Flickr’s Trojan Gift

Huge changes at Flickr – some excellent, some not so good, and some downright deceitful. Right now I’m still processing how I feel about all this, but here are some of my initial thoughts…


At first glance I really like it. It looks clean and professional, and highlights the photography in a very flattering way. I especially like that it goes to a full screen view of the photo automatically, with comments, etc, down below.

New Flickr Layout

New Flickr Layout

There are a few drawbacks, though. Collections seem to be missing. This is one of the MAJOR ways that I organize my photos. I have multiple sets, usually one for each outing, and the number of sets can be unwieldy. If I can organize those into broader categories, that helps. The Collections link is tucked away on an obscure link to the right. I think it needs to be up there with Photostream, Sets, and Favorites.

You can select a header image for your Photostream, which is nice.  Unfortunately, it only lets you select from your most recent images.  So, if I want to use one of my older photos, I have to re-upload it, which is a pain.

One other thing that is missing is the ability to embed slide shows from sets.  This doesn’t surprise me.  The old slideshow embed was Flash based, and I knew it was on its way out.  I just wish that they could include some iframe or HTML5 based embed.  I may play around with some coding myself, just to see if it will work. However, there are some third-party apps that work nicely. Flickrslidr is one that works simply and quite well.

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 9.12.21 AM

Of course, with any change comes the naysayers and complainers. I see it all the time when something gets changed on Facebook, and any time that we make any changes on our system at school. The Flickr discussion groups are full of people expressing outright hatred for the new layout. I just don’t get it. From a photography and design standpoint, the new layout is a VAST improvement over the old.

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 8.03.40 AM


Along with the new layout Flickr announced that ALL users will be given 1 TB of storage space and unlimited size uploads.  Non-pro users can now upload full-sized images.  The only catch is that ads will appear on the Flickr page.  Sounds great for those that didn’t have pro accounts, doesn’t it?

Now, this is where things get ugly…

Flickr had one of the best deals going.  For only $25 a year you got unlimited storage and the ability to upload full-sized images.  I used Flickr as a catch-all, and as an off-site storage for my best photos.  I’ve got over 20,000 photos on the site, and I’ve been using it since 2005.  Quick math shows that I’ve gotten a lot of benefit from my $200 investment over the last 8 years.

Going forward, Flickr has a new pricing structure.  Users can get an extra terabyte, but you’ll have to pony up $500 per year.  So, that would be more in one year than I’ve paid over the last 8 years, and I still wouldn’t have unlimited storage. (Well, let’s not quibble over whether or not I’d actually fill up 2 terabytes.)  I could pay $50 a year, nearly twice my current annual cost, to remove the ads, but that doesn’t get me anything else in terms of storage, features, etc.  I understand the need for price increases, and I’d almost be willing to shell out the $50 per year if it got rid of the ads AND provided unlimited storage, as the current agreement does.

But that’s not where the ugliness ends.  In fact, it gets even uglier…

San Francisco photographer Thomas Hawk has had a love-hate relationship with Flickr. Initially, he had nothing but praise for the new site design, until he saw how his own personal account would be affected

In actuality, only *some* of Flickr’s Pro accounts are eligible to retain Pro status. More specifically, users had to be paid Pro accounts in January of 2013 and be set up for auto renewal at that time. If you were not specifically a paid, recurring Pro account user in January of 2013, set up on renewal, you will now be screwed out of your Flickr Pro account.

In my case, in August of 2011, I complained to Flickr about an error in their stats reporting. I had to send in several complaints about the same problem, but finally Flickr customer service acknowledged the error in their stats reporting. They said that they’d fix this error and that to make up for my inconvenience they would “gift” me 6 months of Flickr Pro.

My Pro account was set to expire in 2012 but I used another “gift” certificate from Flickr. This time it was a gift certificate that they handed out to all photowalkers on a big Flickr San Francisco photowalk.

Because I applied this 6 months of free pro that Flickr gave to every photowalker at the SF photowalk, my account was not set up to recurring Pro in January of 2013.

So, after paying consistently for two year at a time of Pro on Flickr for years, my Flickr Pro account is now NOT eligible for renewal, and I’m not grandfathered into the Pro Flickr service.

My experience was similar. I had my account set up for auto-renew, too. Back several months ago Flickr offered a gift certificate for a free three month extension of pro accounts. I accepted. Unfortunately, this took me off of the auto-renew status. So, now my account is also not eligible to be grandfathered in, according to Flickr’s obscure rules.

Way to go, Flickr. Your “gift” was a clever ruse to screw us all over and force us into either viewing ads or paying an exorbitant amount for space. Nice way to treat your most loyal customers. If you had simply upped the pro membership to $35 or $40 per year, it would have still been a great deal. Some would complain, but we would have lived with it. Now you’ve made your core constituency feel like they have been cheated. No amount of snazzy redesign, no matter how lovely, will compensate for that.

UPDATE: Either Flickr got lots of push back from their users, or something happened, because now Flickr seems to have resolved problems with the pro users. They will NOT automatically be kicked over to either the free or the exorbitant paid account. My account page used to read “will expire on…” but now reads “will renew on…” Looks like I get to keep my pro account. We’ll see if that actually happens.

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Comments (2)

  1. Mark

    Nice summary of the Flickr changes. I agree with the angry online mob the distinction between two different Pro users is bizarre.
    I do have one correction. Non-pro users could upload full-size images, but what they couldn’t do (until yesterday) was view the images full-size.

    1. Tom (Post author)

      Thanks for the clarification. Apparently that change was made after I had gone pro, so I wasn’t aware of it. When I first joined in 2005 I don’t think they could.


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