Flickr’s mobile and social failures are ultimately both symptoms of the same problem: a big company trying to reinvent itself by gobbling up smaller ones, and then wasting what it has. The story of Flickr is not that dissimilar to the story of Google’s buyout of Dodgeball, or Aol’s purchase of Brizzly. Beloved Internet services with dedicated communities, dashed upon the rocks of unwieldy companies overrun with vice presidents.
As a result, Flickr today is a very different site than it was five years ago. It’s an Internet backwater. It’s not socially appealing.
Recently, Flickr rolled out a "Justified" view, a way to scan your friends’ recent photos where they are all placed together like puzzle pieces. It’s similar to the way Pinterest lays out images. It’s a dramatic, gorgeous way to look at photosâ€”that mostly highlights how rarely many people update now.
As I scroll down I note that friend after friend has quit posting. At the bottom of the page I am already back in mid 2010. So many of my friends have vanished. It feels like MySpace, circa 2009.
This is anecdotal, sure, but I follow many of these same people on other networks (Path, Facebook, Instagram) where they tend to be very active. I see photos of the same people, with their same children and their same dogsâ€”all looking a year or two older than on Flickr.
This justified view also serves to highlight just how many of my friends’ photos are formatted in perfect squaresâ€”the tell-tale sign of an Instagram snap that’s been exported. Many of my contacts’ entire photostreams are made up of Instagram photos. In other words they are mere duplicate streamsâ€”with fewer comments and activityâ€”of content that exists in primary form elsewhere. The only reason they are active on Flickr at all is because they automatically export there.
There are other signals as well. On Stellar.io, a favorites aggregator that tracks what people are linking on Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo and Flickr, the latter’s links fail to show up even daily in my stream. And of course, there is that damning Quantcast traffic chart.
I still love and use Flickr a lot but like a lot of people, enjoy using Instagram a fair bit as well. My iPhone shots go to Instagram first (where they are sent to Flickr, Twitter, and occasionally Foursquare) but anything shot with a camera goes right to Flickr. Sadly that isnâ€™t as easy as it should. The Flickr Uploadr is slow and often times out and I have had a horrible time setting up a Flickr acct for The Lighthouse. After having problems with the login, Yahoo!/Flickr have totally ignored my help requests and despite it being a Pro acct, no one will answer my emails. I keep hoping that Flickr will survive but more and more it feels like Dopplr 2.0.