Why? To start, it’s a photo-sharing service that works extremely well. It features a large and passionate community, and it has a well-known and respected brand. (It also doesn’t hurt that Flickr has Canadian roots!)
But Flickr has the potential to be so much more – more innovative, more creative, more flexible, and – excuse my grammar – more better.
Let’s be honest, since Flickr was acquired by Yahoo for a reported $50-million in 2005, it’s been pretty much the same old, same old. Sure, there are some new features such as Flickr Places (which, by the way, are buried deep in the service), new editing tools through a deal with Picnik, and a new and, well, new logo tagline – “Flickr Loves You”.
But when you’re the world’s leading photo-sharing service, it doesn’t mean you can’t push the envelope and be strategically aggressive.
One of the big problems with Flickr is the role it’s now playing. Within the Yahoo empire, Flickr’s main function seems to be its ability to simply generate traffic. That’s fine but, frankly, Yahoo is simply leveraging the same attributes Flickr had three years ago – a strong brand, enthusiastic community, and a good service – to pull off the traffic trick.
Okay but boring.
In an ideal world, Flickr needs to be a different beast. It needs to attract more traffic with exciting new services. It needs to jump-start its employees and community by rolling out new and innovative premium services so Flickr can become more of a business (nothing like trying to make some money to give everyone a reason to wake up in the morning!).
With the future of Yahoo now up in the air, maybe it’s time to think about whether it’s time for Flickr to be spun off or sold….or something. For Flickr to regain its mojo, it needs a fresh start and the freedom to be, well, Flickr again.
It could be a matter of letting Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake, Flickr’s co-founders, to take the reins again. Or maybe Flickr should be sold to a company focused on digital photography and photographers. Can you imagine what Flickr would look like if SmugMug, for example, was allowed to run it? (Not withstanding SM’s recent privacy troubles.)
Or perhaps it’s time for a Flickr IPO. Surely, there will be lots of investor interest in a company with millions of users, a great brand and huge potential to grow the business.
For more thoughts on Flickr, check out CNet’s Gordon Haff, who wonders if Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo will be a threat or savior for Flickr.
Update: According to Hitwise (via Techcrunch), poor people use Yahoo while those who are better off use Google.