Scripting News: New Flickr.

Users like changes in products that are responsive to their needs and wants.

Bugs fixed. Performance improved. A key missing feature added.

Users like a dialog with the product creators that show there’s an understanding. That seems to work best if the people who decide about the product are also users of the product.

  • Star Trek fans were horrified to find out that JJ Abrams was not a Star Trek fan.
  • Couldn’t they find a show runner who liked Star Trek-style science fiction?

That’s why we watch serial shows like Mad Men. We like to see the characters we’ve come to know in new situations. We nod our heads, that’s right, that’s what Don Draper would do. If all of a sudden Don Draper started acting like Instagram, we’d wonder if we had the wrong channel.

A picture named newCoke.gifI’ve been using Flickr since almost the beginning. When I started, a generous Scripting News reader gifted me with a Pro account, and I’ve been paying the $25 every year. Sometimes I ask myself if I reallly want to do it, but in the end I always pay the money.

All the while, Flickr hardly changed at all. I wasn’t sure if this was a good thing. It meant that the management at Yahoo wasn’t paying attention, I figured. At least if they aren’t paying attention there’s little chance they’d screw with it. For many years they stayed away. But last week all that changed. All of it.

The change in Flickr was radical. And the performance of the site, which recently has been pretty bad, got worse. I assume this is because the servers have to do a lot more work to figure out how to lay out the photos so they show up in a neat array, as if we were reading a magazine instead of browsing a website.

Other people have analyzed the deal changes, I honestly don’t care much if it’s $25 or $50, and I don’t come close to using a terabyte. Mostly what I value from Flickr is the longevity of it. It seemed like a safe place to leave my pictures. My father’s pictures are there too. He died in 2009. Up till now I wasn’t too worried.

Couldn’t Flickr have given us the option of not using the new features? What if we don’t want them? Why force this on us.

What if I don’t like the idea of ads on my pictures, the ones I pay them to store for me, btw. I can pay to get rid of the ads for myself, but as I understand it (and my understanding might be wrong) the ads will still show up for people who view my pictures.

I want my pictures to be the star on Flickr, not Flickr. I don’t care if they’re hip — or if they appeal to people who like Instagram or Facebook or whatever. I kind of doubt whether the superficial changes they make will attract many new users. Their competition have been out there for quite some time. I don’t think Flickr did anyting more than match them. And the changes are so superficial. It looks like a mask that says Instagram while lurking in the back is something old and ugly, as if they’re embarassed about what Flickr was. The site I thought was good enough to pay $25 a year to use. Flickr which looked just fine without the mask, now looks like a New Yorker cartoon. A parody of something that was pretty good as it was, and is horribly tragically pathetic trying to be something it’s not and probably never will be.

I don’t know what the answer is. Yahoo had a lot of money and offered some to the founders of Flickr. I don’t blame them one bit for taking it. And how could the management at Yahoo understand what they bought if they weren’t themselves users?

There’s a lot of irony in the fact that all this embarassing change was implemented on the same day they were promisng that they would never do to Tumblr what they were proudly and openly doing to Flickr. Didn’t anyone at Yahoo speak up and say that maybe people might notice the disconnect?


About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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