Late last night, Flickr unveiled probably its biggest ever redesign, with a new look for many sections of its web site. It closely follows parent company Yahoo!’s purchase of Tumblr, meaning that Yahoo! now owns two large web sites with an aversion to using the letter ‘e’ in their names.
At the same time, it announced that all free accounts would now get 1 terabyte of storage space for photos, a new Android app was launched and it restructured its paid-for accounts.
After years of only minor, evolutionary changes, for the first time Flickr has made big changes to most of the site. The bar at the top of all Flickr pages is now black, and photo pages now have black backgrounds (which arguably makes more sense for photographs). Photos now take up almost all of the screen by default.
The metadata which was displayed alongside the photo is now shoved down to the bottom; a change I’m not 100% happy with as only the photo’s name and first line of the description are shown in the first screenful. The action buttons are also bottom-right of the photos now, rather than the top, and maps are gone completely.
Photostream pages have changed quite a bit. Flickr has borrowed the ‘cover photo’ idea from Facebook and Google+, so you can select one of your images to appear at the top. And your photos are displayed using the justified view that was rolled out on the Contacts page last year, and in the iOS app. The ability to change how your photostream looks has, unfortunately, been removed, although you can click an ‘Edit’ button on your own photostream to get this back for the purpose of changing photo titles and descriptions.
On the whole I like the new look. Putting photos front and centre is the right thing to do and I like the justified view in photostreams. However, I do think that users should be able to control the layout of their photostreams as before, and I think Flickr should make the photos a little smaller to show off more of the image meta data at the bottom.
More storage space
By offering a whole terabyte of space for free, Flickr is putting itself way ahead of its rivals. This compares very favourably with Google+ Photos, launched last week as the new name for Picasa Web Albums, which offers 5 gigabytes that is shared with Google Drive. It’s also a big step up from the previous free offering which limited uploads to 100 megabytes per month.
Now, individual photos can be as large as 200 megabytes, and all users can upload 1080p high definition videos of up to three minutes long.
New Android app
Last year Flickr thoroughly rebuilt its iOS app (my review) which brought massive improvements to it. Now it’s the turn of the Android app. Most of the early reviews of the new version are really positive, bar those from people unable to log in.
The iOS app is currently only designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch – as yet there’s no iPad version. I’m hoping this will come in future.
New paid-for accounts structure
Previously, there were two levels – free, and ‘Pro’ accounts. I’ve had a Pro account for over 8 years now and considered it to be a good investment – $48 for two years, or $2 per month.
Now, there’s free, ‘ad-free’ and ‘Doublr’. The ‘ad-free’ account simply removes all of the advertising on flickr.com whilst you are logged in, and ‘Doublr’ bumps your storage to two terabytes. However, these both cost significantly more than the old Pro account – ‘ad-free’ is $49.99 for one year and ‘Doublr’ is a whopping $499.99 per year.
Pro accounts will still be around for existing subscribers, and we’ll be able to renew them if we want to keep them (hopefully at the same cost). But they’re not open to new users, despite being a better deal than either of the two new paid accounts: Pro users will still have unlimited storage, and access to statistics for their photos which doesn’t seem to be available for anyone else. We will, however, lose the ‘pro’ badge next to our usernames.
I’m definitely glad I still have my Pro account as I wouldn’t subscribe to either of the new paid-for tiers. $50 per year is a lot to simply remove advertising, especially if you already have AdBlock Plus installed. And I’m never going to need more than a terabyte of space. But I don’t want to store over 3000 photos on a free service.
‘We’d really like it if it was more like Facebook’ – said no @flickr user, ever.
— James Whatley (@Whatleydude) May 21, 2013
Predictably the new changes haven’t been universally accepted. The feedback thread on the official forum runs to almost 8000 posts with many negative comments. Flickr users are notoriously fickle and there was a big backlash a few years ago when users were forced to merge their standalone Flickr accounts with a Yahoo! account, following its acquisition.
Of course, there have also been many complaints over the years that Yahoo! has left Flickr to stagnate – even I wondered this only 12 months ago. Hopefully those people will now be happy that Flickr is finally receiving the attention it deserves.
Some of the issues raised have been to do with bugs on the site since the redesign, but this is to be expected with such a big change and I’m sure the kinks will be ironed out. However, I do hope they will re-instate some of the removed features like mini-maps.
I’m pleased that Flickr is finally being seen by Yahoo! as a priority, particularly as the announcement was timed to coincide with the Tumblr acquisition for maximum publicity. The changes will be controversial but the fact that they’re happening at all is encouraging.