at Flickr’s 4th birthday party in San Francisco, March 2008
The internet 10 years ago was an entirely different space than what we’re used to now. The big players were AOL, AskJeeves, and MSN Messenger — can you believe it? 10 years as a user of any website is like 50 human years… or something like that. A really long time. Services come and go, gain popularity and fizzle out of the public consciousness in no time, only to be replaced by yet another service. 10 years ago I remember setting up my first gmail account, which was only by invitation back then, and then giving out invites to other people. I remember people trying to auction invites on eBay!
Another major web player that took a big hit to the solar plexus over the years is Yahoo, which bought the photo-sharing service Flickr in March 2005 from the founding company, Ludicorp, a Vancouver software company that was building an online game. At that time I was living partly in Vancouver, which is how I ended up at the going-away party. Flickr was still developing its service, and Yahoo’s purchase caused such a ruckus amongst the anti-Yahoo crowd that people wondered whether Flickr would survive the inevitable changes. By this time, Flickr had built up the community features (comments, groups, contacts) to the point where people became very invested not only in its photo-sharing features, but its value as a social network.
with Flickr founders Caterina and Stewart, May 2005 (Flickr’s Going-Away Party, Vancouver)
Through Flickr I’ve made both real-life friends and online friends, and met a ton of people. I cannot say for sure how many, but it was at least a hundred people between all the places where I met up with Flickr users (Vancouver, New York, Paris, San Francisco, and more). I happened to be in San Francisco for Flickr’s 4th birthday party in March 2008, and the last Flickr meetup I attended was a couple of months later in Toronto. Some were serious photographers, most were hobby photographers, some went from hobbyist to professional in just a few years. I saw a bunch of people become very famous through Flickr and were offered commercial opportunities for their work.
It’s quite amazing to track all the changes in photography over the years and the changes in people’s lives through the images they upload. In 10 years of uploading I’ve now got more than 35,000 photos on Flickr’s servers and although the latest ones are far better quality, I still enjoy wandering through the archives and seeing more than a decade of my own life via pictures.
Two years ago I wrote about my 8th Anniversary on Flickr, including my first pictures which were uploaded months after I joined (June 2004). Today I had a look at my archives and stats to see which pictures have been viewed the most, and they’ve been the same for years and years, which leads me to thinking the stats feature is broken, but nevermind. It’s a curious list — all of these pictures were uploaded between 2004 and January 2007, except for the cake picture which was uploaded in January 2009. I’ve uploaded at least 10,000 photos since then!
Anyway, numbers aside, the reason why I continue to use Flickr is this: All Rights Reserved, by default. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, the ownership of the photo belongs to the photographer, not the service. There are other reasons I prefer Flickr, but that’s the big one, and the tools I use for it (eg., Lightroom plugins). I’ve used other services like 500px, but they have their downsides, too. Most of my blog links to Flickr because it kept the domain bandwidth usage low for years, but it’s less of an issue now. Now, it’s a matter of finding files, and it’s much easier to find things if I have them in one place. With 35,000+ images stored in servers with tags and metadata, searching by tag makes it faster to dig through the archives.
At the end of the day, using multiple services is time-consuming and everyone wants their workflow to be as short as possible. 10 years on, so many things have changed and online services have become more competitive, which is good for the consumer. But the caveat is that the features must be over and above what’s already available — a user simply isn’t going to move a huge archive to another service unless there are major advantages and incentives on the other side. So far, I haven’t seen enough reasons to move (yet) and disrupt this entire site by breaking the image links and hyperlinks. The amount of work involved to repost the images doesn’t even bear thinking about, unless I want nightmares. I’m hosting more photos on my domain’s servers these days but the albums are large, so I keep them in Flickr (which has unlimited storage).
I doubt there are many of us super-early Flickr users around, still uploading at the same rate as the beginning, 10 years ago. The internet is a fickle place. Or rather, internet users are a fickle bunch. I’ve been on Twitter for over five years and even I’m surprised it’s been that long. After a 10-year relationship with Flickr, they should be buying me a tin anniversary ring on Etsy!