I have found the new digital fountain of youth. It is the new and vastly improved Flickr, a photo sharing website popular with photographers worldwide. The new and current leadership hails from the recent acquisition by Smugmug, a MacAskill family-owned business founded in 2002. Mentioning Smugmug early on in this blog post is important because it lets the new Flickr member feel good that the heart and soul of their images are now managed by folks that have been caretakers and curators of imaging for photographers since 2002.
I don’t need to go as far back as Adam and Eve to validate the importance of having a successful user-friendly photo sharing portal but newspapers and magazines could probably be attributed as the first photo sharing platforms. Although, what if Eve was using Instagram back then? Eating the apple would have been a great shot but she would have maybe only had 3 followers; Cane, Abel and Adam? LOL
Harper’s Weekly, a magazine was first to implement the “photogravure” process where they took a photo or drawing and converted and made it into a wood engraving. The New York Daily Graphic began in the late 1870’s to implement halftone in a photomechanical process in which a photo is converted into dots of varying sizes or densities through a mechanical screen, which enables it be printed in black and white, with the illusion of different tones. As with any online company today, you can discern the driving force behind this “technology” was a way to improve and expand the advertising platform.
Ok, let’s fast-forward a 100+ years and in the wild, wild, west of the internet, portals and mediums started to explode and companies like Netscape, Microsoft, and Yahoo! were quick adopters to finding user-friendly footprints the consumer could tap into. Once, again, the driving force behind all this would be spoken in terms of how technology will enhance our lives but it is understood the checks are written based on the future advertising revenues.
In the late 1990’s I was a big user of getting my news from Yahoo!; in fact I think anyone that was hip enough to get their news on the internet used the Yahoo! news portal. According to third-party web analytics providers Alexa and SimilarWeb, Yahoo! was the most widely read news and media website – with over 7 billion views per month – ranking as the sixth-most-visited website globally in 2016. Marinate on that stat for moment in the world of fake news today. How easy it is manipulate the untrained reader of online news!
Without dredging all the ups and downs of Yahoo!, one of the Yahoo! products was Flickr. Flickr was launched on February 10, 2004 by Ludicorp, a Vancouver-based company founded by Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake.
Early versions of Flickr focused on a chat room called FlickrLive, with real-time photo exchange capabilities.The successive evolutions focused more on the uploading and filing back-end for individual users and the chat room was buried in the site map. Key features of Flickr not initially present are tags, marking photos as favorites, group photo pools.
In addition to being a popular website for users to share and embed personal photographs and an online community, on December 9, 2004, the service was widely used by photo researchers and by bloggers to host images that they embed in blogs and social media.
With a broad brush, most people would agree that the downfall of Flickr has always been the corporate profiteers that ALWAYS forget that the customer is #1. In fact, it would not be hard to imagine how Facebook and Instagram machines eventually fail (not soon enough) because their greed supersedes any modicum of customer satisfaction.
Ok, time to breathe in and breathe out. Let’s have some fun. Around 2006 I bought a Suzuki V-Strom 650 motorcycle while living in Alaska. It has been quite a few years since I had owned a motorcycle but as fate would have it I was to now enter into an exploding community called ADV Riders or adventure riders. Dual-sport riding was sort of an “F-YOU” to the very specific genres of sport bikes, dirt bikes, cruisers and of course “Harleys”. The loosely defined bike was about if you had the skill to take your bike to far away places and maybe even off the tarmac to dirt roads. In Alaska, a small group of us had gotten the bug so bad we actually hand-studded our tires with hex-screws so we could ride in the winter – sometimes at temperatures below -20!
Chris MacAskill aka Baldy (co-founder of SmugMug and now CAKE), created the website ADV RIDER. This was a forum that went viral as a community hungry to share motorcycle riding experiences from around the globe. Guys and eventually gals would saddle up and articulate these photo essays or trip reports that would suck you to your computer screen for hours. I dare you to click here and not have your day hijacked for an hour reading one of the many trip reports.
One of the dilemmas with forums back then was photo sharing. Most people do not have the ability to resize their images and also conveniently embed an image with text so it flows. Thus Smugmug was born. For a nominal annual fee, you could easily upload your files and have them professionally printed but mostly embed into forums easily.
As forums in general sort of got left behind by Facebook and then Instagram, photo sharing for me was done through my own website portfolios with the occasional (who am I kidding…in the early days of Facebook it was multiple times a tday) post of minutia and images.
This gets me to present day. Even though Facebook and Instagram are the very best advertising machines in a way to perfectly isolate and target your audience, the continued security infractions and surreptitious coding makes me understand that I probably can only understand about 3% of how evil Facebook and Instagram are. But, there is still a need to intermingle with online communities. Flickr says “welcome” with open digital arms and we won’t force or manipulate you to befriend hoards of strangers.
SmugMug took the big risk and acquired Flikr on April 20, 2018. The Verge reported on March 20, 2013 that Flickr had a total of 87 million registered members and more than 3.5 million new images uploaded daily.
Photos and videos can be accessed from Flickr without the need to register an account, but an account must be made to upload content to the site. Registering an account also allows users to create a profile page containing photos and videos that the user has uploaded and also grants the ability to upload 1000 photos plan for free users, and then ‘Pro’ accounts have unlimited uploads.
Key factors that are important to me as a photographer is the ability to set “rights & usage” and also protect who sees my images. That is why I never signed up for Instagram because their T&C’s are absolutely horrific and they actually will end up using your images without you knowing it.
To extend my online networking, the Flickr groups are a fantastic way to to connect with other like-minded creatives.
I have also recommended the Flickr platform to my customers who have their own corporate website, but like the ability to add additional images to share and network with their respective communities.
Digital fountain of youth? Absolutely – Smugmug understands how to balance profitability and address the needs and wants of the customer. In fact, check their street cred with their Smugmug Films portal HERE: