Flickr's future


· Flickr · photography · archiving · Wikimedia Commons · Wikimedia ·

The CEO of FLickr, Don MacAskill, sent out an email to all Flickr users a few days ago, talking about how they need more paying customers to make the service sustainable. I thought it was a reasonably honest-sounding email, admitting the trouble of hosting billions of photos, but but some bits of the internet took it as either a) Flickr being greedy and wanting to get rid of more free-tier users; or b) another death knell, and a good reason to do whatever's possible to get photos off Flickr.

I use Flickr a bit, because it's an easy way to share photos with family. In doing so, people I know sometimes end up using it and I would rather they did that instead of using Google Photos or Facebook because it's got better a metadata system and keeps the full original files. It'd certainly be better if everyone used open source software and self-hosted their stuff, but if that's not going to happen then I'd rather people used Flickr. The other thing I use it for is as a staging ground for photos I want to put on Wikimedia Commons.

There's a bit of a discussion happening on Commons about whether it's worth bulk-importing public open-licensed photos from Flickr. I sort of think it's a good idea, but also suspect that there's tens of thousands of poor quality photos and near-duplicate shots. It'd create ever more of a backlog of undescribed things on Commons, which'd be annoying.

These days, I'm finding more and more that there's a distinction in photos I take, broadly in two categories: photos of people and places that are dear to me, which serve as memories and that I want to look back over periodically; and photos of places and objects that strike me as more generally interesting. The former group I add very personal captions to (offline), and they're much more like private journal entries; the latter I try to get onto Commons because I hope that they are useful to other people and crucially I want them to be open to being described by anyone. I don't often want the same photo to be in both categories.