New flickr – and why the upgrade isn’t for everyone… Top

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So here we go, my first critical blog entry where I’m trying to be objective and not completely give in to ranting.
Right at the time when I was launching my new site, flickr thought it would be a good idea to upgrade its site. That isn’t such a bad thing at all, upgrades are usually nice, bring in new features and improve the usability. New updates often come with a couple of problems and bad decisions, but they are usually corrected quickly after the launch. So I gave flickr a couple of days and am giving it a thorough review now.

With the new site, flickr introduced a rather dominant layout that is a lot less informational than it used to be. No problem you may think, as in the past there were several photostream layouts and you could choose which one you want. But instead of making the new photostream a default option, they entirely removed the ability of choosing your photostream. That is a downer, yet they may have some aces up their sleeves.

So let’s take a look. At first glance free users now have a lot more visible pictures in the photostream, can upload HD video, larger pictures, upload into more groups and so on. For free users flickr got a whole lot better indeed – but let’s have a closer look at that.

Feature Old Free New Free
Limit per picture 30 MB 200 MB Upgrade
Limit per month 300 MB Unlimited Upgrade
Limit total Unlimited 1 TB Downgrade
Limit visible photos 200 Unlimited Upgrade
Video limit Non-HD 3 Min / 1 GB Upgrade
Video limit per month 2 videos Unlimited Upgrade
Advertising Yes Yes Same
Statistics No No Same
Replace a photo No Yes Upgrade
Photos in x groups 10 groups 60 groups Upgrade

7 upgrades with just one downgrade which is completely neglectable (although you could theoretically upload more in the past, it would’ve taken you more than a lifetime to actually do so, considering the monthly upload rate). Not too bad, is it? So feature wise the new site is definitly a big step forward for free users. I keep emphasizing “free users” – obviously for a reason. Pro users, those who heavily used flickr and paid for it, are in an entirely different situation. But let’s have a closer look first:

Feature Pro Ad free Doublr
Limit per picture 50 MB 200 MB 200 MB Upgrade
Limit per month Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Same
Limit total Unlimited 1 TB 2 TB Downgrade
Limit visible photos Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Same
Video limit 1.5 Min / 500 MB 3 Min / 1 GB 3 Min / 1 GB Upgrade
Video limit per month Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Same
Advertising for you No No No Same
Advertising for your viewers No Yes Yes Downgrade
Statistics Yes No No Downgrade
Replace a photo Yes Yes Yes Same
“Pro” badge Yes No No Downgrade
Photos in x groups 60 groups 60 groups 60 groups Same
Price $25 / year $50 / year $500 / year Downgrade

Unfortunately, if you want to know whether pro users gained anything, the answer is a devastating no. Not only don’t they gain anything. They get downright ripped off if they were to upgrade to an ad-free account. It lacks major features that the old pro account had, like statistics. Furthermore it is actually¬†less ad-free than the old pro account, because that one was ad-free when sharing pictures as well. They dropped that with the new flickr. Together with even more downgrades and only minor upgrades (doubling the video limits and raising the upload limit per picture) they charge double the price.

Now fortunately flickr offers pro users to stay pro if they keep paying. But once you’re out, you’ll never get back in.
If you consider the bad user experience, dropped statistics, lowered limits (2 TB cost you a whopping $475 more per year than the unlimited pro account!) and more, then there is only one conclusion to draw from that: for users that extensively used flickr in the past, the new site is a huge step backwards. For free users, there are a lot of benefits, despite the usability is still not great.

My hope is that they re-think their pricing structure and re-introduce a photostream selection. This would make it more customizable and also allow flickr to save face while making lots of long-term flickr users happy. They won’t roll back to the old layout, that is a given. But they might just introduce the option of a classic photostream.
Also: statistics! They are already there, why drop them? Not a smart move for people that intend to use flickr professionally.

They have already started to give in a little here and there. If you’re watching your own photostream, you can click on “edit” next to “favorites”. This will bring you the previous (much better) overview of your pictures. Not all hope is lost and I will currently keep my pro account, waiting and watching in which direction flickr develops!

A fellow flickr user, Guido Castellanos, posted another interesting blog article about flickr’s changed business model as well as practical and aesthetical aspects of the new layout:¬†http://gfcastellanos.wordpress.com/


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