Required Reading: How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet

How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet

This is the story of a wonderful idea. Something that had never been done before, a moment of change that shaped the Internet we know today. This is the story of Flickr. And how Yahoo bought it and murdered it and screwed itself out of relevance along the way.
Do you remember Flickr’s tag line? It reads “almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.” It was an epic humble brag, a momentously tongue in cheek understatement.

Because until three years ago, of course Flickr was the best photo sharing service in the world. Nothing else could touch it. If you cared about digital photography, or wanted to share photos with friends, you were on Flickr.

Yet today, that tagline simply sounds like delusional posturing. The photo service that was once poised to take on the the world has now become an afterthought. Want to share photos on the Web? That’s what Facebook is for. Want to look at the pictures your friends are snapping on the go? Fire up Instagram.

Even the notion of Flickr as an archive—as the place where you store all your photos as a backup—is becoming increasingly quaint as Dropbox, Microsoft, Google,, Amazon, Apple, and a host of others scramble to serve online gigs to our hungry desktops.

The site that once had the best social tools, the most vibrant userbase, and toppest-notch storage is rapidly passing into the irrelevance of abandonment. Its once bustling community now feels like an exurban neighborhood rocked by a housing crisis. Yards gone to seed. Rusting bikes in the front yard. Tattered flags. At address, after address, after address, no one is home.

It is a case study of what can go wrong when a nimble, innovative startup gets gobbled up by a behemoth that doesn’t share its values. What happened to Flickr? The same thing that happened to so many other nimble, innovative startups who sold out for dollars and bandwidth: Yahoo.

Here’s how it all went bad.

Which is to say, the above is an essay on why Flickr has become a niche market site, best for the sort of people who own DSLR’s, instead of the place where the majority rules. Facebook is now the largest photo sharing site in the world, even though it has some of the most distasteful user-agreement policies, because it’s easy and now everyone is already there. Perhaps, though, Flickr users will trickle back the same way LiveJournal has been recently regaining writers. Short form fast click blogging and photo sharing is great and I love it, but it doesn’t curl into life as deeply, and maybe the Yahoo team will eventually understand how to become widely relevant again someday. I don’t hold out a lot of hope, though. I only wish I did.

an apology, an explanation

As many probably know, my birthday is this Saturday. Traditionally, I have a big party every second year, generally in June, but I don’t know yet if I’m going to make it happen. When it comes to birthday planning, I feel like I’ve been asleep on the train this year. People have been asking, shaking me a little awake, as I ride the days closer to the date, but my eyes have barely focused on the question, other things have been too important. I’m still trying to find ways to pay my rent, still trying to find ways to earn my way, and too engrossed in that to place my attention elsewhere.

As a result, no, I do not have any plans for the giant even-numbered party yet, for which I am legitimately sorry. I do know, however, that I’ll be in Seattle for the actual date this year. Folklife is this weekend, the mad and glorious folk festival that Rafael helps run, and taking a few days off to dance barefoot in the grass sounds pretty darned spectacular right now. If Vancouver people would like to join me there, we have space for people to crash at our place. So far David and Nicole are considering coming, and Lung might be meeting us there on his way back up from California.

I’m sure when I get back, there will be cake, but until I get my finances sorted out, even if only just enough to take care of essentials, I can’t justify taking the time and effort required to make something happen, not even for my birthday. Rent is coming up. I have to concentrate.

just one of those things

His body shifts and I wonder if it’s automatic, my mind almost on other things. Abruptly, however, a flash, headlong, hurried, intense as something, suddenly, is very, very right. It is like a switch has flipped. I am concentrated. My body becomes fierce and my words slip away, pushed away by this unforeseen, lovely surprise.

(It doesn’t last, of course. There’s never enough time to get it where it needs to go, but that’s another story.)

I read about sex in novels, in science studies, in stumbled little webzines and in You and Your Body books pressed into my hands by worried boyfriends, (hoping, I suppose, that I shall discover how to fix how I am apparently broken), and never do they describe the immediacy I experience, the severity, how fast it happens, how disengaged I can be before. Always they write about sweet climbing momentum, gentle swells, an upward glide into pleasure leading like foothills to some final poignant apex no one seems to have words for, as if sex were oceanic and mysterious instead of a cliff. Or they write about fucking, fast powerful sex that racks the body with rushing orgasms, rapid spasms of keen, overpowering whatever it is. “Waves of exquisite pleasure overwhelmed her body” it says on page 45, but nowhere in my history can I find a similar sugar crumb trail of slow sticky nights or sensuous afternoons. Instead, if I am very lucky, there is an absolute point of sudden, violent desire. A severe, immediate, precipitous change when things get interesting. It is swift and always unexpected, a quickening that hits quickly, and without it, sex is only exciting for other people, something to smile with, about, yet through.

