it really doesn’t care about it’s users. Yahoo proved this when it acquired Flicker back in 2005 and I would be surprised if Verizon doesn’t prove me right. The only person that really cares about my photography is myself, only I will act in my own best interest not some service provider who is out to make money at any cost.

And that is why I have chosen to stop using Flickr in favour of self hosting my own photos.

Good bye Flickr and good luck, you will need it, with your new corporate overlords.

About The Author

James Ingles, (Jingles for short), is a street photographer based in Melbourne, Australia. You can see more of his work on his site and get in touch via Ello, Pinterest, or YouTube. You can also hit him up on Patreon. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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37 responses to “Good bye Flickr. So long, and thanks for hosting all my photos (or why I left Flickr)”

  1. Todd Klassy Avatar
    Todd Klassy

    All you need to know. Flickr vs. Instagram on Google Trends. Of course Thomas Hawk says things have never been better at Flickr, so what do we know.

    1. Gvido Mūrnieks Avatar
      Gvido Mūrnieks

      Comparing flickr and instagram is like comparing sports car and a tractor. Different tools for different works.
      Instagram is a social network, that is used to get following and grow e-penis for collecting likes. Flickr now is for sharing and storing maximum quality images.

      1. Jingles Avatar
        Jingles

        I don’t think so. Both are social networks. Both feature likes, comments, followers etc… for growing that e-penis. The only difference between the two is that one is more popular than the other, or to use your analogy Flickr is the busted old tractor and Instagram is the cool new sports car.

        1. Florent Bouckenooghe Avatar
          Florent Bouckenooghe

          a really small car…

        2. Scott Hampton Avatar
          Scott Hampton

          It’s been a while since I’ve used Flickr (a former Pro customer), however I remember some major differences between the two platforms. One is the interaction level (with Groups, for instance) that Flickr offers, another is the flexibility Flickr offers (metadata, storage, image size…). Instagram is the star these days. I’m not fond of them (even though I have an account), especially with Facebook owning them now. Each platform has merits, it’s up to the user to get the most mileage of the one they choose.

        3. Gvido Mūrnieks Avatar
          Gvido Mūrnieks

          Personally, I don’t see flickr as social portal, but image sharing platform. For example, I use flickr for sharing photo reports from concerts. My workflow is something like this: #1 after shooting concert – I edit photos and upload them to flickr as album ASAP.
          #2 share the album on facebook.
          #3 go to sleep.
          #4 wake up in the morning and have a cup of coffee.
          #5 with fresh eyes I re-edit and retouch photos.
          #6 replace original photos with final edits on flickr.
          This workflow makes sure, tha I am the first one sharing photos on social media and still have the option updating photos without deleting original URLs and shares.
          …so, can you do something similar on instagram? :D
          basically, when I have to work on a field – I rather chose beated up old tractor rather than sports car. ;p

      2. Todd Klassy Avatar
        Todd Klassy

        Flickr was arguably the FIRST social media platform. Yahoo, however, squandered that first salvo and did nothing with it. They also share something else in common (or did) that is important to me as a professional photographer. They are go to places for advertisers and art buyers. So now days if you want an ad agency, for example, to find you and buy your work you need to be on Instagram unfortunately. And less and less they are paying attention to Flickr. Flickr used to be something great. Now it is a shell of its former self.

        1. Gvido Mūrnieks Avatar
          Gvido Mūrnieks

          Yes – Flickr was a social portal(and still is to some extent) that once was more popular than it currently is. But that doesn’t take away the fact that form functionality side it is nothing like Instagram. And dismissing Flickr’s superior, functionality just because it is less popular than Instagram, is just plain stupid.

          Now, I totally agree with the fact, that for photographer Instagram is important advertising tool, just like Facebook. But at the same time – using Instagram and Facebook for archiving purposes isn’t even close to good. For this – there is nothing better than personal website or Flickr…

          1. Todd Klassy Avatar
            Todd Klassy

            Superior functionality? The whole damn site is flaky as hell. To load an album or photo search sometimes I need to refresh my screen 2 or 3 times. The whole website is a mess. And Flickr’s days are numbered.

          2. Vanitas Foto Avatar
            Vanitas Foto

            That never happened to me at all… could be that you have problems with your browser?

          3. Todd Klassy Avatar
            Todd Klassy

            No, it is a result of designing the website for those who have uber fast connections. Most of the world still does not have > 7 Mbps Internet service. Those of us who live in the world of ~3 Mbps deal with these issues all of the time with Flickr.

      3. Todd Klassy Avatar
        Todd Klassy

        Never said it should be used for archiving.

