Old Dogs Learn New Tricks

Flickr Is Getting a Major Makeover

Flickr's head of product is about to push big changes after a year on the job.
flickr photo view Flickr Is Getting a Major Makeover

The new Flickr photo view, slated to roll out 2/28/2012.

Markus Spiering has, as they say, a good eye. Most of his resume was in mobile before he became a senior product manager for Flickr. In March 2011, he slipped into the head product role, lording over Flickr’s 45 or so employees. “”I have the pleasure to run product management for one of the most exciting web sites in the world: Flickr,” he says on his website. He’s in town for the Photo Hack Day hackathon this weekend, the first small sign of what could be the company’s reinvigorated interest in its audience.

Mr. Spiering is very happy to be making extensive changes to the Flickr interface, the first of which will roll out next week, as he explained in a meeting with Betabeat, Yahoo’s Jason Khoury, and Flickr.com, looking pretty on Mr. Spiering’s Macbook Air.

Mr. Spiering moused over the current photo view. “This is very typical of Flickr,” he said. “Lots of white space, small photos, lots of information around.”

He then opened a new tab to show the spread, completely revamped. Suddenly the photos look more than four times their current size and lie neatly justified on the page, somehow jigsawing together without cropping or changing the order in which they appear.

The new photo view will hit on Feb. 28, Mr. Spiering said, and with it comes a new upload interface. Flickr’s uploading page now looks more like an app than a website. Goodbye, retro blue links. Hello, swoopy drag-and-drop.

Betabeat came away from the conversation with the impression that Yahoo is not sleeping on Flickr, as some users and former employees have suggested. Last month, a small housecleaning booted at least five employees in customer service in order to “centralize” Flickr’s support with other Yahoo customer support, making it available 24 hours a day across the globe and making it more scaleable, Mr. Spiering said.

Outcry arose among Flickr devotees who have been calling for Yahoo to cut the cord. Former Flickr engineer Nolan Caudill wrote a blog post denouncing Yahoo’s “major mistake,” suggesting the move was another example of Flickr’s neglect under its corporate parent. Betabeat ran a thought experiment: “Wherefore Flickr? Ideas for the Beloved Photo Site’s Escape From Yahoo.”

markus spiering Flickr Is Getting a Major Makeover

Mr. Spiering. (twitter.com)

“Seems like taking it private a la StumbleUpon would be great if Yahoo were willing to do it,” one source very familiar with Flickr speculated in an email.

At the time, power user Thomas Hawk—never one to shy away from criticizing Flickr—was actually optimistic. “It could really honestly be Markus Spiering (who now runs flickr) and Yahoo staff cleaning house,” he wrote in an email. “The culture at flickr has been rotten for a long time.”

Community management had been “an absolute disaster,” in his opinion. “It could be that flickr is retooling and actually in a weird way going to try and re-engage their customers,” he wrote.

Yahoo has been paying attention to Flickr all along, Mr. Spiering insisted, and has made a lot of improvements since it bought the site in 2005. “We didn’t communicate as much as we should have,” he said.

He pointed out that the photo page was redesigned as recently as the summer of 2010, and that Yahoo has started integrating Flickr across its products. For example, the Yahoo weather app displays user photos that match the location and weather in the background of the forecast. Flickr will also be integrated into Yahoo Mail soon, he said.

Flickr also changed its pricing structure in January, adding a new Flickr Pro option for $6.95 for three months and dropping the price for a two-year subscription by $5. The lower price points suggests an eye toward user acquisition. (Flickr’s traffic is down since the launch of Google+, according to the notoriously unreliable Compete.com.)

flickr old upload Flickr Is Getting a Major Makeover

Flickr's upload page, 2/21/2012.

Flickr missed its chance to be Instagram before Instagram was Instagram; it also faces fierce competition from Google+ and Picasa, which is siphoning off some of the social photographers who make up one of Flickr’s core user bases. (Mr. Spiering declined to name who he thinks Flickr’s top competitors are. “It’s very hard to tell,” he said. “People use it in different ways.” Some upload thousands of photos and never leave a comment; others use the site as a photo database; and others exclusively comment but never upload.)