I check the name of the author. Female, same as the last few times. I wonder again, as always, how it is that I have been doing it wrong.

If you only read one article today, let it be this one.

There is a fury and and sadness inside that I cannot express., by Classically Liberal:

I want to grab our “society” by the shoulders, shake it violently, and scream at the top of my voice: “Don’t you fucking understand what you are doing? How can you let this happen? How can you demand that it happen?”

Here is the photo. I’ve looked at it again. I can’t look at it and type at the same time, it is too upsetting. This boy is one of the many kids that our society says are sex offenders. The interfering politicans, the would-be Nannies, do-gooders and passed ill-conceived laws to protect our young, and instead, they are devouring the young and sacrificing them to the god of safety.

What was once considering a normal rite of passage, typical curiosity that the newly sexualized young have about themselves, their bodies, and the bodies of others, has become a heinous crime. Not long ago a curious adolescent or child, caught exploring, or playing doctor in the back yard, was given a talking-to, sent to bed early, and warned to not do it again—a warning most heeded for at least another few years, after which time warnings were useless. Today, it has been criminalized, and criminalized in a way far exceeding crimes of violence. A youth who has sex with another youth, even if voluntary, could well face legal sentences far worse than if they had killed their friend.

Also of note, this follow up post, A partial listing of our material on teens, sex offending, and the infamous registries, which offers proofs of evidence to the substantial minority attempting to defend these atrocious laws.

Wrenching news.

PingMag, the Tokyo based magazine about “Design and Making Things”, is shutting down

I’ve been an almost daily reader of PingMag for at least two years, thrilled to have found a site so consistently fascinating. I’m more than sad they had to throw in the towel, I’m actually somewhat shocked. From their site:

Dear PingMag readers,

It’s the last day of 2008, and we have a sad announcement to make.

From today, PingMag will be taking an extended hiatus, and will not be updated for the foreseeable future.

PingMag has been running for 3 and a half years now, and over that time literally millions of you, from every single corner of the planet, have visited, read our articles, left comments, linked to us on your blogs, sent us letters of support – some of you have even flown to Tokyo to join us!

We are eternally grateful for your fantastic support over the years.

It is only because of you all that we have managed to keep PingMag going this long, and with every article – and there have been around 1000 of them! – we have made new friends, and found new, exciting people and places here in Japan and all over the world.

Thank you! Thank you for all your love and good will. We can only offer our sincerest apologies that we are unable to continue returning your fantastic generosity.

As well as you our readers, so many of you have actually contributed to PingMag, in so many different ways. It isn’t possible for me to thank everyone personally here, but many of you are credited in the about page, and anyone who we’ve missed, our apologies! Every contribution, however big or small, has made PingMag what it is, and you will always be a precious member of the team.

The world is facing tough times right now, and many of you may have uncertain months ahead. Wherever you are and whatever your circumstances, we wish you all the very best of luck, and look forward to being able to meet again, we hope, at some point in the future.

All the very best wishes from Tokyo,

Tom, and the entire PingMag team.

In San Fran, no less.

As some of you aware, there’s a initiative measure on the 2008 California General Election ballot titled Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. It’s called Proposition 8, and it’s the most unfair and hate-filled bit of judicial intolerance I’ve heard of in awhile. As far as I can tell, it’s another example of the last desperate gasp of people who don’t like change, who want time to flow backward, and the world’s progressive trends on equality to hit hard into reverse. No less than the mayor of L.A. and the California Teachers Association and California School Boards Association have donated money to fight it –

The following video was taken by my friend, musician and writer Meredith Yayanos, who encountered a group of Pro-Prop 8 protesters in Oakland, California. She turned on her camera-phone when the protesters began to assault a counter-protester, a quiet, polite, calm man with an anti Prop-8 sign, as is his right. Unfortunately, that’s when they turned on her.

“Something to keep in mind: when I hit the record button, I hadn’t said a single word to anyone, or interfered in the rally any way. I stood a fair distance away from all of the sign-wavers (remaining at least four feet away from all of them…until they approached me). But as soon as they noticed me filming them, I was greeted with curses and threats of violence. “Get that shit out of here. I’ll knock it out of your hand.” None of these folks knew me, yet they instantly knew they hated me …”

Which soon became, “That’s when she attacked, clawing, grabbing and then shoving. I didn’t fight back; she was much bigger than me.”

