Why I’m still using Flickr

Travis has decided not to renew his Flickr Pro account.

Like Travis, I’ve been using Flickr for a long time. I got my first Pro account–a paid account that provides a variety of benefits, in December, 2004.

Travis bemoans the loss of community on the site–a pretty common complaint. Much of that community has, I think, migrated to apps like Instagram. I recognize the same style of friendly, real-time conversations on my Instagram photos that I used to see on Flickr. Several friends, like Rachael or Kris, who were active, popular photographers on Flickr now play a similar role on Instagram.

For me, Flickr has always been first and foremost a backup site for my photos. I enjoyed the community aspects, but I rarely really participated the way friends and colleagues did. I probably spend more time per week with Instagram than I ever did with Flickr.

A few years ago, thanks to a hard drive failure, Flickr became the only place where all of my photos from the past decade live. So, that kind of sealed my commitment to paying a $25-a-year tithe to Flickr.

I suppose I eventually ought to download all 7000 of my Flickr photos (using something like this), praying that all the metadata remains intact when I do. Assuming an average of, say, 3 MB a photo, that’s only about 21 GB of photos.

Our online habits have the same inertia as our offline ones. So, in truth, I’ll probably keep uploading photos to Flickr until the service’s quality really degrades, or it shuts down entirely.

Are you still using Flickr?

Footnote: I was poking around my account, and looking at my most popular photos, according to Flickr’s ‘interestingness’ algorithm. Oddly, the top photo is this scanned Vancouver Sun article from 2005. It’s about blogging, and quotes myself (with a particularly stupid photo) and Flickr founder Caterina Fake. I do not know why this article tops the list.

Sidenote to that Footnote: It saddens me that I can’t find that article online. Not because it’s about me, but rather because it’s only seven years old and there’s a (admittedly small) financial incentive for the Vancouver Sun to keep it online. We are doing such an awful job of archiving what we create in the digital age.


  1. I still use it, but I’ve complained publicly that it’s not what it was in the past, mainly due to community. I guess part of what I liked is that I used to be able to put a photo up and lots of people would see it, now most photos I put up have 10 views or less.

    That said, I stopped embedding Flickr photos into my blog a long time ago, and I think it’s a bad idea based on previous experience. If you ever choose to stop your Pro account or cancel service, think of all those photos on your blog that will suddenly not show up? It’s far better IMO opinion to simply upload the shots locally in WordPress (if that’s what you use), and stick to that.

  2. I also chose not to renew this year. While I appreciate what Flickr still brings to the web, the things worth going back for have diminished since yahoo took over. It’s not that I actively dislike Flickr, there’s just no there there anymore.

  3. +1 for Duane’s practice of just uploading to your own WordPress install if blogging is what you want to do with them. Own your data!

  4. I keep using Flickr, mostly because of inertia. I’ve got over eight thousand photos on Flickr now, and that number is just going to keep growing. I do keep the original files around on my desktop computer, but for sharing and organizing, I think that Flickr has got some great tools.

    I was never involved much in the community on Flickr, so I never really noticed when people migrated to other platforms.

    I think part of that comes from that fact that I’m lazy, and when I upload a set of 100+ photos I tend not to give them titles, descriptions, or tags. I know that would make my photos much more discoverable, but I’ve got too much else going on to think about that.

    I’ve given some thought to switching to Picasa, but their interface kinda sucks. I’m a big fan of Flickr’s clean & well designed site interface.

  5. I still use it. As nice as it is to share your pictures via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else, Flickr still provides a half-decent way of categorizing and tagging the photos for future reference. You still can’t really do that with Twitpics or Instagrams.

  6. I’m still using Flickr, as others have said, for back up and for embedding in my blog posts.

    And I was never really had much of a community on Flickr – unless the legions of people who “favourite” photos of my friend and I in wet suits, and the photo of me in a surgical mask, as “community.”

  7. You’ve asked the question I ask myself every year when it comes time to renew. Despite the modest savings, I have only purchased one-year pro memberships since Flickr rolled out.

    I definitely use Flickr for backup and sharing purposes and tremble to think about the 15,000 photos I have uploaded most of which someone can peruse if I share a photo. I’ve just gotten into the habit of embedding them into blog posts when I should upload to my WordPress install.

    Never was much for the community either so not crying over how it’s changed. And I wasn’t overly thrilled when Yahoo! bought it but by then inertia already set in and I did not switch.

