In 2001 when the .com bubble finally burst, it was taken as a sign that the Internet needed an update and that the collapse was unavoidable (O’Reilly, 2005). Web 2.0 technologies have changed the Internet forever. We are no longer stuck to just e-mail and simple text browsing on the web. Now, the possibilities are endless. Today we are in on-line worlds that will more than likely never disconnect again. Why would we when we can instant message, share video feeds, write blogs, and upload pictures? In today’s digital world, film is quickly becoming an art form of the past. We are now taking more pictures than the mind and hard drive could previously handle. This is where the web 2.0 technology Flickr comes into play. Flickr has become one of the world’s best “online photo management and sharing application” of its time (flickr.com). Despite the power that Flickr holds today, it has endured significant changes throughout its development in order to become as popular as it is today.
In February 2004, two individuals by the names of Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake helped expose Flickr to the world. They did this with the company they created called Ludicorp, which is a Canadian based online interaction company. Ludicorp was created in 2002 and is solely based on creating an online interaction platform. Once they had created Flickr it would not take long for a corporate web mega giant to acquire them. Sure enough, like all the other web 2.0 technologies that get bought up by someone, on March, 25th 2005 Yahoo acquired Ludicorp and Flickr for 35 million dollars. Stewart Butterfield is not the every day computer geek someone would think he is. He actually has a B.A. and a Masters in Philosophy. Stewart’s wife and co-founder of Flickr, Caterina Fake, is also a college graduate from Vassar College in 1991. After bouncing around the country, she settled in Vancouver, Canada in 2001 where she got involved in the web-industry. Butterfield and Fake both resigned from Yahoo in the summer of 2008 (Wiki.org). Before Flickr was what we know it as today it was something different. Flickr was originally created as part of an online game called ‘Neverending’. However, Flickr was seen as more feasible and the game was abandoned. The early version of Flickr was called Flickrlive. This was mainly to be used as chat rooms with the ability to exchange photos live. Eventually, Flickr became what it is today; it is a place for someone to upload, share, and exchange photos.
There are still questions that remain around Flickr. Who is using it and why are they using it? The answer to these questions is anyone with an abundance of pictures and a computer can use Flickr. The truth is Flickr is available to anyone who wishes to use it. If you are a professional trying to get your work exposed, this is one of the best ways to get exposed. If you are just someone who enjoys photography and needs somewhere to store them, Flickr is also a practical option for you. If you just had a baby and you have no means of getting pictures to your family members, Flickr can get a copy to them quickly and efficiently. The only real constriction to join Flickr is that you must possess a Yahoo account. This is a necessity because when Yahoo acquired Flickr, they got rid of their photo site and began using Flickr as their primary photo platform (Wiki.org). Also, once Yahoo took over they added a video content feature for their Flickr pro users. The pro account on Flickr is a paid subscription only but it allows you to upload clips of video up to 90 seconds long (Wiki.org).
This is part of the magic that makes Flickr so exciting and so different from all the other web 2.0 technologies. For example, Facebook and Myspace users have a tendency to put up inappropriate pictures of themselves and others. All that does is get a few cheap laughs and possibly cost you a respectable job. Pictures can hold so much more than a cheap laugh; they can capture memories and once in a lifetime beauties. Pictures can tell our stories from things like the breath taking landscapes of the Colorado Rockies to poverty and war-stricken countries like Congo. Pictures expose and evolve a person’s view of the world one photo at a time. The saying that a picture says a thousand words is very true, especially when it comes to Flickr. Not only are you giving a picture to the community to view and admire, but you can also write a thousand words along with it. It combines the emotional power of a written blog as well as the captivating image.
There are a lot of stories out there to tell through the use of photographs. For example, on November 3rd, 2008 a person by the name of Garrett Ryan Smith uploaded the 3 billionth photo onto the site (Arrington, 2008). That is very impressive for something that was only started in 2004. This also gives you an idea of how these pictures contain artistic meaning rather than the typical Facebook and Myspace pictures. Not only does Flickr allow us to share our own stories but we can also see the stories of others from thousands of miles away; this is due to the evolving and advancements of technology. All it takes is a little gadget the size of a deck of cards to close the gap between the upper and lower classes. This point is laid out very clearly in Aaron Barlow’s book Blogging @merica The New Public Sphere. Now someone in Africa can use a cell phone to upload a photo of a tribal celebration and tell the world about it. This is one of the reasons why people use Flickr; they want to share a little part of their lives with the rest of the world to appreciate and enjoy.
