Flickr threw a rock through my window with a note, “Send us $25 or you will never see your photos again.”
For the past few years I have posted our old high school photos on the Flickr web site along with all my other photos that anyone could see. But now they say they will only display my last 200 photos—which does not include our high school ones—unless I pay $25 for a “Pro” account. They assure me the others are not erased from their site, but if they can’t be viewed, what’s the difference?
I understand their situation if not their strategy. The old dot-com idea that advertising alone would pay for the Internet never was viable. Flickr received hundreds of thousands of photos each day, ninety-nine percent of which were hardly worth saving, and somebody has to pay for all of that storage. A typical upload had fifty photos of some guy’s girlfriend standing in a doorway smiling, not smiling, winking, looking up, looking down, sideways, waving, giving the camera the finger—every possible variation. If the service is free, why not upload everything?
I will miss most some of the accounts that I used to search. One guy photographed almost every street corner in Philadelphia, which was handy for my city explorations. Other people photographed everything in a particular museum. Want to see high quality photos of paintings in the Chicago Art Institute? Somebody surely posted them. But if they are not willing to pay for a Pro account, no one can see them.
I suspect the promise not to erase the older photos is a ploy to give me time to think about signing up, and after a year or two they will warn me they will be erased due to “inactivity.” Flickr is not run by bad people. They are just facing the economic realities that have not panned out the way they had hoped.
Like free employee picnics of the past, it was fun while it lasted. Welcome to the new reality.