Over the last month, there’s been some interesting maneuvering going on in the photo-sharing community. Specifically, once-dominant Flickr, which had been stagnating in comparison to its made-for-smartphone rival, Instagram, has made a couple of moves likely to put it back into a dominant position in its genre.
First was the release of Flickr’s new app, which on its own was not that big a deal. After all, the availability of Flickr’s API has meant there have been dozens of decent apps out there for some time. But as it turns out, this one is a really good app, and it’s already been updated at least once, suggesting it will keep getting better. What does it do? Well, it takes what up to now would have required 3 or 4 separate apps and bundles it all into a single, well-organized and structured application that seems to cover all the bases in terms of what you’d want a photo sharing app to do. It lets you snap a picture, and then deftly walks you through a series of options. First, you can apply all of the basic editing options. Most free photo editing programs always seem to be missing one of the key tools but this app seems to cover it all. Then it offers you a nice collection of filters a-la Instagram, an interface to input all of the metatdata you’d normally expect, PLUS Flickr-relevant options – you can immediately drop it into sets, groups, etc. You can also connect the app to your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and email, so that when you click “upload” – the next step – it automatically goes to those at the same time.
In addition, you can take all the aforementioned effects, filters and other tools. and apply them to any photos you already have on your device. And the interface looks great. I admit I had a little trouble making everything work – for example, I couldn’t figure out how to access previously-taken photos – but as my daughter pointed out, these apps are designed for people who have grown up with iphones – it took her 10 seconds to figure it out. Once I got that, the rest was easy and intuitive.
But the interesting thing about this app is the timing of its release. Right as Flickr came out with its app, all of the fuss over Instagram’s change in terms of service hit the news. And I’m sure Flickr was suddenly besieged by new users who were seeking something that is “just like Instagram, but not Instagram.” Which is what this app seems to have turned Flickr into. I’d love to see the users of both services on a graph over the last six weeks.
Then someone over at Flickr had a stroke of genius, and they decided to send us all emails giving us three months of “pro” access to our Flickr accounts, so that all the new users (and some of us older ones) can get used to unlimited uploads, downloads, and viewing of our entire photo library. [One of the “free” Flickr’s more irritating restrictions is the fact that you can only see your last 200 photos – pro users get access to all of them.]
I expect there is a huge migration ongoing as we speak.
I actually think what Instagram is doing is pretty clever – after all, they’re storing all their users’ photos for free, they ought to get something out of it. And Instagram users themselves are sifting through the giant photo database, ensuring the best ones rise to the top, where Instagram can simply skim them for sale to marketers willing to pay big bucks. Where I think they missed the boat is in not finding a way to share revenue with the photographers. If you could make 5 or 10 percent on every photo Instagram sold on your behalf, it wouldn’t take long for users to actively start working toward contributing photos they could cash in on. Now that’s a “win-win”. And I don’t think Instagram is out there to screw everyone and steal their photos – most likely very few users would be affected. Just like Facebook has not really exercised all of the options it has available with regard to the vast data we have been offering them over the years. But the fact remains they could if they wanted – and I think more and more users are waking up to that fact.
If you do decide to delete your Instagram account and come over to Flickr, here’s an article on Wired that tells you how to shut it down properly. You’ll probably want to do it before Jan 16, when the new TOS take effect. Because afterward I suspect the photos you think you’ve deleted will actually still be sitting on a backup server somewhere. Oh, and look me up – I’m TAZMPictures. Although I still prefer Photoshop.com.
(Uploaded using Flickr 2.0)