Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Yahoo Buys Flickr

In 2005, Yahoo acquired Flickr, a photo-sharing website. I didn’t know anything about it at the time, and didn’t actually find out until sometime around the summer of 2007. For about four years I had been uploading my pictures to Yahoo Photos, mostly because I wanted my friends and family back in the U.S. to be able to see what my life in Taiwan is like, but also because I thought it was a good “poor man’s” offsite storage solution in case something happened to my computer. I had uploaded almost four thousand photos by the time I received an email from Yahoo telling me that they were discontinuing their photo service. Their reasoning was that, since they had acquired Flickr, they’d rather put their efforts into supporting that site instead of maintaining their own photo site. I assume they also didn’t want to compete with themselves for the share of the photo website market.

I was surprised and disappointed, as I’d spent many hours uploading photos, tagging them, and arranging them into albums. I’d also sent many emails to friends and family telling them where they could find my photos. Fortunately, Yahoo gave the option of moving my photos to one of several other photo websites, naturally including Flickr. They also gave the option of purchasing CDs containing all of my photos (I tried this several times, but the site declined my credit card. Even after contacting customer service, which wasn’t helpful at all. They basically scratched their heads and said, “Huh. That’s weird”), I was unable to complete the transaction.

At that point I was stuck with switching to a new service. I put off making the change for a long time, because it is really difficult to compare all of the different services that are available without actually using them. In the end I chose Flickr because I assumed it would be the easiest thing to do. That was one month ago. I now have a Flickr account that was automatically created for me, but at this time none of my photos have appeared, despite being told that the wait time would be one to two weeks.

Even assuming that my photos eventually appear in my Flickr account, it is possible that the albums and tags I used will not transfer. Also, Yahoo Photos was a free service, whereas a free Flickr account has many limitations (including only being able to view the most recent two hundred photos). In order to have an equivalent level of service, I will have to pay for a “pro” account.

I have to admit that, from a business perspective, Yahoo’s decision to discontinue their photo service in favor of focusing on Flickr makes sense. One positive thing that I noticed about my Yahoo account since this change has happened is that I now have unlimited email storage, which is perhaps the result of Yahoo freeing up all that server space that used to be used to store photos. Also, it may turn out that I really like Flickr, once my photos finally show up. Still, the overall experience was fairly inconvenient, and it has caused me some anxiety regarding the decision to switch, as well as regarding whether my photos will actually ever be transferred. Even if they do transfer, I expect that I will have to spend time re-organizing and labeling my photos.

I know that change is inevitable, especially in the rapidly changing world of the internet, but I would have much rather have kept things as they were.

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