The Emperor’s New Clothes or New Flickr: Downgraded and Dumbed Down

Wordmark of Flickr

Wordmark of Flickr (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve dusted off this old blog and blown away the cobwebs and spruced it up a smidge so I could have a little grumble.

Now are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

It was a Monday like any other. The sun was possibly shining, the birds were probably singing and the bees were trying to have sex with them as is my understanding of nature. It seemed like a rather nondescript, average, sort of day.

Then it happened.

The refresh button was tapped and what was once described as “almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.” metamorphosis into New Flickr. Of course that was Flickr describing itself so you know what they say “Self praise is no praise”. Sort of like when they repeatedly describe themselves as being “Awesome” again. They keep using that word, I don’t think it means what they think it means.

So now we have New Flickr, where once there was an elegant yet tasteful site where one could peruse the postings of the day you now find the bastard child of  FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest in an orgy of meh. Yes Flickr could have done with sprucing up its homepage after years of neglect but rather that just give it a little nip and tuck they decided it would be far more lucrative to completely rip off its face and staple on a new one patched together from a collection of scraps thrown from the table of Facebook, a few bones off Instagram and a discarded eyelash from Pinterest. Flickr used to be a leader, when you needed to post your photos somewhere that was the place to go but now, now it’s like trying to pick out a boyband from a line up. You vaguely know which is which but you just can’t be sure.

Flickr, or rather Yahoo!, had the opporchancity to build something unique, a site where you could display your photos, your snapshots, your work in the way that best suited your needs. Ah no sorry, that’s what they used to have. The downgrading of the site by removing such features is…it’s…well it’s difficult to comprehend why removing such a popular feature was deemed to be such a good idea. You have to wonder what was going through the design team’s collective minds when someone stood up and said “I know lets take away the clean and much-loved layout and jam every photo possible into one page of fully justified, infinitely scrolling, bandwidth hogging, discombobulation. They’ll love it.” And true there are some who love it but going by the thousands upon thousands of replies to the feedback forums the majority don’t.

I know what you’re thinking. How can they be the majority when there are millions of Flickr users. Ah you have me there. Could the silent majority be siding with Flickr and be revelling in the new site or perhaps they’re so incensed with anger they’ve been rendered speechless. Well you really can’t say either way. Perhaps those millions are still holding a grudge against Yahoo! for closing Yahoo! Photos and still wont talk to them for forcing them to find somewhere new to store their images. The easiest option to them would most likely be leaping into Yahoo’s favoured photo site and as if by magic Flickr gained millions of new users. Just think how little porn there would be on Flickr if Yahoo! hadn’t closed down Yahoo! Photos.

Ah but Flickr wouldn’t just roll this out without a beta test now would they? Well sort of. There was the Bucket Group where a selection of users were picked up and dropped into New Flickr, a focus group perhaps? A group whose opinions would represent Flickr as a whole? Well they would have if they’d given Flickr the opinions they wanted to hear but alas the response from the test group was almost unanimously negative with cries of “Let me out of here” and “Change it back” but nay the steamroller of progress cannot hear those screams over the engine of ineptitude. You can’t roll out a bug filled product that fails to improve on the previous version and call it a success especially when it incurs thousands of negative comments. The proportion of negative to positive in the feedback thread seems to be very similar to that of the test group. Could this mean that the Bucket Test really was an apt representation of Flickr as a whole?

We could ask the Flickr representative in the Help Forum but I think it might be a bit too off topic to ask why the service you paid for and used regularly has suddenly changed. We could ask why the choice of background for our photos is either black or…erm black. You may have preferred your photos on white but Flickr thinks you don’t and no matter how much you tell them that you’re still going to be wrong. You could ask them why the justified, advertisement friendly view is the only one available…oh I think you just answered your own question there. The responses from Flickr are selective and disappointing. The choice of laying out your photos in the best way possible that you’ve been asking for, hoping for, pleading for, well maybe not pleading but definitely the first two, that option for changing the layout is gone forever, or for the foreseeable forever. Yes it did show your work at it’s best and allowed the text you’d sat down, pondered about and written to be previewed, enticing people to come in and read some more but New Flickr doesn’t seem to like words. Perhaps they’re under the impression that the demographic they’re trying to lure in doesn’t care much for reading hence the dumbing down of the photostream. No words, no nicely spaced out photos for the enjoyment of visitors, no choice at all. Actually there are two choices; live with it or leave.

And what is being done to deal with choir of requests for the return of beloved features? Nothing. “Sorry but while your feedback is important to us giving you what you ask for isn’t” appears to be the mantra of the representatives. Apparently they’re far to busy tweaking the monolithic justified view in an attempt to stop it sucking up bandwidth causing users to go over their internet limits while waiting for the pages to load at a snail’s pace. Ah but it’s not Flickr’s fault. It’s your fault for having the wrong kind of internet or your computer is too old or the pattern on your underwear is causing interference. Just don’t blame Flickr for just like the Emperor in his new clothes they’re convinced they have something beautiful when really their boat has a hole in it and their far more concerned with repainting the bow than fixing a sinking ship.

But we all know why the change. Yahoo! hasn’t been relevant for years and they now want to make their mark again with Flickr. They’ve even started and ad campaign. Now I can see why they’d go with a Pug. It’s small, it’s cute in an ugly sort of way and people seem to love them. Oh not forgetting it’s a dog with Pedigree too. It’s also a heavily inbred animal to the point that it suffers so many health problems that your local vet will be rubbing their hands with glee if they see you walking down the road with one. So the Pug while highly prized for being pure bred genetically it’s a mess. Hmmm pretty on the outside, chaos on the inside, this is sounding more and more like the perfect mascot for Flickr. However if you were wanting a super-fit, healthy dog then a mongrel is the way to go. Wait a mo…a dog that is part one breed, part another, makes for a healthier animal….I’m getting something here. An epiphany of sorts. If Flickr took some of the new and mixed it in with some of the old could it perhaps be a healthier site, a better site, a site that pleases the masses and inspires us to once more pick up that camera and a say “Yes!..Yes!…I will take that photo today”.

Ah but will it happen or is a hybrid Flickr just a fantasy like the Gryphon’s of legend?

Unfortunately it seems so. The idea that they’d admit their attitude to the changes were too draconian and that flexibility and customisation is key seems almost too fantastical comprehend.

If they want to save face they can always say “Big boys did it and then ran away”.

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4 responses to “The Emperor’s New Clothes or New Flickr: Downgraded and Dumbed Down

    • Ipernity must be loving this past few weeks. Since my contacts haven’t left Flickr I’m planning on weathering the storm with the ever optimistic hope that better change will come.

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      • Several of my most active contacts also left so that made it easier. I also removed the Creative Commons license on all my photos (all 40K of them) and also made them all private. If the New! Improved! Flickr is just a cynical attempt to reap ad revenues, at least my photos won’t be helping drive the website traffic. I haven’t burned my bridges completely, tho–I’ve kept my account thinking that at least Flickr might still have value as cheap cloud backup storage.

        The guy that wrote the Bulkr app has to be chortling, too–I can’t be the only one who, in a fit of paranoia, has just downloaded complete images of all his Flickr photos. At $29.99 for a 1-year license.

        In any case, even if the old Flickr eventually rises from the dead in some form, like a comic-book zombie, I am never going to trust them again as my sole photo-sharing site.

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