I’ve been caught up in a protracted debate with Flickr users recently over the question of whether those stupid “Award Codes” amount to spam. Ended up making a survey and writing a piece for Medium:
Update: This post has been substantially updated and re-posted as the Medium article “Flickr Is No Ghost Town” – please read that version instead of this one!
People like to say flip things like â€œFlickr is deadâ€ just like theyâ€™ve been saying â€œApple is deadâ€ for decades. Itâ€™s true that Flickrâ€™s heyday has passed, but there are still hundreds of thousands (millions?) of photographers posting there daily. Interaction is lively, thereâ€™s an interest group for every photography niche you can think of, and users are really supportive with the compliments and CC. Flickr still has upwards of 75 million accounts, and can receive up to 25 million photo uploads on a good day (stats).
Flickr dominated the online photo sharing scene for around 15 years. But as Facebookâ€™s popularity rose, FB became the worldâ€™s dominant photo sharing platform, eclipsing Flickrâ€™s numbers (which were already astounding). After a recent brush with financial ruin, Flickr was purchased by SmugMug, and theyâ€™ve been great stewards of the platform so far, with improvements being released on the regular.
Somewhere in there, along came Instagram to soak up much of the remaining photographic juice in the room. Everyone is on it, so youâ€™d be nuts not to use it, right? I use it too.
So why not just use Facebook and Instagram and call it a day? A bunch of reasons!:
- Instagram images are tiny postage stamp versions of the images youâ€™ve put so much work into. Itâ€™s almost an insult to your photos to display them so small with no full-size web option. But we all do it because we have to (and itâ€™s fun).
- Instagram has hashtags, but no real â€œgroupsâ€ – no organized photo communities.
- Facebook does full-screen, but they still compress and rewrite your images on upload, even if you enable the HD mobile setting.
- Not everyone is on Facebook. Millions of people wonâ€™t use it for either personal or political reasons (Iâ€™m sure weâ€™ve all seen numerous friends leave the platform in the past couple of years). People without FB accounts simply canâ€™t see your work here. Out of bounds. Walled gardens have their place, but I donâ€™t want my photos in one.
- What if you decide to leave Facebook in a couple of years? What happens to all the work you posted here? Or will the fact that your photos are on FB prevent you from leaving the service even if you want to for other reasons? Youâ€™re â€œlocked in.â€ Putting your images on Flickr instead means your images are decoupled from your social network, which gives you freedom.
- Both Facebook and Instagram strip out all of your EXIF data, while Flickr does not. I really enjoy studying the EXIF data for other peopleâ€™s images, or reminding myself of settings that were used on my own.
- Only Flickr provides full and detailed statistics â€” not just of likes, but for all views, since the beginning of time (just realized my account is coming up on one million total views since I started there in 2005, wow!)
On Flickr, your images are available in super high resolution, with a wide variety of copyright options. Thereâ€™s a huge number of interest groups, and detailed statistics. The challenge of getting an image into â€œExploreâ€ (Flickrâ€™s homepage featuring the best images on the service, changing constantly) is ongoing, and so rewarding when it happens. Discovering great new photographers daily is inspirational. Flickr is photo paradise to this day, IMHO.
All of which makes me wonder why so many photographers I meet arenâ€™t using it. It seems like the best of all the options (yes there are other options, but they donâ€™t compete with Flickr IMO, except maybe SmugMug (Iâ€™m curious about the features and community there too, honestly – promising).
Are you on Flickr? And if not, why not?
FWIW #1: I usually post the same image to Instagram and Flickr at the same time, but only share the URL of the Flickr version, since itâ€™s high-res. I only post images on Facebook occasionally, and just for the audience of my friends, rather than for the photo community.
FWIW #2: No Iâ€™m not a Flickr employee! Just a long-time user who never fell out of love.
FWIW #3: Iâ€™m shacker on Flickr and would love to follow you if youâ€™re there too.