Flickr imposes 1,000-photo limit for free accounts

SmugMug, trying to strengthen its Flickr site as a community for photo enthusiasts, will limit free members to 1,000 photos in an attempt to move toward subscriptions.

The move, accompanied by a 30 percent discount on the $50 annual Flickr pro membership through Nov. 30, is the first big business at the photo-sharing site since SmugMug’s acquisition of Flickr from Verizon’s Yahoo earlier this year. And while it’ll mean some members have to decide whether to spend some money or save their photos, it also means Flickr’s interests are directly aligned with those of its members, not those of advertisers, Flickr vice president of product Andrew Stadlen said in a blog post.

“We want to build features and experiences that delight you, not our advertisers; ensuring that our members are also our customers makes this possible,” Stadlen said.

In practice, relatively few people will be disrupted by the change, he added: “The overwhelming majority of pros have more than 1,000 photos on Flickr, and the vast majority of free members have fewer than 1,000. We believe we’ve landed on a fair and generous place to draw the line.”

The move may cause some displeasure and make it harder for Flickr to sustain its 100-million-member level. But it reflects a broader shift in the tech world away from advertising-supported businesses. Tech giants Google and Facebook target ads by tracking your online behavior, but the Cambridge Analytica scandal involving millions of Facebook users showed just how intrusive that can be.

Jan. 8 deadline

If you’re a free member, you have until Jan. 9 to upgrade to a pro subscription or download your Flickr photos. After that, you won’t be able to upload new photos, and after Feb. 5, Flickr will start deleting photos, leaving the 1,000 most recently uploaded shots.

To help attract pro subscribers, Flickr is revamp its Explore feature to spotlight interesting shots. Pro members will get preferential treatment in selection.

SmugMug, whose founding in 2002 predates Flickr’s in 2004, is a lower-profile site but one that bootstrapped its growth without an advertising business. The new management has brought some improvements to Flickr in recent months, made possible in part by moving to the Amazon Web Services computing infrastructure, Chief Executive Don MacAskill said Thursday.


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One improvement is cutting the amount of comment spam on Flickr, he said. Another is supporting 26-megapixel photos and richer color options for sharper, more accurate display on modern, high-resolution monitors.

However, another top priority, the move off Yahoo’s login system, won’t be done until January, he said. Testing should begin in December.

“At SmugMug, we also charged a fair price when others were pretending ‘free’ was actually free. We work for you, not investors or advertisers. We don’t mine you or your photos for data to re-sell or advertise to you,” MacAskill said. “The days of lurching from strategy to strategy at Flickr, chasing hot social media trends, are over. Photography and photographers are our strategy.”

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