    2. Vanitas Foto Avatar
      Vanitas Foto

      Well unless Instagram has its groups with forums (as an example like the Strobist flickr forum) I don’t see how it is the same…

      Instagram is limited compared to what flickr offers in terms of interaction with other people.

      If you want an Ad Agency to notice you, you don’t need instagram, you need to send them a solid portfolio, I know this because I do have a constant stream of work with many ad and model agencies and I don’t have an instagram account, go figure…

      1. Todd Klassy Avatar
        Todd Klassy

        Stock photography sales, dude. Not assignment work.

  • Sean Avatar
    Sean

    Strange that I’ve been a Verizon customer for nearly 10 years and have never had a complaint about anything but the cost. But I live with that because I’ve been with the others and they sucked horribly. Yes, Verizon is not your friendly neighbor but hey, as long as I get what I’m paying for don’t care. As for flickr…stopped using it when Yahoo took it over. I still have images out there but don’t add to them. Got a dozen other options that are better. And yes, I do think Verizon will make it even worse. BUT, you don’t know what you are getting yourself into by being self-hosted. I can tell you from the perspective of someone whose been in the hosting and datacenter business for a long time….it’s expensive and time consuming to do it yourself. And unless you plan on running a server out of your home you will still be at the mercy of a hosting service.

    1. Jingles Avatar
      Jingles

      G’day Sean, it seems that all communications providers suck and that we just have to choose which one sucks the least. Here in Aus we have our share of terrible communications providers like Telstra.

      What better options do you you use?

      Sure self hosting isn’t a perfect solution that will solve every problem but it is certainly a lot better than using a free hosted service. I have built web sites and have been blogging for many years and I know exactly what I’m getting into when I decide to pay a hosting provider for a service so I can self-hots my web site. Sure a hosting provider could still raise the price, cut features or disappear or be brought out but hosting providers are generally a lot more honorable than businesses that provide a free service who mine your data and abuse your privacy to turn a profit. At least with a hosting provider I know that they are a lot less likely to abuse my privacy (in my experience the worst any hosting provider has done is send me promotions and updates about the service) and data that I provide them because they don’t need to since I have paid them for the service. Like I said in the article if the service is free then you are the service.

      1. Sean Avatar
        Sean

        I’m not sure if your definition of self-hosted is the same as mine. My idea of “self-hosted” is that I own or lease the entire server and control all aspects of it from the OS down to the sites on it and the only think not in my control is the network it is connected through. Buying a hosting account and putting your images on a shared server is not really that much better than using a service like Flickr in terms of control. I ran a major hosting network for quite a while (30+ shared hosting servers and 1000 or so dedicated) and I would suggest that while you may not want to dish out for a dedicated (they are pricey) you should at least consider a VPS or similar. Shared hosting servers are at the whim of the 1000 other sites on that server in terms of security and reliability…and host.

        1. Jingles Avatar
          Jingles

          You are right, I think we do have a different definition of “self hosted”. I don’t have the money or time to self host in the way you are thinking of. If I wanted to could I? Yeah, but I’d rather spend the time making photos so a hosted service is a good solution for me.

          What do you mean when you say “Buying a hosting account and putting your images on a shared server is not really that much better than using a service like Flickr in terms of control.”? How is it not much better?

          It’s not just Flickr that I have an issue with, it’s hosted services in general. Another example is WordPress which I use for my blog. If I used a hosted WordPress.com solution then I’m limited to what themes and plugins I can use. But if I self host my own WordPress installation, even on a shared host, I have a lot more freedom and I can use any theme or plugin I want.

          I think we are conflating control with freedom. I don’t want to be able to control every aspect of my hosting solution right down to the OS. What I do want is the freedom to install software of my choosing like WordPress and Koken. I also like having the ability to hack the code behind the solutions that I use should I need or want to so I can change the way a solution looks or works. Even a shared host gives me this option as would a VPS or dedicated host.

          I understand that shared hosting isn’t the best option for some people (you wouldn’t use a shared host for something like Steam or Netflix) but for now it’s fine for my current needs and I can always migrate to a VPS or dedicated host should I need or want to.

          At the end of the day I want a solution that offers me more creative freedom than a hosted solution offers and even a shared host provides that.

  • Dogman Avatar
    Dogman

    I have no experience with Flickr or any other hosting site. I do have long experience as a Verizon customer and I can’t say anything bad about Verizon. Don’t get me started on AT&T though….

  • Juan Carlos Heredia Mayer Avatar
    Juan Carlos Heredia Mayer

    May I kindly ask, what plataform will you use to host your portfolio?

