The return of Flickr?

In what seems to be good news for Flickr users, Smugmug are reported to have bought the venerable photo sharing platform.

A brief trawl through the internet reveals mixed fortunes in the story of this web institution. In recent years Flickr has been abandoned by some enthusiasts in favour of platforms like 500px or simply outshone by the rise of Instagram. But it’s still here and hopefully Flickr is about to see some new life.

I have used Flickr for a while but there have been seasons where I’ve focussed elsewhere. On a recent return to the iOS app, I found that finally the communities chat from groups is now easily viewed. The communities discussion is for me a top feature and previously was not viewable in the app. Another addition to the app is the ability to post an image in multiple groups simultaneously. I have no idea why this was not possible before.

Those user friendly changes were made while owned by Verizon and hopefully things will keep getting better. But what features would you want in a redeveloped Flickr?

Personally I’d prefer them not to continue to compete with Instagram. But that’s a huge challenge. How do you make a successful photo-sharing service without competing with other market leaders? I like Instagram but for me competing with them is a race to the bottom. A race to appeal by encouraging phone photography, filters, adverts and product placement.

The things I like about Flickr are also the most infuriating and least widely appealing. For example, I want to know about exif details; camera and settings etc. Flickr encourages such sharing. Instagram is not interested. They do not make such data public and may well remove them from the image.

This all probably makes Flickr more geeky and a little more elitist. Instagram, in contrast, has always been more encouraging, less critical and more vibrant. Yet, it is to Flickr not instagram I would turn for advice about photography. And it’s also usually Flickr I use to investigate a future holiday destination. Because on Flickr you’ll generally see fewer products and selfies and more actual landscapes.

I don’t envy Smugmug this challenge of making Flickr viable, appealing yet distinct and niche. But I do look forward to what they come up with.