Why we’re changing Flickr free accounts

pigalle #2

Today, we’re announcing updates to our Free and Pro accounts that mark a new step forward for Flickr. To be candid, we’re driving toward the future of Flickr with one eye on the rearview mirror; we’re certain that Flickr’s brightest days lay ahead, but we remain acutely aware that past missteps have alienated some members of our community. We also recognize that many of the clues for how best to build the future of Flickr can be found in our own, rich history.

Many of today’s announcements are unequivocally positive things: a new, simplified login with any email you prefer; improvements to the Pro account; and additional partner perks. The changes to our Free accounts are significant, and I’d like to explain why these changes are necessary and why we’re confident they’re the right path forward for Flickr.

Beginning January 8, 2019, Free accounts will be limited to 1,000 photos and videos. If you need unlimited storage, you’ll need to upgrade to Flickr Pro.

In 2013, Yahoo lost sight of what makes Flickr truly special and responded to a changing landscape in online photo sharing by giving every Flickr user a staggering terabyte of free storage. This, and numerous related changes to the Flickr product during that time, had strongly negative consequences.

First, and most crucially, the free terabyte largely attracted members who were drawn by the free storage, not by engagement with other lovers of photography. This caused a significant tonal shift in our platform, away from the community interaction and exploration of shared interests that makes Flickr the best shared home for photographers in the world. We know those of you who value a vibrant community didn’t like this shift, and with this change we’re re-committing Flickr to focus on fostering this interaction.

Second, you can tell a lot about a product by how it makes money. Giving away vast amounts of storage creates data that can be sold to advertisers, with the inevitable result being that advertisers’ interests are prioritized over yours. Reducing the free storage offering ensures that we run Flickr on subscriptions, which guarantees that our focus is always on how to make your experience better. SmugMug, the photography company that recently acquired Flickr from Yahoo, has long had a saying that resonates deeply with the Flickr team and the way we believe we can best serve your needs: “You are not our product. You are our priority.” We want to build features and experiences that delight you, not our advertisers; ensuring that our members are also our customers makes this possible.

Third, making storage free had the unfortunate effect of signaling to an entire generation of Flickr members that storage—and even Flickr itself—isn’t worth paying for. Nothing could be further from the truth: there is no place like Flickr to share, to discover, to learn, and to interact around photography. And because storing tens of billions of Flickr members’ photos is staggeringly expensive, we need our most-active members to help us continue investing in Flickr’s stability, growth, and innovation.

What He Might Have Heard

How did we choose the 1,000 photo/video limit?

We started from the point of view that free members are essential to a vibrant, healthy Flickr, and we were determined to provide a free tier that allows anyone who is unable or unwilling to pay for a Pro account to meaningfully participate in, and contribute to, the Flickr community.

While most products today sell storage in megabytes or gigabytes, the photographers we spoke to all knew about how many photos they had shot in the past few days, but few knew how much storage those photos consume without doing tricky math. Counting photos is simpler and more intuitive. It’s also more closely aligned to Flickr’s past (before 2013, Free members were limited to 200 photos), and we liked the idea of returning to our roots but with free space for five times as many photos as before.

We also think that photographers should be able to upload full, uncompressed original images to Flickr without worrying about conserving space or worrying about a future where images continue to grow in size.

Lastly, we looked at our members and found a clear line between Free and Pro accounts: the overwhelming majority of Pros have more than 1,000 photos on Flickr, and more than 97% of Free members have fewer than 1,000. We believe we’ve landed on a fair and generous place to draw the line.

We know change can be overwhelming, no doubt. But we are committed to making sure Flickr’s focus stays on you, the photographer. We believe this is the right path forward to build a sustainable future for Flickr and our community so we can continue developing features and products that shape the world of photography for years to come.