Free isn’t always better.
After SmugMug acquired Flickr several months ago, we wondered what would happen given the fact that Flickr has always had a huge user base of mostly-free accounts and SmugMug has never offered free accounts.
This is a good thing.
You Pay With Money or You Pay With Data
Running Flickr costs money, and if that money isn’t coming from paying users, then it comes from elsewhere. We’ve seen this with Facebook, Instagram, and other online services that have recently come under fire for various issues. As noted in the Flickr announcement:
Giving away vast amounts of storage creates data that can be sold to advertisers, with the inevitable result being that advertisers’ interests are prioritized over yours. Reducing the free storage offering ensures that we run Flickr on subscriptions, which guarantees that our focus is always on how to make your experience better.
Unlike Facebook, SmugMug is a photography company, not an advertising company.
I feel like we’ve matured enough as an internet crowd to understand that it makes sense to spend our money on things of value and to stop demanding everything online for free.
Limited Flickr Free Accounts Means a Photography Focus
By keeping the best features for photographers (including the ability to store large numbers of images) as paid features, Flickr will become a place both by and for serious photographers. The fee for a Flickr pro account ($50/year) is priced at a point where it should be a no-brained for anyone serious about photographer who is likely spending many times that amount of money every year on gear, travel, and other photography-related expenses.
Limiting the storage numbers of Flickr free accounts sends a signal that Flickr isn’t for everyone. This is good. “Everyone” is a shitty demographic to target for nearly any business. If Flickr is to become a place for photographers, charging a small fee to keep the service viable is quite reasonable.
I’m seriously thinking about moving back to Flickr as a place for sharing my work. My Flickr account has been mostly dormant for years but perhaps it’s time to give it some love now that SmugMug is doing the same.