Flickr going back to its old subscription model

How­ev­er for free users this will mean that pho­tos will be delet­ed.

Back in April, Flickr was acquired from Yahoo by Smug­mug, this rep­re­sents a major change in direc­tion for Flickr under them than Yahoo, and a return to Flickrs sub­scrip­tion based roots. Orig­i­nal­ly, Flickr would let you upload 200 pho­tos on free accounts, then if you uploaded more the old­est ones would be hid­den from the pho­to stream view, but still be vis­i­ble if you had the direct link. This changed when Marisa May­er came to Yahoo, with free accounts gain­ing 1TB of space and essen­tial­ly most of the fea­tures of pro, just with adver­tis­ing. Now that Flickr is no longer part of an adver­tis­ing group, its return­ing to pri­mar­i­ly being a rev­enue sub­scrip­tion site. There is a big major change though, in that after the most recent 1000 pho­tos, new uploads will be stopped and old­er pho­tos will be delet­ed. This comes into force in Jan­u­ary.

From Flickrs announce­ment:

Begin­ning Jan­u­ary 8, 2019, Free accounts will be lim­it­ed to 1,000 pho­tos and videos. If you need unlim­it­ed stor­age, you’ll need to upgrade to Flickr Pro.

In 2013, Yahoo lost sight of what makes Flickr tru­ly spe­cial and respond­ed to a chang­ing land­scape in online pho­to shar­ing by giv­ing every Flickr user a stag­ger­ing ter­abyte of free stor­age. This, and numer­ous relat­ed changes to the Flickr prod­uct dur­ing that time, had strong­ly neg­a­tive con­se­quences.

This has quite a few major impli­ca­tions. There are quite a lot of ‘inac­tive’ Flickr accounts which where set up by many projects and organ­i­sa­tions when hav­ing a Flickr account was seen as one of the major social media places to have activ­i­ty. This means a lot of the doc­u­men­ta­tion and not just mar­ket­ing of these projects set up in late 2000’s and ear­ly 2010’s, includ­ing many civic tech and com­mu­ni­ties I was involved in, face the prospect of hav­ing there online pub­lic fac­ing archives delet­ed unless they pay for pro or have moved them to some­thing alter­na­tive.

This meant that if I had not found a spon­sor, this would have meant the loss of the pub­lic archive for The Tree­house Gallery, The ear­ly parts of the regen­er­a­tion of Brix­ton Vil­lage Mar­ket, and the first years of West Nor­wood Feast. Thanks go to Dougald Hine for step­ping in to keep this account until I work out an alter­na­tive.

This also rais­es con­cern for the huge archive of Cre­ative Com­mons con­tent that is part of Flickr, once the largest CC Pho­to store. The pub­lic ‘The Com­mons’ accounts have been exempt­ed, and there are on going dis­cus­sions with Cre­ative Com­mons about how best to pre­serve the CC pho­tos that Flickr hosts.

Final­ly, there is what hap­pens to pho­tos from accounts of peo­ple who have died? If the fam­i­ly doesn’t have con­trol then those pho­tos which may be trea­sured mem­o­ries that aunt avail­able else­where will also face dele­tion. This has come up a lot in the past with ‘What hap­pens to your data when you die.’ I hope pro­ce­dure is in place for fam­i­lies caught in this sit­u­a­tion to be able to down­load all their pho­tos.

Flickr is doing this because they are no longer part of the big adver­tis­ing behe­moth Yahoo, now part of Oath. Whilst that does mean less annoy­ing cook­ie warn­ing pop­ups and hav­ing to opt out of hun­dreds of adver­tis­ing part­ners. It also means that Flickr has to pay its way and by the same token, Flickrs users. Flickr is not a char­i­ty and the bills have to be paid, the expec­ta­tion that host­ing was cheap and not worth pay­ing for was high­light­ed in the announce­ment. How­ev­er this could have been bet­ter han­dled know­ing how much archive mate­r­i­al has been entrust­ed to them.

In any case, if you haven’t already and don’t have your pho­tos backed up in anoth­er way, you should request and down­load your pho­to archive. Then its time to con­sid­er if it is worth con­tin­u­ing to pay for the pro Flickr account or find an alter­na­tive host­ing solu­tion for your pho­tos. Its also worth not­ing that back in May, the dis­count price for grand­fa­thered Flickr Pro accounts was removed so now the renew­al will be $50 not $25.

I do wish Flickr luck, and hope it grows back into an active com­mu­ni­ty again once more. Its been a while since I myself have pub­lished any­thing more than a few auto posts from else­where, which is some­thing Flickr them­selves would rather avoid.

Update : Flickr have now con­firmed Cre­ative Com­mons Licensed pho­tos uploaded before Novem­ber 1st 2018 will not be delet­ed, though those free accounts won’t be able to upload new pho­tos if they are above the 1000 lim­it. Its also pos­si­ble for non prof­it organ­i­sa­tions to request free pro accounts.

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