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Yahoo killed Flickr by focusing on the wrong priorities.

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On Gizmodo @mat writes the sad story of what Yahoo did to Flickr.

It begins with lyrical praise:

Web startups are made out of two things: people and code. The people make the code, and the code makes the people rich. Code is like a poem; it has to follow certain structural requirements, and yet out of that structure can come art. But code is art that does something. It is the assembly of something brand new from nothing but an idea.

This is the story of a wonderful idea. Something that had never been done before, a moment of change that shaped the Internet we know today. This is the story of Flickr. And how Yahoo bought it and murdered it and screwed itself out of relevance along the way...

It ends with the sad, cold reality:

So let's say Flickr finally gets it together. Let's say it fixes its app, reinvigorates the community, and finally gets back on path. The question is: Is it too late?

It's under attack not just from Facebook and Instagram and, hell, TwitPic and Imgur (Imgur for fuck's sake!) but also the likes of Dropbox, Google Drive, Skydrive, and Not to mention Apple's iCloud and PhotoStream, Google's Picasa, and yes even Google+, which does automatic photo uploads from Android handsets in glorious full resolution complete with geotags and EXIF data.

A comeback doesn't seem likely.

Even if Flickr could spin itself out of Yahoo, the years of neglect seem to have doomed it.

And that is such a shame.

This paragraph is key. Flickr pioneered the Social Web:

Flickr's best feature isn't what you think. It's not photo-sharing at all. Just as photo sharing was a feature hidden within a game, there was another feature hidden within photo-sharing that was even more powerful: social networking. Flickr was, nearly a decade ago, building what would become the Social Web.

Here's the smoking gun. To Yahoo, Flickr was just a database:

"That is the reason we bought Flickr—not the community. We didn't give a shit about that. The theory behind buying Flickr was not to increase social connections, it was to monetize the image index. It was totally not about social communities or social networking. It was certainly nothing to do with the users."

They threw away the social Web.

Great article that shows first hand how the mighty stumbled in the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0.

We will hear stories like this one soon about failed transitions from 2.0 to mobile...

According to the article, part of Flickr's failure was that Yahoo starved it so that it could not become the awesome mobile version of itself that Facebook and Instagram ended up being.

There are a lot of possible takeaways here:

-Aligning everything under a tight corporate top down strategy can break the things you're trying to integrate. Sometimes the Roman conquest style of letting a city keep its own gods but pay tax is a better approach. Disney owns Pixar but Pixar still very much does it's own thing. You know who has a problem with that? Nobody.

-If they "get it" and you don't then the goal should be to let them infect you, not vice versa. Easier said than done when power and politics are involved and the long knives come out...

-If you acquire a company and want to integrate them you need to give them the resources above and beyond their current operating needs to cover the overhead of integration otherwise they will grind to a halt as they spend all their time filling out the new TPS reports instead of the old TPS reports.

-Hindsight is 20/20 but it's important to understand what you're buying, why you're buying it and where your industry is headed. The photos didn't matter as much as the community. The storage issues weren't as game changing as the social features. 20th Century Fox is still kicking themselves for giving Lucas the merchandising rights to STAR WARS. Back then they weren't worth anything, the movies made the money. Now movies like HARRY POTTER are almost loss leaders for the subsequent merchandising and ancillary revenue streams. You buy a baby an expensive gift, they ignore it and end up fascinated by the cheap wrapping paper it came in. Understanding what will be valuable in the future is not easy but it starts with realizing YOU ARE NOT IN CHARGE OF WHAT WILL BE VALUABLE IN THE FUTURE. It will not be unilaterally decided by you. That's the only guarantee of failure.

A lot of the problems stem from Yahoo's culture, which is to starve products of resources even when they should be investing to help them grow.

So you're right, compare what Google did with YouTube (giving them whatever they needed to stay separate and grow), versus what Yahoo did with Flickr (barely enough resources to survive).

For some strange reason, I never really used Flickr--and I cared a lot about photographs. Google Images was always my first stop for the things I wanted. My wife says that for photo storage, she uses Costco.

one of the most amazing uses of flickr photos was by Microsoft's Photosynth team when it was still a beta product in MS Labs. What blew me away was how Yahoo never expanded on that use case. They could have pioneered location based geospatial imagery services long before google did. Photosynth took flicker pix and not only stitched them together but then ran some algorithms to create 3D walkthroughs of those pix. the military value alone of that capability (FROM A MASHUP!!!!) was huge.

Christine, that sounds fascinating.

I like some of the experiments krazydad did with Flickr, too:

Here are three of my favorites from those sets...




Adam- check out (Blaise Arcas' TED talk about it). Amazing! Essentially - his team used crowd sourced imagery products (from Flickr and others) to create actionable, virtual models of things on earth by linking them semantically and positionally.

The mosaics you shared or beautiful. Love when images are created from images and so many layers of meaning are implied - and created.

That TED talk is fab!

And if you click on the two Flickr mosaic links above you'll find many more beautiful mosaics. That artist has true talent.

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