It is also extremely important and valuable to understand how Flickr works. When you first enter the site and the window loads the main homepage, you are greeted with a picture. You are given an option to create an account or take the tour. If you click on take the tour it gives you an eight-step process on how the site works. It first explains how easy it is to upload a file onto your account. Simply click choose file, click the file, and hit upload; this simple procedure is another appealing feature of Flickr. Next, you are given the option to edit your photos; if you do not wish to you simply move on. If you do choose the editing option you have a wide array of choices from red eye removal and cropping to auto fix and blogging.
The next step is probably the most outstanding one in the entire Flickr site; it is the Organizing option. The organizing feature allows you to set up your photos by themes (i.e. “soccer”). Then you can “tag” certain aspects of the photo such as ball or grass. This enables another user looking for a picture with the key word ball to quickly find a match instead of browsing through billions of photos.
The following step is a very important and concerning step for many people who put pictures up on Flickr. Sharing is always a concern for people who are skeptical about putting their photos online because it makes their photos available to the world. It is hard for us as humans to believe that someone would take someone else’s artwork and use it to make a profit. However, as history has taught, humans are not all innocent. Because of this, Flickr provides protection to the people that choose to share their photos. You can set it to whatever privacy level you prefer. In addition, you can put a copyright on your photos. If you want people to see your picture and do as they wish with it there are group photo centers on the site. This allows you to associate a certain type of photo with a group already established. This is almost like having a group chat but with pictures instead. Another awesome feature about sharing on Flickr is the safety level application; you can rate the safety level of the picture to help address peoples concerns about coming across something they are uncomfortable with.
The next feature that a lot of people will find attractive about Flickr is the map feature. The map feature enables users to upload their photo and then tag it on a map so the rest of the world can see where the shot was taken. This is very similar to any other asset map that you find on the web. The best comparison would be like when you type in a business location on Google and the map comes up with a bunch of balloon dots on it displaying the different locations in the area. This feature allows people to not only see the story, but if they want to they can live it as well by making their own story. This also can create new friendships by two people experiencing something in common which is a major aspect of Flickr. Creating a strong sharing community is part of the mission statement with Flickr.
The exciting features are endless with this site. Step number 7 is called “creating cool stuff”. Not only can you share pictures online but you can also build your own photo book or capital one credit card. Flickr enables its users to give their photos to capital one to put personalized images onto their cards. You can also make a calendar and send it to your family as a holiday gift as well as a variety of other options.
The last step of the tour is the keep in touch step. This allows you to add other users as contacts and mark them as friends or family. This feature allows you to invite your contacts to view new pictures that you have just uploaded onto the site. It also allows you to leave notes on parts of the actual photo that only the photo holder can see by browsing over the image. This is different from the regular comments that anyone can leave on the bottom of the image in the comment section. All of these features on the site have gotten outstanding recognition and many are wondering why they are not seen more frequently. “While it isn’t hard to imagine how an academic library could incorporate many of these ideas, academic libraries tend to lack important traits or resources that are present in a commercial venture like Flickr”(Lawson, 2008).
Once you have signed up with your Yahoo account all these features can become available to you. The signing up process is very user friendly; it walks you through step by step. You begin by simply using your yahoo account to sign into Flickr. Then you fill out your profile information and add a profile picture. Finally you can upload pictures and explore all of the previously mentioned features.
Web 2.0 technologies have changed the Internet world forever. By means of blogging, instant messaging, live video feeds, and photo uploading, the Internet has evolved into one of the most complex and important communication technologies that the world has seen. Flickr is just one example of these web 2.0 technologies that has created a vast community combining the power of a camera lens and our willingness to share our stories with the world. It has also created a very close community through the development of its applications. In as little as five minutes, one person can be exposed to the pictures and stories of millions. This is the reason that Flickr has become so powerful. It enables anyone who possesses a camera and a computer the ability to not only share their lives with the world but become a part of others’ lives as well.
Michael Arrington, November, 3rd,2008, Tech Crunch
O’Reilly, time (2005). What is web 2.0: Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. Retrieved August 21, 2008 from http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html.
Barlow, Aaron, Blogging America.(2008). Blogging in Popular Culture (Chapter 5)
Lawson, Steve, academic library 2.0 interface or learning from Flickr, October 2008, a presentation by Steve Lawson Colorado College Humanities Librarian, Internet Librarian Preconference