ursamajor: people on the beach watching the ocean (Default)
Rumors were swirling over the weekend about Yahoo acquiring Tumblr. Or, possibly, Facebook acquiring Tumblr to prevent anyone else from doing so.

Yahoo did buy Tumblr, and of course lots of people were talking about it this morning. I think in the long run, Tumblr was kind of doomed anyway without a buyout deal, because they still haven't figured out a good business model. And with the spectre of a Facebook buyout raised, I'd take my chances with a Yahoo-owned Tumblr over a Facebook-owned Tumblr.

That being said, I think Yahoo's model has been pretty detrimental to the properties they've bought overall. Their pattern has been to integrate Yahoo-specific hooks into their new acquisitions, then benignly neglect them, then reap the results of that neglect by shrinking the staff (whether by pulling them to work on other projects or just letting them go), and then close or "sunset" them, in a way that would make it difficult for those properties to pull out the Yahoo-restricted code and go on as an independent from there. Then again, I might still be traumatized on multiple vectors from how they handled the Delicious "sunset," both personal and professional. (And that's far from the first acquisition Yahoo has screwed up.)

I *want* Mayer to be the second coming, to have a coherent vision, for her actions to all be driving towards her vision. I want to regain my confidence in Flickr's future. The new mobile app has helped a little; it's still playing catch-up, but it seems to indicate that they're not fully asleep at the wheel anymore. But I'm still wary. And realistically, the only thing that's going to give me confidence isn't going to be a lightning bolt one-time action, it's going to be seeing Mayer's actions to turn Yahoo around *work* over a long period of time, while minimizing the destruction of things I love in Yahoo's custody.

But Tumblr, for me, is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. I'm not nearly as engaged over there as I am elsewhere. What drew me into the Tumblr stories: the footnote that Yahoo was expected to announce updates to Flickr Monday afternoon.

Flickr account type comparison table: the updates )

1. Eligible Pro members have the option to switch to a Free account until 8/20/2013. What happens after that, I don't know. Automatic downgrade to Free? Automatic switch to Ad-Free?
2. Check your account history to see if you're currently on a renewing subscription or a one-time purchase.
3. It is possible to upgrade to the "Doublr" account, with all the privileges of the Free account type, and an additional terabyte of storage for a total of 2TB. Doublr is priced at $500/year. Because of this, I didn't bother giving it its own column in the table. Honestly, Doublr and Ad-Free seem more like a la carte add-ons than fully differentiated account types.
4. It is unclear to me what quality of HD video this limits Pro accounts to. Somebody with more familiarity with typical video file sizes will know better than I will. It's also unclear that the previous restriction of only Pro users being able to view HD video will remain; more likely that the FAQ just hasn't been updated yet.
5. And here's where we come to the big problem for me.

So it's unclear how much longer Pro users will get to keep their Pro accounts. And when Pro users switch to Ad-Free, they'll be paying twice as much per year to not see ads. And Flickr's wording here is pretty canny:

Pro accounts have "ad-free browsing and sharing;" Ad-Free accounts only promise "no ads in your browsing experience."

In other words? Free users are going to see ads on your Flickr photo pages, at the very least. What happens when you embed your Flickr-hosted photos somewhere else? And a free user, or somebody without a Flickr or Yahoo account, views your photos?

And yet, where else can we go? Where else can I see my friends' photos in a convenient community feed, and vice versa? We already know the answer to that, the ones we didn't want to hear: Facebook or Google.

I've been a Flickr Pro user for a number of years; even after I expressed my doubts about Flickr's long-term viability last year, I've kept my Pro account. As much as SmugMug is a better fit for my desire to be prioritized over advertisers as a customer, it's not community-oriented in its vision. There is no friends feed, like there is on Flickr and Facebook, and even if there was, I know exactly one other person using SmugMug right now anyway. And the costs aren't trivial ($40/year for the lowest level account). But they do seem to be rooted in the reality of running a successful independent web service. It's not perfect. 500px may be another option, but I don't see a friends' photos feed there, either. Both seem to be more oriented towards helping you sell your photos, though.

I'd hoped Yahoo investment in Flickr would help turn it into a solid Facebook competitor. Not this round. Nobody trusts Google/Picasa, either, and they're barreling straight down the realname path Facebook forged. So. How do we solve this? Go back to personal hosting? Wait, isn't RSS dying, too? :P Plus, the problems of the network effect are well-known, and difficult to overcome. We have this conundrum in modern Western society - we've come to trust and support larger global companies and forgive them their follies more than our smaller independent companies at the same time that we've also ceded our financial stakes in them to global advertisers.

But of course, all the smaller services I've been supporting haven't integrated modern things I consider core to my internet experience, like friends feeds or social collaboration. (Pinboard, I'm grateful for you; you saw a gigantic horde of us coming over from your social ex-competitor and you listened to us and made room for us, but you have a massive metadata problem in your "antisocial" culture, and that is probably eventually going to cause me to leave, because that's a cultural lack-of-fit I desperately want to fix. SmugMug, you're fancy and powerful, but I can't even share my photos with my friends without having to send them back out elsewhere like Facebook?) Which, you know, one-person products. Or at least small-team products. And I'm not saying these are simple things to implement, at all. They require dev time that's at a premium in smaller companies, and they also require that the visionary for the given software thinks that social stuff like that is a priority or a benefit for the culture they've been developing. But dammit, I still want more.


ursamajor: people on the beach watching the ocean (Default)
she of the remarkable biochemical capabilities!

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