But Flickr is reorienting according to Yahoo’s “mobile first” strategy and the design is thoughtful and forward-looking. The Flickr API is still one of the most popular public APIs, the company says, although two years ago it was the most popular (damn you, Facebook). Flickr actually has an API for almost every function on the site, Mr. Spiering said, although not all are public. He said more than 3.5 million photos are uploaded to Flickr via PC and mobile devices a day.

flickr upload view Flickr Is Getting a Major Makeover

Flickr's upload page, slated to roll out 2/28/2012 late March 2012.

Flickr will continue to make major changes in waves in 2012, Mr. Spiering said, but there will be no New Flickr campaign. “It is not as if we close the curtain and all of a sudden say, ‘ta da, it’s different!'” he said. It does seem as if Flickr has had an attitude readjustment, at the least.

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Possibly too late. Many photographers that once used Flickr have moved to Google+

    1. G. says:

      Not really, people still use flickr, the groups and links are easier than G+

      500px is awesome, but doesnt have groups.. 
      Facebook has groups and all but doesnt have the flickr ease of use.. metadata, etcInstragram is tied too close to iOS

      I’ll wait and see what happens but i welcome the change.. flickr is still kewl

    2. This is the first I’ve heard of Google+ grabbing photographers. All my colleagues in the design and photography profession still use Flickr as their main photo sharing site, along with Instagram — the real threat — for casual snapshots. Very few use G+ at all, let alone for photos.

      1. Lisa says:

        Google+ attracts a certain kind of photographer. Older, less internet savvy, lots of HDR.  It’s a gong show.  There’s tons of tagging with things like #sunsetsunday etc.

    3. GT says:

      Too late? 3.5 million photo uploads per day disagrees with you. I like Google+ and use it regularly, but it’s still extremely minimalistic and under featured, and not nearly as richly developed for photographers. It still has a long ways to go to supplant a mature photography centric site like Flickr. Many photographers (including myself) are having fun on G+ though and the community is most certainly growing, but I have no allusions about its current status.

    4. Lisa says:

      The ones that left are the ones that are not missed. The quality of work on Google+ stinks.

  2. Amber Case says:

    Ouch.

  3. MrEricSir says:

    What about the iPhone app? The current Flickr app is unusable at best.

    It’s not 2006 any more, Flickr.  Get with the times.

    1. Anonymous says:

      That is because the iPhone requirements are so unstable if it is not one of the chosen favorites and approved by Apple

      1. MrEricSir says:

         …wha?  What “requirements” are you talking about?  And the Flickr app was approved by Apple, it’s right there in the App Store.

      2. GT says:

        It has nothing to do with that, but thanks for the meaningless FUD. If you want to see an iPhone app that can do *almost* everything you can on the desktop with panache, check out Flickstackr. It’s amazing. I’m doubtful Yahoo will ever invest the kind of resources necessary to come close to the richness of that app, but that isn’t a surprise. Very few of the larger companies invest enough resources into their mobile apps beyond basic use. You have to go indy for the really advanced functionality.

  4. I’d hardly call Thomas Hawk an unbiased source re: Flickr customer service or culture.

    1. Lisa says:

      Thank you. The man should be completely ignored when it comes to Flickr.

  5. Thomas Hawk says:

    Adrianne, sounds like a GREAT meeting with Markus and a very nice scoop on the new page layout by Flickr.  Congrats!

  6. Thomas Hawk says:

    Adrianne, sounds like a GREAT meeting with Markus and a very nice scoop on the new page layout by Flickr.  Congrats!

  7. Thumbnails that show the image as I chose to crop it, rather than being forced to square might be a good place to start.

    Dinah,

    Thomas Hawk tells it as he sees it. While this report tells it as Markus Spiering wants to spin it, without asking any searching questions.

