Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

10 Reasons why Flickr is better than Instagram

This is the second of three blog posts this week about Flickr. Today’s is about Instagram’s new terms of use and how Flickr beats it in terms of features.

Screenshot of my Instragram protest on Flickr Oh Instagram. We used to love you for allowing us to pretend to be arty hipster-esque photographers with a variety of retro filters and your vibrant community. But then you were bought by Facebook and started to turn evil.

First you disabled support for Twitter Cards, so users of Twitter’s web site and official mobile apps couldn’t see photos inline anymore and had to click through to your web site. Then you changed your policies so that it appeared that you have the right to license our photos for use in advertising, without any compensation or opt-out for us (which turned out to be a terrible misunderstanding). Frankly, I’m disappointed. Our relationship is over. I’m going back to my first love, Flickr.

You see, Flickr, when you think about it, is so much better than Instagram:

1. Clearer licensing

First of all, Flickr doesn’t claim to own your photos, nor will it do anything with them without your permission. And, you can set a license on your photos to make it clear what other people can do with your photos. By default, all rights are reserved, but you can also apply a Creative Commons license to your images if you want to permit re-use, but you can also apply people to license your content through Getty Images and get paid for doing so.

2. Bigger and different sized images

Instagram pictures are designed for viewing on small devices, so they’re of a low resolution – around 600 pixels square. Flickr lets you upload full size images of multiple megapixels – although you’ll only able to view full size images with a Pro account. And they needn’t be perfectly square – any size or shape will do.

3. More granular privacy settings

On Instagram, your photo feed is either public, or only available to those friends that you’ve approved. On Flickr, each photo can have individual settings, so you can make some pictures public, but more private images can only be viewed by your contacts, or even just a sub-set of your contacts, like friends and family.

4. Better tagging

Instagram belatedly added support for #hashtags in photo titles earlier this year, but Twitter has supported tagging of photos for many years. You can even add ‘machine tags‘ to add your own metadata to images.

5. More ways to organise your photos

As well as tagging, you can put your images into sets. So all of your pictures from a particular event could go in a set, or all of your cat pictures, for example. And you can group those sets into ‘Collections’ – for example, I have a collection of 10 sets of pictures taken in London. Instagram has no such organisational feature.

6. Your images will appear on Twitter

Flickr still supports Twitter Cards, unlike Instagram which douchebaggedly removed this a couple of weeks ago. So when you share one of your Flickr photos on Twitter, users of the Twitter web site and Twitter mobile apps will be able to see your images inline.

7. Flickr has better third-party app support

Instagram may have an API, but it’s read-only – you can get data out of it, but only the official Instagram apps will let you save photos, or comment on and like others’ images. Flickr’s is read-write, so you can save images from a variety of desktop apps, including iPhoto which ships with every Mac. Flickr was actually one of the first sites to offer a public API in this way and to use an authentication method that didn’t require sharing your password with third parties, years before OAuth was available.

8. You can upload video as well as photographs

Although limited to a maximum of 90 seconds, you can upload video clips to Flickr, not just static images. Free users can upload 2 standard definition videos each month, whereas Pro users can upload an unlimited number of high definition videos.

9. More liberal attitude to mature content

If your style of photography involves taking pictures of naked people, then Instagram is not for you – even partially nude images are banned under the new terms of service. Flickr will allow more risqué images provided that you change the ‘safety level’ of the image to ‘restricted’. That way, the images will only show up to logged-in users who want to see such photos, and not children. Again, this is granular – you can restrict your whole account or just individual images. The Flickr guidelines detail the full policy.

10. Better community features

Flickr has thousands of communities, called Groups, that you can join. Each group has a pool where you can submit your photos (and your photos can be submitted to multiple group pools) as well as a discussion board. It’s a good way to get feedback on your photography and plan meet-ups.

Unless Instagram decides to relent and get rid of it’s new policy and give us back control of our photographs, I’ll be deleting my account in early January. Flickr – I’m sorry I ever doubted you.

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