  8. I too use Flickr and also pay for a Pro account.

    I use it mainly as a public sharing service for my better quality photos (i.e from a ‘proper’ camera). Daily snaps from my phone go to Twitter via yfrog/twitpic.

    Instagram I’ve never used, because it’s a closed platform*. Plus, not least of all, because of the constant over-use of the same four image treatments.

    * If you’re not signed in, you have no ability to load a larger image, or see what other photos they may have shared.

  9. Hi Darren.

    Duane and co: If you cancel Pro, “your photos are not removed from Flickr, only from the list of your photos. If you blogged a photo and it no longer appears in your list, it will still appear on your blog, and the photo’s Flickr page will still work just fine.”

    Other than that, I agree with other folks that Instagram and Picasa have their problems and that there’s not really a replacement for Flickr, including Flickr.

  10. I just wanted to add, I continue to pay Pro, partly for the convenience of backing up / sharing / archiving my photos but primarily as a mechanism to contribute to the Creative Commons, and also to foster conversations relating to rare and obscure imagery. Furthermore, I never really took ownership of a blog, so flickr is still the closest thing I have to a blog, apart from my Tumblr, which is fairly recent and one-sided. I also have a really good flickr username (just three characters) so that contributes to my fondness for maintaining the URL. I also hate posting photos to Facebook.

    I have no serious complaints about the changing nature of the community at flickr primarily because I recognize I’m partly at fault for not contributing to this community. The truth is, I don’t spend the time there that I once did because I don’t have the time to spend.

    My photos rarely gather much notice these days, but I do appreciate the occasional comment that appears in my archives, no matter how short, sweet, or obscure. I also find the approx $2/month a very economical way to share digital images, and I prefer to share via Flickr as opposed to uploading directly to wikipedia or archive.org. By licensing your photos as you see fit, you can allow other folks to import into wikipedia on their own undertaking, which has happened to me numerous times.

    And as for that Vancouver Sun article on blogging, I can attest I have accessed that image many times myself; in fact, I consider that article to be an important personal introduction to Vancouver for me; it introduced me to Caterina, to yourself, and to the flickr community at large. So once again, thanks for posting that! I appreciate it!

  11. Flickr has thousands of photos that my dad posted in the years before he died, and if I can figure out how, I’m hoping to get into his account and pay for a pro membership (his lapsed while he was sick, or after he passed away) so that all his photos are still visible for me, family, and anyone else to look at.

    Unfortunately I have yet been unable to hack into his account, and I don’t want to contact Yahoo about it because their policy states that when a person dies, they remove their account and all data. We still have all his photos on various hard drives, but his Flickr account has the best of what he did, and it’s a better legacy than a hard drive.

  12. I, too, use my Flickr Pro account as a backup. I can’t afford fancier backup systems, and $25 a year for unlimited storage, an easy upload system, guest passes for private photos (for clients), and a way to batch title and tag photos is too good to pass up. I rarely interact with people on Flickr or use it as a social networking site. I suppose some people might say that’s because Flickr hasn’t lived up to its potential as a social networking site, but I have many other social networking sites for my photography that I need to keep up on a regular basis. I rather like having this photo site just as a photo site where I can share pictures with clients.

  13. I’ve been a Flickr user since 2004. Over time it’s become a natural part of my photography workflow and don’t really see a need to go anywhere else.

    While some of my contacts no longer post with great regularity, the vast majority do and, for me at least, the community of photographers who I interact with has remained strong.

  14. I still use it, but it’s more of an archive for my Instagram and old Flickr photos these days. My worst complaint at this time is that most of my friends and sane followers have gone to Instagram and Facebook for photo uploading and most of my followers that are still active are people with a specific fetish; foot fetishists, giantess, etc. I’m not on Flickr to titillate, so it really degrades my user experience to be inundated with friend notifications from users like ridemypeen69. Annoys the Hell out of me, but like you I use the site as a backup in case something horrible happens. Sad reason to be paying a web site to host photos in “the cloud age”… :/

  15. I still use it, but I do miss the sense of community that it once offered. It’s a great archiving/backup tool, and is a easy starting point to push photos out to other social networks.

    I think that they still have the user base to be great again, but their innovation has been so slow that they really need to step up their game if they want any chance of catching up.

    Overall, I think Thomas Hawk summed it up nicely in his open letter to Marissa Mayer:


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