I think it’s very important that you press play, read the entirety of her story, which is posted here in her journal, and pass it on.

standing up, being counted

“We stand awed at the heights our people have achieved. No gods, no religion. Us.”

The cult of Warren is strange and bizarre – standing in his shadow, I attract my own miniature flock of digital stranger crows that flap and holler. They pool in my footsteps, inky comments on breast size and comic book lines, and hop from medium to medium, trailing like shreds of three panel love songs cut with rusty scissors and animated comedy quotations.

It happens sometimes, that my friends are made larger than life, puffed with their creations into parade balloons that float on the hot air of media, swearing, writing, and song, mossy with articles, bright with light, and loud, that I get caught in the slipstream, somehow. I flutter, attached, back stage, in the green room, in the booth, behind closed doors. Crew, countryman, friend, lover. I look out and see eyes, lines of them waiting, eager, like drugs waiting to be born, delicate membranes of gossip, admiration, and downright lies, torn between trying to keep the pedestal up, balanced, and meaningful, while wanting nothing more than to climb on top. Disparate options with similar needs.

I do my best, but I can’t relate. We sit in restaurants, months out of date, how have you been, me too, this place, that bit of news, how is it, how was it, I’ve missed you, say hi to the wife and kids. We eat, trading knives like we trade stories, smile, and sign where the waiters ask us to sign. I loved that movie you were in. And I get the smile too, as if they should know who I am, what I do, why I’m here. We lie in bed together, on top of the covers, clothes on, flipping through television channels, ordering food from room service we will finish eating in the morning, after we wake, bleary, uncertain of the city, uncertain of the beige pink walls, the cold marble floor, how we’ve moved to hold each other in our sleep. We are not these incantations written on message boards, names attached to more meaning that stone. We are people, as difficult and as holy as everyone else. We make what we make, create when we can, scrape a living out of it, barely, and rinse, wash, repeat. Glory is rare.

Over 35 years ago, a plastic surgeon named Dr. Maxwell Maltz noticed that it took his patients 21 days to stop feeling phantom sensations from lost limbs. After further research, he came to find that it takes only 21 days to form a new habit. In fact, if patients worked for just 15 minutes to form a new habit every day, without skipping a day, after three weeks it was actually harder to go back to their original behavior. He wrote a book on the subject called “Psycho-Cybernetics” and accidentally founded the self-help movement.

I wish more people knew. It’s proven, too, that everything hones with practice – research, accounting, programming, painting. Even dry talent, art learned from a book, can be added to, can better itself. With the advent of the net, it’s possible for everyone to have an audience, if they only try, use the tools available.

The only way to climb is to stand on a pile of your own creation.

To live, learn, and strive.

the lack of a roomate situatoin

I’m waiting to hear back from the Marshall fellow. Claims that money has been sent have occured, though according to Western Union, the man doesnae exist. I cannae ken what he’s up to, but perhaps we’ll find out if he gets here.

-trying to explain away depression –

I lay awake last night, I’d said something in jest that had hurt him. I wasn’t expecting it. The sort of thing where at the end of the evening, someone turns to you and says, you really ruined my time by saying X, and you stop hurt in wonder that X would have been taken harmfully.

-we seem to have a lot of these –

Mail arrived today from Toronto. Apparently I have an account with the royal bank there. I suppose my grandmother opened it for me to cash my paychecks in when I worked there. I’m wondering if I should close it or leave it be. Either option seems like effort somehow wasted. I am happy that I can still be surprised. Be reminded of that golden summer of lightning and love.

-and rooftops bathed in orange light-

I talked with him the other day, my ontario demon with the redblack hair. That flashing amber eyed musician with the purple soul. Memories crackling with contentment.

-in a van, between the seats, crying-

on the bus: three men wearing stained work clothes sit on the very back seat as a woman enters. She sits in a seat facing at 90 degrees. She is wearing colourful clothing.
man 1: yeah – the match was okee, couldda done better thoough. Lost some offa Robbie.
man 3: Lost some offa Robbie? Feck that, you shoulden give it to em.
The woman opens a book.
man 2: Looka that.
man 1: Whare?
man 2: That girl – she’s gotta book open.
man 3: Reading – hah – ruins a woman if you givum a book.
man 1: Yah – wouldn’t let my woman read. Just wrecks em.

-I am ruined-