Ephemeral remains of Stephen Coles.
Writer, editor, typographer.
Oakland and Berlin.

Background image: BonBon Kakku
Title typeface: Times New Roman

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Posts tagged internets

Flickr Is Dead! Long Live Flickr!

Update (May 22, 2013): Flickr just launched a new design. Unfortunately, much of what I loved about the site (and wrote about in the 6-month-old post below) was pushed aside in a pretty sloppy effort to make the photos bigger.


Every few months I see the same handwringing about Flickr (usually when a friend is considering whether to renew their Pro account). “It’s dead.” “It’s a ghost town.” “No one sees my pics anymore.”

Flickr is Dead! Flickr is certainly not the all-purpose photography social network it once was. There is no doubt Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other more immediate, accessible, and — most importantly — mobile-savvy venues took that position. But Flickr is still a haven for professional photography, and for the visual documentation of specialized fields, because nothing is better for tagging, archiving, organizing, research, collaborating, curating, and finding others who share your particular interest. For example, my typography comrades still use it frequently. Same goes for collectors of vintage furniture, illustration, design, and ephemera. Architecture scholars, road-trippers, nature photographers, and urban planners value its mapping, groups, and true HTML-enabled comments that allow visual feedback and links. Photo journalists, too, use it to document events in a richer way than their regular news venues allow. And these are just a few of the flocks that are connected to my interests in some way — I know there are hundreds of other communities who rely on the platform.

As a very tangible example of Flickr’s vitality, next week I am hanging an exhibition filled entirely with images from people I met on the site. In fact, the Chromeography project itself is a thing that would not exist if not for Flickr. The network motivates me to reach out beyond my standard social group and discover the work, experience, and lives of strangers.

It’s true that the design is somewhat dated, the feature set hasn’t seen major upgrades in years, and the mobile app is somewhat embarrassing (Update: On Dec. 10, Flickr released a completely overhauled iPhone app which addresses most of the previous version’s shortcomings). I join the voices who call for these kinds of improvements. But I also admire Flickr for not changing what they do best. For not kowtowing to the increasingly common assertion that a platform must cater to the lowest common denominator to be relevant or successful. There is room on the web for those who do certain things very well and leave the rest to others.

Flickr is not dead. It is very much alive. It’s just not the creature everyone wants it to be. Fortunately there are other places for personal snapshots of daily life. Flickr is where I will continue to go for everything else.