  8. Tyroga says:

    It’s not too late for this change to happen, surprised 500px didn’t get a mention in the article, surely they have been a bit of a wake up call for Flickr too, with their larger layouts and much more impressive display.

    And yeah quoting Thomas Hawk (not his real name) as if he is unbiased is insane. He is still listed as CEO of Zooomr.com a Flickr ripoff from way back. In posts on Flickr, going back a while, he would bag Flickr and then point users to Zooomr as an alternative place to go without the censorship.

    I agree with MrEricSir, we need to see an improved mobile application. The iPhone app is a joke, and there’s still nothing for the iPad while other developers are making excellent apps like Flickr Studio.

    1. Thomas Hawk says:

      Haters gonna hate.  

      Nice job trying to spread FUD “Tyroga” (not his real name).  No development has been going on with Zooomr for years nor have I done any work on it in years in any capacity.  I haven’t even uploaded photos there *myself* in years as a user.  http://goo.gl/dPVI4 And while I’ve been critical in the past of censorship and account deletions of Flickr for a long time now that has nothing to do with your FUD.  On a positive note, Flickr *finally* last year created an undo function for bad account deletions, most likely because of good reporting like Adrianne did on the Mirco Wilhelm case.

      1. It’s not FUD: it’s just pointing out that it’s really poor reporting to portray you as simply a power user when, in fact, you’re somebody whose conflicts over Flickr are multiple: (I suppose “became prominent on Flickr, got pissed off, set up a clone, failed, and has continued to drag them through the mud at every attention-seeking opportunity” was a bit long to fit in).

        I don’t have a problem with anyone being critical of Flickr. They’ve made a lot of mistakes, and I’ve written about them at length. But going to you for a quote on Flickr’s strategy or future is like asking a Tea Partier for their nuanced view on Obama’s latest policy. That’s not “haters gonna hate”, that’s just being transparent about people’s motivations and understanding conflict.

      2. Thomas Hawk says:

        Right Bobbie.  and it’s also not FUD to point out that your sycophantic “reporting” (“written on them at length”) isn’t at all biased by your many relationships with people working on flickr staff over the years as evidenced by the many personal photos that they’ve taken of you and posted to the site.  http://www.flickr.com/people/bojo/photosof/ 

        Yes, you are really the most neutral of sources that reporters should come running to for high quality reporting on flickr.  A beacon of impartiality.

        I’ve been more involved over the years as a “power user” in the flickr community than you have by any metric that you’d like to measure.  I’ve blogged 100x the amount on the site that you have and have spent 100x the amount of time on the site that you have.

        So when we talk about people being “transparent about people’s motivations and understanding conflict” how about you step up and disclose all of your personal friendships and relationships with people who work for flickr over the years while were at it.

        Oh and was it your wife or girlfriend who actually worked with many former flickr employees including the founder at Tiny Speck?

        Yes, Bobbie, your credibility on flickr is impecable.  Good thing we have unbiased sources like you around to point out bias.

        Your comments on Flickr are more like going to Michelle Obama for her nuanced view on Obama’s latest policies.

      3. Thomas Hawk says:

        Right Bobbie.  and it’s also not FUD to point out that your sycophantic “reporting” (“written on them at length”) isn’t at all biased by your many relationships with people working on flickr staff over the years as evidenced by the many personal photos that they’ve taken of you and posted to the site.  http://www.flickr.com/people/bojo/photosof/ 

        Yes, you are really the most neutral of sources that reporters should come running to for high quality reporting on flickr.  A beacon of impartiality.

        I’ve been more involved over the years as a “power user” in the flickr community than you have by any metric that you’d like to measure.  I’ve blogged 100x the amount on the site that you have and have spent 100x the amount of time on the site that you have.

        So when we talk about people being “transparent about people’s motivations and understanding conflict” how about you step up and disclose all of your personal friendships and relationships with people who work for flickr over the years while were at it.

