When I got an email from Flickr this morning telling me that by March 15th I will have to use Yahoo ID to login to my Flickr account, I wasn’t happy. But I thought, oh well, what can I do? My dislike of the whole notion and unease about switching to Yahoo was real but I felt irrational so I just left it at that. I didn’t want to think about the issues of.. will my Yahoo ID have the pro account, how is that going to transfer etc. I thought it was just the idea of switching usernames and accounts. This didn’t make sense as I do this all the time – the moment I see an interesting application I sign up, test and either migrate to it, file it or trash it.
What I didn’t realise until I saw the Wired Monkey Bites was that other old skool users aren’t happy either…
This isn’t the first time a company has tried to pass off an artificial
limitation as a “feature,” but it’s the first time Flickr has and it’s drawing fire
from users. I sympathize with those that say, “who cares, those limits
are plenty high enough,” but the change is still a bad move on Flickr’s
Then I saw Ben Metcalfe’s Skype tagline – "Flickr just took the jam out of my donut", read his and Suw Charman’s posts on the topic and felt validated. I started to wonder what made me feel so negative about the announcement. After all, Flickr is owned by Yahoo, I used to have Yahoo mail account and two login systems don’t really make sense technically. So why on this occasion did I prefer to be ‘old skool’?!
Let’s have a look at the ‘rational’ reasons. To me, it’s not about the limits – I don’t expect to need more than 75 tags per photo or ever reach more than 3000 contacts (although you never know ). The fire Flickr is drawing from its users has to do with the nature of community. A lot has been written and powerpointed about the social and the communal on the internet, most of it missing the point. By a wide margin. Community is not a ‘collective’, it is a voluntary association of individuals drawn to something that motivates them to sustain the connection over time. It is a web of such connections between autonomous individuals who are happy to congregate because they feel understood, captivated and derive value from the association.
For me, autonomy is the operational term here… and Flickr made me feel deprived of it as I read that email. I liked being ‘old skool’, proud of the fact that I signed up before they become the poster child for Web 2.0 buy-out. But Flickr is just another company and owned by Yahoo!. Everybody knows that! I hear you say. Maybe, but the reason I liked Flickr was the feeling that despite Yahoo’s ownership, this was a place on which I had an impact, in my small way. I ‘owned’ a corner of it, with my pictures, my friends’ photostreams, comments and a world to explore if I wanted.
And then there is Yahoo! ID that sticks in my throat. My first web based email was Yahoo! Mail and I used it until Gmail came along. Then I checked it only occasionally until one day, I logged on to a completely empty inbox. All my mail was wiped clean! I am sure for good storage reasons but I felt a sense of loss as I had no idea this could happen. So I don’t trust Yahoo any more with any of my ‘content’. Would you? Suw sums up my attitude towards Yahoo just perfectly (and I like the idea of OpenID):
You know, I like Flickr. There are some astonishingly good people
working there. There are also some astonishingly good people working at
Yahoo, but yet I don’t like the Yahoo brand at all. It’s unpleasant. It
says ‘ignorant false-hearted redneck who always hangs on other people’s
coat-tails’ to me. They are a brand that started off ‘pretty cool’ in
the mid-90s, sank to ‘horrible’ in 2001 and have now rebounded to
‘icky’ (in no small part to some absolutely awful TV adverts), with a
hint of ‘cool’ because of the services they’ve bought.
As for two login systems, I understand for some technical reasons it may be more convenient for Yahoo/Flickr, but isn’t Web 2.0 also about making technology secondary to the needs of the individual and bending it to our twisted ways?
So as irrational as it may be, I am not happy about having to switch to Yahoo ID to use Flickr. Dave Winer reckons that Flickr people are smart and all this will come to pass. I really do hope so.