    1. Bjarne Varöystrand Avatar
      Bjarne Varöystrand

      Judging from what I could tell, he’s using Koken (http://koken.me | https://kokensupport.com)

      1. Jingles Avatar
        Jingles

        Hi Bjarne you are correct, I am using Koken. It’s still fairly new and a bit buggy but it has great potential and I think it’s only going to get better with time.

        1. Juan Carlos Heredia Mayer Avatar
          Juan Carlos Heredia Mayer

          Thanks for your answer. Great article!

        2. Bjarne Varöystrand Avatar
          Bjarne Varöystrand

          Yep, it still contains “some bugs” but the work is progressing very much in the right direction :D
          And as you say, it sure has some great potential.

      2. Juan Carlos Heredia Mayer Avatar
        Juan Carlos Heredia Mayer

        Thanks for your answer Bjarne, BTW I saw your site too, and realize that you are using Koken too. You have a really outstanding work there.

        1. Bjarne Varöystrand Avatar
          Bjarne Varöystrand

          Thank you Juan! :D
          Yes I have been using it for the last 2 years now, and is fairly satisfied with it :D

      3. MastaBaba Avatar
        MastaBaba

        How is moving to Koken solving any of the issues related to using someone else’s platform?

        1. Bjarne Varöystrand Avatar
          Bjarne Varöystrand

          Koken is fully self hosted, so you are in control of most aspects of your site…

          1. MastaBaba Avatar
            MastaBaba

            I figured, but what happens when, for whatever reason, Koken stops being usable. How do you recreate all functionality?

          2. Bjarne Varöystrand Avatar
            Bjarne Varöystrand

            Well, in that case you’re on your own: as always with independent software development there is no guarantee that is will be usable “for ever”.
            And the same goes for any of the commercial solutions that is listed in the article.

            If you want to be on the safe side, you need to develop your own solution, or fall back to the “good old” plain HTML solutions where you maintain everything “by hand”.

          3. MastaBaba Avatar
            MastaBaba

            Naturally, but then, using Koken is not all that different from using Flickr.

          4. Bjarne Varöystrand Avatar
            Bjarne Varöystrand

            Ofcource not, both will “handle” the photos for you and display them for your visitors.

            The difference is that with Koken, you are in charge and has total control over your images.

            Hosting your photos with Flickr and there likes will always be more limited when it comes to layout and stuff like that.

            Bot solutions has it’s downsides as well as strengths, no doubts.
            And what you choose is totally up to your own preferences and what you aim for.

  • Rich Avatar
    Rich

    I retired after over forty years as an employee, starting with Bell and ending with Verizon and I can’t argue with your thinking. There are employees there who care, but everything is driven by numbers, bean counters, and high level micro-managers that are out of touch with what happens on the ground floor where the actual work is being done. Of course when objectives aren’t met it’s the fault of the first line supervisors and their staff, never bad decisions and unrealistic goals that are impossible to meet.

  • Fotoinusgrobler Avatar
    Fotoinusgrobler

    My experience with Flickr is also not great. They have a lot of catching up to do if they want to compete with all of the other social media sites.

  • Kay O. Sweaver Avatar
    Kay O. Sweaver

    I’m seeing much more interesting content on Flickr than I am on Instagram or even 500px. The technical quality on 500px is amazing, but it all looks more or less the same. Lots of skill, but not much creativity. Content on Flickr is more raw, but I also see things that surprise, delight or shock me a lot more often.

    Part of it certainly has to do with the sorting algorithms, as well as the people I follow. I’ve curated myself quite the list of eclectic photographers on Flickr, whereas on Instagram and 500px I haven’t had nearly as much time to customize what kinds of things I follow.

    I do believe that at its peak, Flickr was better than anything we currently have in terms of photography sharing sites. It was very community oriented and had great interactivity while still prioritizing the photography. Yahoo really shit the bed when they took over, I don’t see how Verizon could do any worse.

  • Fedor Avatar
    Fedor

    Dear James, it’s offtopic, but please realize that it’s = it is.
    So when you type “the change Yahoo made to it’s business mode” it is the same as “the change Yahoo made to it is business mode” which does not make sense if you try to read it aloud. That’s why you have to type “the change Yahoo made to its business mode”. ITS is like mine or yours, IT’S is like I’m or you’re. Understanding this it what distinguishes us from Neanderthals, among other things. Not that’s there is anything wrong with Neanderthals.
    Best wishes, Fedor.

  • D C Avatar
    D C

    Me too, man. I’ve seen my work get upstaged constantly by out of focus crap from people with 20k friends. ENOUGH! 20k friends does not make you a great photographer.