        Oh and was it your wife or girlfriend who actually worked with many former flickr employees including the founder at Tiny Speck?

        Yes, Bobbie, your credibility on flickr is impecable.  Good thing we have unbiased sources like you around to point out bias.

        Your comments on Flickr are more like going to Michelle Obama for her nuanced view on Obama’s latest policies.

      4. Thomas Hawk says:

        Bobbie, speaking about being “transparent about other people’s motivations?” why didn’t you disclose your relationship with someone who worked for Tiny Speck (comprised of almost entirely ex-flickr friends) when you wrote this article about them for the Guardian?  http://goo.gl/OGD2Q

        Don’t you think someone might think it’s a conflict of interest for you to report glowingly on a technology startup where all your flickr firends and your wife/girlfriend works? — or are little things like that too hard for you to disclose?

        Wouldn’t that sort of be like Michelle Obama reporting on Barak Obama’s first term in office?  It’s amazing to hear someone of your ilk drone on about “conflict of interest, transparency and people’s motivations.

      5. Fotofiend says:

         I think “haters gonna hate” applies best to you, Mr. Hawk. You’ve been hating on Flickr since what, 2006? You seem to have a very dysfunctional relationship with them.

        A normal person, if s/he didn’t like a website, would just stop using it and move on. But not Mr. Hawk. He’s been on a mission to tear down Flickr for years, and is still at it. He’s like a jilted lover: too much in love to let go, and too full of hate to love.

        I just hope Mr. Hawk’s personal relationships are better than his relationship with Flickr.

      6. Thomas Hawk says:

        Yes, yes, Fotofiend, how right you are.  I’ve uploaded almost 70,000 photos to the site, I’ve favorited over 100,000 photos on the site, because I’m really secretly hoping that it all goes away and I’ll have wasted thousands of hours of my life on the site.

        Such brilliant, brilliant analysis on your part.  

        You shouldn’t confuse criticism with hatred.  I don’t hate flickr one bit.  I think it’s a wonderful site that I use every single day.  I think it’s been one of the most important websites ever developed and I think that it holds a truly significant collection, in fact you might say the most significant collection of organized images in the world.

        Why is it that is somebody dare criticizes something at flickr, like the tons of unjust permanent and irrevocable account deletions over the years.  Is it not possible to disagree with past staff decisions and criticize a lack of innovation over the years without being branded a heretic.

        By chance do you happen to be married to Bobbie Johnson or work at Tiny Speck, in the fairness of full disclosure and all.

  9. Tyroga says:

    It’s not too late for this change to happen, surprised 500px didn’t get a mention in the article, surely they have been a bit of a wake up call for Flickr too, with their larger layouts and much more impressive display.

    And yeah quoting Thomas Hawk (not his real name) as if he is unbiased is insane. He is still listed as CEO of Zooomr.com a Flickr ripoff from way back. In posts on Flickr, going back a while, he would bag Flickr and then point users to Zooomr as an alternative place to go without the censorship.

    I agree with MrEricSir, we need to see an improved mobile application. The iPhone app is a joke, and there’s still nothing for the iPad while other developers are making excellent apps like Flickr Studio.

  10. guest says:

    looks exactly like the skydrive photo layout.

  11. Frank says:

    ohhhh Pinteresty!

  12. Chris Barry says:

    That grid looks a lot like the skydrive layout. Not a bad thing

  13. rommy says:

    About. Fucking. Time.

  14. Cynic72 says:

    Loooooooong overdue!

  15. BigD says:

    I rarely use Flickr anymore simply because it’s become a haven for brain-dead morons to ask “what lens should I use” or “How do I shoot a wedding/concert/event/etc…” as well as trolls who know little to nothing about photography to run groups and rampantly spread misinformation across the internet. 

    Flickr used to be a fun social networking tool for photographers to share and interact now it’s just a photo-sharing slum. 

    It’s just another mySpace slowly dying an ugly death. 

