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.
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.