This afternoon USA Today broke an exclusive story that SmugMug has purchased Flickr from Verizon.
Flickr was once the photo powerhouse of the internet, but has seen a steady decline in users, usage, and innovation over the past several years since being purchased by Yahoo and eventually sold to Verizon. Flickr’s focus was always on community and sharing, with the service featuring thousands of photo interest groups.
SmugMug is another veteran in the online photo world, but with a decidedly different angle. Whereas Flickr followed a freemium model (with nearly all features being available for free), SmugMug has always been a paid subscription service with a focus on beautiful photo galleries that also offered ecommerce integration with photo labs for the printing and delivery of professional art.
SmugMug Buys Flickr: Initial Thoughts
This is a good thing for the online photo world. Flickr used to feature vibrant photo communities (both online and offline) and fostered the growth of many photographers over the past couple of decades. Unfortunately the service ceased to innovate (or even keep up with others) over the past five years and has languished compared to other photo sharing offerings.
SmugMug has always been by photographers, for photographers. CEO Don MacAskill has always prioritized top-notch customer service and transparency, and I look forward to those ethos entering the Flickr world.
SmugMug has a steep road ahead to bring Flickr into the modern world. While they were once arguably competitors, things have shifted and social media has taken hold. The new Flickr will be competing with Instagram and Facebook as a place for online images. While the service won’t be for “everyone” as those (allegedly) are, I think the world of serious photographers (both hobbyist and pro) has been looking for a home since Flickr’s decline under Yahoo.
Turns out we might be returning to that same home with a new landlord and a fresh coat of paint.
I plan to write in more detail about my thoughts and hopes looking forward after giving them a couple days to percolate. Look for more from me early next week. Have a great weekend, brightened by the hope that Flickr isn’t going to die anytime soon.
Disclosure: I’ve been a customer of both Flickr and SmugMug. I am currently a SmugMug affiliate. About five years ago, I traveled and spoke at SmugMug user groups as a compensated speaker.