Five years of flickr
Today, it is five years ago that I started using flickr, the photo sharing service. Flickr has brought about a resurgence in my interest in photography, the site has provided a way to stay in touch with friends and family, it has allowed my photos to be seen around the world and used for purposes I would otherwise never have learned about.
When I heard about flickr (launched in 2004), I was wondering why anybody would want to make their photos public. At the time, I was using Ofoto and other sites that allowed me to make albums available to people on an invitation-only basis. As people in my social network joined flickr in increasing numbers I decided to try it out. And I got hooked.
The user interface was simple and elegant. Tags were central to the way the site worked. The tone of voice playful and personal. The site stored photos without increasing compression to silly levels. Above all, the way it allowed people to interact and connect was meaningful. Simple but effective controls allayed privacy concerns. I soon discovered photo streams from which I could draw inspiration. People would leave helpful comments on my photos. This sparked a desire to become a better photographer, a journey I am still enjoying.
A huge milestone was when flickr incorporated support for Creative Commons licenses. Realising that I am not going to make money off my photography, I decided to apply a liberal license (CC BY-SA) to my photographs. That has resulted in more than one hundred of my photos being used on other websites, in magazines and books, in Wikipedia, in print calendars even as an album cover. This kind of reach is something I could never have achieved as an amateur photographer without an agent. I use the tag ccpublished to track which photos have been used elsewhere. (I have actually sold one photo, it was discovered on flickr by an image agency; their client wanted to use it without attribution so they couldn't use it within the terms of the Creative Commons license.)
With more than 10,000 photos on flickr and a network of connections I am not going elsewhere for photo sharing anytime soon. I wish flickr made it easy to export statistics and comments for my photographs - in case Yahoo decided to call a stop to flickr. I am also concerned about falling foul of flickr's moderation policies which have reportedly resulted in people having their account cancelled with no prior warning. But most of all, I would like to sign up for an account that doesn't expire, even when I die. My father left behind a collection of wonderful photos; our generation has the ability to do the same, all neatly tagged and categorised and available on the web so that our children don't have to store it all in the attic.