On Flickr’s Service Overhaul

Flickr just rolled out their new service structure which basically gives 1 Terabyte of space to the free accounts, and will sunset the Pro account option soon after – in favor of an ad-sponsored system.

And despite being a Pro subscriber for years I think this is a very good move – as it gives enough incentive to bring regular users (back) to the service. Because let’s be honest, to this day Flickr is a superior photo service. The only problem it had was that the free accounts were severely limited; last time I checked 1 And I may be off, since it was years ago since I last was on a free account free users were allowed 200 photos displayed; you didn’t actually have any limits on how many photos you could upload – but it would only display the most recent 200. That, and you were only allowed a certain number of sets.

Even non-professional photographers can find these limitations debilitating to the overall user experience. Enough to compel us to upgrade to their Pro service which cost about $20 a year – which I did and which I never regretted doing.

Still, given the multitude of alternative image hosting services out there that are free – we all know the majority will be willing to settle for a substandard service as long as they just get to upload and show all their photos/sets – limitations which were exactly the deal-breakers for free Flickr accounts.


So in case it wasn’t clear in the announcement, the fact that they’re sunsetting the Pro accounts eventually means that all the features of the Pro that don’t have anything to do with storage space will now be available for everyone.

It’s a shame though that the new “Pro” counterpart, which is basically an ad-free (and unlimited storage) – is twice as expensive as the old Pro. While $50 dollars a year isn’t much, I personally am willing to put up with advertisements instead of paying an extra $30 just for being ad-free.

Because the “unlimited” storage space of the Pro accounts isn’t really that big of a deal. 1TB is a lot of space. It’s very difficult to fill 1TB online unless you’re some kind of freak – or professional photographer who relies solely on Flickr for archiving their work (which is very unprofessional, IMHO). I don’t think I even filled 1TB worth of photos on my Drobo (yet) – and that’s way more photos than what I upload on Flickr.


Having trouble grasping how “enough” it is? Let me repost a comment I had on Facebook discussing this subject:

The trick is to just upload web-friendly resolution pictures. Most people just use image hosting services to show people pictures – not necessarily to print them straight from the web. If you want to print something, it’s best you actually have the original copy of it on your hard drive.

Anyways, as per Flickr’s “promo” it says 1TB can host roughly 530 THOUSAND photos @ 6.5MP each – which is what they consider to be the typical size of a “full res” photo that prints decently.

I’ve been in flickr since 2005 – and for 8 YEARS my TOTAL photos uploaded to this day is… a whopping 9,713 LOL. Even if I was uploading at full res, it clearly shows that 8 years with a fairly decent pace of uploads 2 and I’d like to consider myself one of the more photo-posting type of people – and it seems impossible for me to hit that ceiling. Compounded with the fact that I actually do not upload at full resolution precisely to conserve the space I use. I usually limit my resolution to like 900 pixels max on the longest dimension. So even if we bumped that [up] considerably (say 1,200px) you’re still not even going to go anywhere near 1MB per picture.

Do the math (I suggest Wolfram Alpha) and factor in that the 1TB limit will likely increase over time as other services start getting competitive 3 That’s exactly how Google mail does it and you just know that it’ll be adequate – and definitely more than enough for the average joe.


Another reason why I’m not (yet) concerned with ads is because I actually use their API to display all my photos/sets in my gallery which means I essentially skin my account – which bypasses the ads altogether.

I say “not yet” because this obviously seems like an oversight on Flickr’s part. But from an API standpoint, whatever breadth of access you’re able to make to an Pro account should [eventually] be applicable to the free accounts as well.

The only change that can be done there is to restrict API access to paying subscribers – but that would put them in trouble with a lot of developers that make apps that access their API.

So overall, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but for as long as I can get all the data I need from a Free account to display in my page, I don’t think I’ll be subscribing to an ad-free service. If they brought it down to what an original Pro account would cost, then maybe I would consider – and only if they start making their API accessible only to paying subscribers. Time will tell how this will turn out.


Overall, I still think this is a good move. I don’t see any reason why people wouldn’t want to get in on some Flickr goodness. Flickr has always been at the forefront in UI. I remember they’re one of the very first implementors of AJAX style interfaces – which was incredible at the time because it was exactly what you needed for this type of photo management.

But for the first time users, and potential customers – try it out, you’ll see what I’m talking about and it’s very difficult to go back to any other image-hosting service once you’ve gotten used to the Flickr workflow.


1 And I may be off, since it was years ago since I last was on a free account
2 and I’d like to consider myself one of the more photo-posting type of people
3 That’s exactly how Google mail does it

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