Since publishing this post, I note that PetaPixel has now published a counter viewpoint. Here’s a link to the article, written by Thomas Hawk: In defense of Flickr: 8 Reasons I’m Sticking Around My thanks go to Thomas Hawk for writing the piece, and also to PetaPixel for publishing it, restoring somewhat my faith in the site. I’m not in any way suggesting that my criticism of the two most recent PetaPixel anti-Flickr posts has influenced their decision to post the Thomas Hawk rebuttal – in all likelihood they probably don’t even know my little blog exists.
Below is my own response to the Allen Murabayashi piece that appeared earlier today, written before I saw the Thomas Hawk piece on the same subject.
PetaPixel is on the warpath. Their target is Flickr.
Wielding the hatchet this time is Allen Murabayashi, chairman and co-founder of the online portfolio site, PhotoShelter, in an article entitled: Flickr’d Out: The Rise and Fall of a Photo Sharing Service.
Given Murabayashi’s background, it’s hardly surprising, though unfortunate, he’d want to trash Flickr (or any opposition photo site, for that matter), even though both sites appeal to very different market niches.
My gripe is not really with Murabayashi, it’s with PetaPixel, who publish nonsense like this uncritically and with no counterpoint or alternative view.
Obviously, I don’t have any say in PetaPixel’s editorial policy, but I feel that a site that claims to promote photography in general, should be a little more circumspect in their attempted demolition of a venerable and much-loved photo-sharing site like Flickr.
Flickr has been around since 2004, making it one of the oldest social networks on the Web. Many loyal Flickr users have been with the site almost since inception. I’ve had an account with the service since early 2007, and a paid account (called Pro) since 2008.
Nevertheless, the site has had its share of problems over the years, particularly since the Yahoo buy-out in 2005.
The World Wide Web is a strange place. A “darling” site one week is excoriated the next. Yahoo was once one of those “darling” sites. Then it wasn’t. Google came along and swept all before it.
Since then, one feels, Yahoo has struggled to find a relevant place for itself.
Flickr was largely left to fend for itself and the site no doubt suffered from a lack of development, particularly as newer sites with better interfaces and slicker layouts gained traction. But Flickr underwent a major revamp in 2014, a process that is continuing as we speak.
As part of this revamp, Flickr announced a huge one terabyte of storage space to all free account holders, and unlimited space to paid account holders.
One-freakin-terabyte! Do you have any idea how big that is? Let me illustrate. According to Flickr, I have 20 619 photos loaded on the site. Admittedly, most of these pics are produced with older equipment that doesn’t produce the pixel-chomping image size of current cameras. Others are scans from low-end scanners that also produce images in an easy-to-digest size. Even so, you would expect over 20-thousand images to take up a sizeable chunk of server space. And it does. 48.46 GB to be precise – less than 10% of the 1 TB allotted space at my disposal if I had a free account!
This alone makes Flickr the absolute best bargain, photographically speaking, on the entire Internet.
Even if you never make any of your pictures available for public viewing on the site, even if you never participate in any Flickr community activities, even if you aren’t interested in any of the social aspects of the site, Flickr is a place you need to be. If just for that cloud storage.
So what do you get for free at Murabayashi’s PhotoShelter site? A 14-day trial, that’s what. When your 14-day trial runs out you start coughing up. (In the interests of openness and fairness, I’ve just signed up for a free PhotoShelter trial account, to learn a little more about the service.)
Also, contrary to what you may be thinking, I’m not opposed to PhotoShelter either. I firmly believe there’s a place for everyone on the ‘Net. It really comes down to defining your audience and going after it. PhotoShelter is very squarely and unequivocally aimed at professional photographers.
“Experience more than 100+ features specifically developed for professional photographers” and “Exceptional tools that simplify how you take care of business, from upload to sales.” are just two of the come-ons displayed in boldface headlines on the site.
The basic PhotoShelter package will set you back US$96 (billed annually) or US$119.98 per year (billed monthly @ $9.99). This buys you a grand total of 4GB cloud storage. Given today’s large camera chips it ain’t gonna take you long to use up all that space (especially if you upload RAW), and then you’ll no doubt want to upgrade your account accordingly.
If so, there are two options open to you; the mid-price range at $25 – 30 p/m (100GB cloud storage), and the “Unlimited” package at $45 – 50 p/m (unlimited cloud storage.) By contrast, unlimited cloud storage at Flickr will set you back US$39 per year, (or a measly $3,25 p/m).
Of course, storage space shouldn’t be the sole determinant of where you place your pictures on the ‘Web. There are many other things to consider, especially if your livelihood depends on your pictures. And I’m sure PhotoShelter’s 80 000 users (according to their homepage) are delighted with the service. The portfolio design options look pretty good, and there are some big name photographers there, like Joe McNally. But, it turns out, Mr. McNally also maintains a Flickr account! He hasn’t made any photographs available for public viewing yet, so he’s either using it purely for storage, or maybe it’s just for family snaps, or maybe someone else set up the site for nefarious purposes.
But regardless of who does or doesn’t maintain an account on PhotoShelter, there’s really no good reason for the chairman and co-founder to post a petty, whining, “obituary” about his possibly-longed-for demise of a competitor(?) site.
Ironically, Murabayashi does praise two other sites in his article: Google + Photos and Picasa. The problem, as he himself notes, is that they are both defunct. For a site that’s currently alive and kicking he recommends the “swell consumer tool named Google Photos”. That’s fine and good. I also recommend Google Photos, particularly if you want your pictures to show up in Google image search results (although obviously you will still have to optimise your pictures manually to get results – SEO doesn’t happen automatically no matter what site you use.) But in recommending Google Photos, I don’t trash other photo sharing and/or storage sites.
And just what kind of file storage do you get with Google Photos? Here’s what Google tells me:
High quality (free unlimited storage) Great visual quality at reduced file size.
Yep. “Unlimited” storage, but your pictures are compressed. Of course, if you don’t want your images compressed, you can always buy more storage. For instance, 1 TB will cost you US$10 per month, or $120 p/a if my maths is correct. Compared to 1 TB free? Looks like Flickr is still the better deal.
As I’ve said before, there’s a place for everyone’s pictures on the ‘Web, even on [gasp!] Facebook (often trashed by photographers, but properly understood and used by others).
As I have also said in this post, it’s understandable for Murabayashi to hold the views he does with regard to Flickr. But publishing those views on a popular, public, photo reportage site is just plain bad marketing. Marketing 101 suggests you don’t knock your competitors. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth of potential customers who actually appreciate the slated competitor.
But PetaPixel is simply without excuse. If they are just chasing clicks with articles like this, they should perhaps consider the wider ramifications of what they publish. Do they really want to see a site like Flickr vanish into cyberspace never to be heard from again? Regardless of their answer to that question, they should at least give Flickr the right of reply, or, failing that, publish blog posts like this that provide a counter opinion.
Finally, I think Flickr could quite happily say, in agreement with Mark Twain, “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
DISCLAIMER: I am not employed by, nor derive any income from, Yahoo, Flickr or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates. But obviously,