Mat Honan at Gizmodo posted a long but interesting history of the photo sharing site Flickr (“from Yahoo!”) and why it sucks. Short answer: Yahoo! has no idea what it’s doing and is basically stuck in 1998 when it comes to the Internet. They bought Flickr in 2005 and then proceeded to do nothing with it, allowing Facebook, Instragram, and others to replace it. Where Flickr was once a thriving community for professional photographers and amateurs alike, it’s now a mere shell of itself. Many true professionals have moved on to sites like 500px, while most iPhone-toting non-photographers (myself being one) really only care about socialness and prefer platforms such Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
So if Flickr sucks so bad (which it does) and is basically a ghost town (which it’s not), then why do I still use it? Because there’s not a better alternative.
Here’s what I mean. Family photos and pictures of my kids are only posted on Facebook. I have a very small number of friends on Facebook (by design) and even if others see those photos (by way of sharing, liking, or commenting), the audience is still limited. Basically, I don’t want pictures of my kids fully out on public sites like Twitter or Flickr because I’m just not comfortable with that. “Throwaway” pics are best suited for Twitter and/or Facebook, and I don’t really need to archive those. I do use Instragram some but only for photo editing. My account is private. I’ll occasionally share a photo straight from Instragram but usually post it separately to Twitter and/or Facebook. So that leaves Flickr.
Flickr is not good at all when it comes to social or mobile. You can tweet a photo, but it doesn’t show up in your “Recent images” on Twitter like other pictures do, and mobile apps don’t always open the photo natively. So if you’re wanting the twitterverse to see it, your best bet is to upload it directly to Twitter or use a third-party service like TwitPic or Instagram. You can also post a Flickr photo to Facebook, but all it does it put a little thumbnail post on your Timeline, which is not even close to being adequate.
Where Flickr excels, though, is in albums. If I have 30 vacation photos, I’m not likely to send out 30 tweets. But even if I did, those tweets would get lost pretty quickly in the stream. I can put them on Facebook, but then they’re not public (or at least I don’t want them to be public). And Instragam is mobile only, has limited resolution, and has no organizational functionality, so it’s not an adequate tool for that job. But I can put my 30 vacation pics on Flickr, in their own album if I want, and have them be public and whatever resolution I choose. Will people actually see them? Not as much. But at least they’re there.
Here’s my point. Flickr sucks. Yes, a lot of people still use it. (About 3,000 photos are uploaded to it every minute.) But it still sucks, at least when it comes to mobile and social. However in some cases, there’s still not a better alternative. Facebook is the closest, but the “walled garden” nature of it isn’t a good fit for public pics. Google+ is another alternative, but very few people actually use Google+, so why not just stay on Flickr? Instagram has the potential to replace it, but it needs a native desktop component and needs to remove the 1024×1024 resolution restriction (which it won’t do since the whole point of Instagram is for it to be a mobile platform). And I’m definitely not a professional, so I have no interest in 500px.
With all its flaws, Flickr still works for what I need, which is why I still use it. If something better comes along, however, I’m all ears.