    1. Anonymous says:

      You could skip participating in the forums. I’ve never felt the need to join those. It kinda feels like you’re looking for a way to make yourself feel distinguished and elite over the other people who simply enjoy photography and are happy to be point-and-shooters.

      I think you’d be better served with your own website, complete with your own address. Nothing says “I’m a pro” better than having your own website, URL, and a custom-made gallery to show your photos, right?

      1.  Or, you could skip participating in forums that aren’t aligned with your tastes.  I am a member of the Utata group, and find that the folks there are generally intelligent and photography-savvy.  Very little trolling and if someone’s asking a question that’s already been asked before, they close the topic and redirect to the previous discussion.  Not all forums/groups/discussions are lame, and the invite-only forums, I’ve found, tend to be a little more discriminating.

      2.  Or, you could skip participating in forums that aren’t aligned with your tastes.  I am a member of the Utata group, and find that the folks there are generally intelligent and photography-savvy.  Very little trolling and if someone’s asking a question that’s already been asked before, they close the topic and redirect to the previous discussion.  Not all forums/groups/discussions are lame, and the invite-only forums, I’ve found, tend to be a little more discriminating.

    2. GT says:

      Flickr is like any other social networking site; It represents the full spectrum of users, so the onus is on you to seek out those of like mind. If the groups matter to you, then start up a moderated one of your own and foster a more competent environment. There are plenty of extremely well moderated groups with very talented photographers at their helm. Don’t generalize an entire community too harshly just because some loud novices offend your sensibilities.

  16. Jan Normandale says:

    FWIW, I’m getting concerned about the potential dilution of flickr as it is channeled into other non photography centred yahoo services. I could care less to see a bunch of images fed to the weather channel on yahoo thru flickr. Seriously.

    Do one thing and do it well Flickr. Lots to do on the concept drop the idea of this smorgasbord of services thru yahoo or I may go tumblr..

  17. Lee Shelly says:

    After meeting Markus at a flickr photo walk in Philadelphia on Sunday, I came away more enthused about the direction Flickr us taking than at any time since I joined 6 years ago. I’m very happy to see someone at the reins who has a vision for the site and is willing to follow through on it. Kudos to Markus and the Flickr team.

    I was also happy to hear him speak to the

    1. Lee Shelly says:

      Hmmm…stopped accepting type in my op…as I was saying, I’m happy to see Markus recognize where the site is lacking…iPhone app group integration for one…and be willing to accept critique and act.

  18. Zen Strive says:

    Just like how Google+ has been displaying pictures from your circles.

  19. Ted says:

    I’ve seen the upload page and it is a work of art. Stay tuned for a mind blowing launch.

  20. Dev012 says:

    Seriously?! I just renewed my Flickr Pro. I sure wouldn’t have wasted the money if I’d known they were about to wreck the UI :(

  21. Ddrane8284 says:

    Here is an idea, since google has made a bunch of enemies with closing picnik, clone it, and make it part of flickr…………….google plus, the reason to close picnik is not even close…………….

    1. Flickr has already said on Twitter and their blog that they are working on an integrated editor.

    2. Winter Wardhani says:

       That would be a great idea Ddrane8284! Hopefully the app they are working on will be as user friendly as Picnik and will allow to save the pics to your computer without posting on Flickr (no one would like to see my failures at post processing lol)

  22. Hexx says:

    thanks god they’re working on re-design. I hope they also simplify interaction (like for example ‘vie all sizes’ – why not just have them displayed right there with links to them)

    1. Right-click on a photo, direct links to each size are there.

  23. Garykoh says:

    Thank god.

    Since 2004 Flickr’s design has always looked like it’s stuck in 1997. I say this as a customer since 2005, and a paying one since 2007. I love the site and would never want it to go away but modern competition is giving me second thoughts about renewing that pro account every year. Let’s hope this is a game-changer.

  24. ed g. says:

    Photo page screenshot looks awful.

