Jan 27, 2005

Why Flickr will Win

An excellent blog post by ProphecyBoy. Here is this articles url:
http://www.prophecyboy.com/archives/2005/01/why_flickr_will.html I'm not sure how to use trackbacks in blogger.

At a party last weekend, I asked my friend to upload and share the pictures she was taking, and mentioned Flickr. She asked if it was like Snapfish. I said, yes, but it's much easier to use and lets you do so much more with your photos. Like all my other friends to whom I've been advocating Flickr, she must have been unimpressed, because I just received her e-mail from Snapfish. After jumping on the Flickr bandwagon, the entire experience of services like Snapfish, which haven't significantly improved over the last five years, seems archaic and clunky - like using Windows 3.1 after living with OS X. Flickr will, sooner or later, win many more converts than it already has. Why? Because it stays out of the way and lets us use and share photos how we want to, rather than forcing us into outdated paradigms.

I hate registering for things. I probably had a Snapfish account once upon a time, but for the life of me I couldn't remember what my login was. So just to view these pictures, I had to login. Why? Was there confidential information being kept secret? Probably not. On Flickr, you can restrict who can view/comment on photos, but most people choose not to. Do I really care if a stranger wants to oogle the party guests from last weekend? No. would it be simpler to just cut and paste a user-readable link than a long string generated by a login script? Yes. All of my Flickr photos are viewable at http://www.flickr.com/photos/adamsimon/ and always will be, whether public or private. Simple. I can send that link to anyone, and they'll probably remember it.

Why does Snapfish not let me download multiple photos at once? Beyond viewing the archaic "album", which conceptually is becoming so obsolete that even the new iPhoto is phasing it out, there's no way to view other photos by my friend, or easily do anything other than download one photo at a time. (Or, of course, make prints. Flickr doesn't traffic in this business, which I think is wise - the rise of digital photography is killing the practicality of making hard copies of all but the most precious photos.) In Flickr, I could have just subscribed to her photostream, and instantly received all the pics in my RSS reader. Not to mention that I'd know the next time she uploaded, without needing so much as an e-mail to alert me.

I also question the tedious process of uploading to Snapfish. I hope she didn't spend more than five minutes doing that. I have a lovely iPhoto plugin that lets me send pictures to Flickr. It takes awhile, but since the organization is done when I imported to iPhoto from the camera, I can just hit "upload" and walk away. I can also upload via e-mail from my camera phone, and quickly post blog entries with any photo from my Flickr stream, or put a banner on my site which rotates pictures on every refresh. And let's not even get into the whole Flickr tags feature. As evidenced by the latest Technorati developments, tags are the future of search, and Flickr makes sure that people can find your photos if they're looking in the right place.

It all boils down to this: Flickr does its job and gets out of the way. It lets us share photos quickly and simply and is an open system which allows other people (such as the guy who wrote the iPhoto plugin) to make the software even better. Snapfish is a remnant of the Web 1.0 era, where closed systems compelled users to spend money to get anything useful. Flickr is a prime Web 2.0 service: freely extensible, so it's always cutting-edge, and you only have to pay for it if you use it a lot. It's fair in a whole lot of ways, and people love it for that. They're still in early-adopter-ville at the moment, but word of mouth is powerful, and people like me sharing photos via Flickr is a great way to attract new converts.

In the end, I spent the time to register for Snapfish, and looked at the photos. I felt compelled to download a couple. I will likely never look at the album again, and those other photos, locked behind the Snapfish garden wall, may as well have not existed for me. The Snapfish album is static, and therefore not worth revisiting. My Flickr photostream is dynamic and alive, updating with every snap of the shutter, and able to be re-organized on the fly.

Flickr is changing the rules for photos at a time when digital cameras are exploding. Soon, similar things will happen for audio (check out Last.FM - not a perfect implementation, but on the right track), and video (something I'm working on). It's just another example of the new rules of the game. Flickr will come out on top.
...Unless they don't: Google just launched Picasa 2. This will have serious implications for Flickr, but for now it's lacking in several areas: it's PC-only, it runs as local software, and it traffics in old-school organization albums. On the other hand, it looks to have amazing retouching tools, and automatically routes photos to Blogger or TiVo. I haven't used Adobe Photoshop Album for Windows recently, but it seems like they might have some trouble ahead. It's funny - with Picasa and Desktop Search, Google is bringing Mac-like tools (iPhoto, Spotlight) to Windows. Hmmm...

What with that and all the talk about dark fiber today, it looks like we're seeing the next steps in the rise of Googlezon.

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