Flickr launched in February 2004 and was soon known as one of the great examples of the Web2.0 phenomenon. But four years later it seems like the lack of innovation under Yahoo’s rule has lead to Flickr missing out on the next big phenomenon: the social revolution.
Admittedly, Flickr still has a great community consisting mainly of photography enthusiasts, but us enthusiasts are more often than not noticing that our regular friends and family prefer other tools to share their photos. To most people, the photos of a birthday or christmas party are not photos they want to show off to the world, but photos they want to share with their friends and family, who are in the photos.
And this is where sites like Facebook come in and do so much more of a social service than Flickr does. On Facebook you can share your photos with friends just like on Flickr, but you can also tag people inside the photos, allowing people to browse profiles through photos. Who hasn’t ever “faved” a photo of themselves on Flickr simply because there is no other way to keep track of the photos that you are in? Flickr desperately needs features like Facebook’s to stay on par.
Example of tagging people in photos
But not all hope is lost for Flickr. At the core Facebook is not a photo sharing site, while Flickr clearly is with over 2 billion hosted photos. It will take some proper innovation though to convince the regular photographer to see the use of Flickr. Here are some of the new tricks Flickr could learn itself to enable their social revolution.
- Remixing – Currently I can post my photos in sets, collections and groups; I can even edit them using their integrated Picnik tool. So why can’t I do all of this with somebody else’s photos? The web has become more and more about remixing, and admittedly Flickr has a great API that will allow you to remix outside of their site, but why can’t we do any remixes within Flickr? I can already make up a few mixes to start of with: a set with all photos of me made by other people, a set of the top 500 best panoramas on Flickr (according to me), and that photo by John that was released under a Creative Commons license that I edited to a smaller crop and black and white.
- People Tagging – As I said, people tagging in photos is one of the main reasons people use Facebook to share photos. Flickr already has a good tagging system setup, and people tagging could probably be easily achieved by some machine tags (triples) representing the Flickr UserID and the position in the photo. If they could build a nice interface around it, it will be the most used feature in no-time.
- Contact Groups – Flickr allows you to tag your contacts as just a contact, a friend, family, or friend and family. This was pretty cool when it came out, but since then surpassed in functionality by many a social network. Where for example do I put my colleagues in this system? It is clear that if Flickr wants to go social, it needs to provide people a bit more granularity on who they want to share what photo with.
- Better integration with other social services – Flickr, like most other popular Web2.0 services, has a great API that will allow other services to integrate Flickr with them. But like most Web2.0 services with an API, they often fail to treat other services as they expect to be treated themselves. One of the good examples is their so-called integration with Upcoming.org. To link photos to an Upcoming event, I can go to Upcoming, find the event, get the machine tag, go back to Flickr, and add the tag. Why can’t Flickr know what my most recent Upcoming events were and give me a nice drop down list on Flickr? This should be fairly easy as both Upcoming.org and Flickr are owned by Yahoo and require a Yahoo login. Now imagine the possibilities with other non Yahoo services.