  25. frustum says:

    As a geeky programmer type, the flickr API sets flickr apart and makes it the obvious choice for me.

  26. Amarand Agasi says:

    I like Flickr, I use Flickr constantly…but I also use my iPhone constantly for taking, tweaking and submitting photos to Flickr.  I own…six?…seven?…iPhone apps that work with Flickr, and none of them provide the same level of support for groups, tags and sets that the web-site offers. Sadly, the mobile version of Flickr removes all/most of those features as well.  I hope Flickr is truly serious about “Mobile First” because it’s felt like “Mobile Last” since I bought my first iPhone over a year ago….

    1. GT says:

      Check out Flickstackr. No mobile app is as sophisticated as the full browser site, but this comes very close. It supports groups, tags, galleries, sets, even upload/post dates. There is very little it can’t do and it probably leverages Flickr’s API as far as Yahoo allows a 3rd party to go.

      1. Lisa says:

        Do you work for Flickstackr?

  27. Dcxdan says:

    This sure does not sound good… Sort of when you go to your favorite store, and they change everything around on the shelves, and it takes  you 3 or 4 times as long to find your favorite stuff!

  28. Geoff_B (on Flickr) says:

    “We didn’t communicate as much as we should have,” he said.

    He hasn’t communicated this set of changes to Flickr users, either  . . . .

  29. All of everyone’s uploads will be accidentally deleted when the new changes are applied, due to an oversight.   lol.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Cool new buggy whip design!

  31. Poiuy_1100 says:

    围观。。

  32. These criticisms of Thomas Hawk seem unreasonable to me. I have followed his blog for sometime and have found his criticisms of Flickr to be quite justified. Even acknowledging the redesign in 2010, the site has suffered from neglect for a long time. His criticisms of what could be done have been spot on. I only hope that Yahoo implements many of his suggestions. It would really improve the site.

    I have tried out both 500px and Google+ over the last year as possible replacements for Flickr (both in part from Thomas Hawk’s suggestions).  I have disappointed with both. They both have the possibility of doing more than Flickr, and in some ways they do, but the parts never sum to something better. I have been gradually scaling my involvement of G+ back as I found less and less to engage me as a photographer there (Thomas if you read this perhaps you could help me engage in this site better?) and I am almost ready to let my paid membership in 500px lapse.

    I love Flickr, and have learnt a great deal about photography from it over the last seven years, but for a long time it has been slowly rotting inside due to neglect. I really hope that Yahoo is finally taking it seriously and putting in proper resources to what could be the jewel in it’s crown.

  33. Photofem1 says:

    Looking forward to the new changes!!! The layout looks great!

  34. Lambert Schlumpf says:

    Seriously LOL: a huge, huge LOL at all the sycophants who are in the Idea Group.

    Finally something is happening, let’s hope it’s not too late as they have been doing absolutely nothing regarding innovation for such a long time.

  35. Guest says:

    Will Flickr stop being rascist after this?

  36. Guest says:

    Welcome to 2012…sites like http://www.72dpi.com and http://www.500px.com are the future.

  37. yesterday Flickr was down for at least 3 hours – was this part of the API migration??

  38. Lisa says:

    Thomas Hawk should always be ignored.  He goes wherever he gets the most comments and circle jerking.  Hence, the reason this stockbroker masquerading as a photographer and social networking expert is a big “Google+ evangelist” at the moment…

  39. Cathy Johnson says:

    Just hoping Flickr offers options…I don’t care for the mosaic with no text, and as an artist and teacher I like for people to see my work larger, up front.  These look almost like thumbnails.

  40. I’ve been exploring for a little for any high-quality articles or blog posts on this sort of area . Exploring in Yahoo I finally stumbled upon this site. Studying this info So i’m satisfied to convey that I’ve an incredibly good uncanny feeling I found out exactly what I needed. I so much unquestionably will make sure to do not overlook this website and provides it a glance regularly.