I am super bored of hearing this.
Could Yahoo have done a better job of managing Flickr? Absolutely.
In retrospect, if they’d been patient and poured money into it like Facebook did with their own photo-sharing features, Flickr might have been a lot bigger. (Facebook is by far the world’s biggest photo-sharing site, and tagged photos was key to its early growth, something Flickr didn’t add until 2007)
But that’s in retrospect. In 2005, it wasn’t at all clear what to do. Everyone in the industry was still feeling the burn of gigantic, unprofitable acquisitions prior to the great crash of 2001, so paying money for an barely-profitable site like Flickr still seemed like madness, even within Yahoo. So Yahoo focussed on making it profitable — and succeeded, which is no mean feat.
Could Flickr have done better staying independent? Absolutely no way.
And the way you can tell that for sure is that they let Yahoo acquire them. It’s not like Yahoo in 2005 had a great reputation; the only reason you’d do it is if you were out of money and out of options. In 2005, nobody was going to give Flickr the hundreds of millions of dollars in fresh capital they needed and hope for the best: it was exit or die.
On top of the bare financial reality, it is an open secret at Yahoo (my former employer) that Flickr’s internals are and have always been an architectural nightmare. They had no idea how to scale and needed huge investment just to dig themselves out of the technical debt they’d accrued. It could have been better, sure, but without Yahoo it would have been much, much worse.
Yahoo didn’t kill Flickr; Yahoo saved Flickr from itself.
Here’s a lesser-heard take on the Yahoo/Tumblr thing from Laurie Voss, who is a former Yahoo employee and has some good insight on the matter as a result.
You don’t know him, but you’ve seen his work: The rise of Creative Commons has leveled the playing field for bloggers, giving many the opportunity to illustrate stories with free-to-use images that are at times comparable to wire photos. But the quality varies, and it’s rare to find someone sharing high-quality pictures consistently — but Gage Skidmore pulls it off. The 18-year-old photographer, who shoots celebrities and conservative politicians largely as a hobby, has uploaded nearly 9,000 photos to Flickr since early 2008, and thanks to favorable licensing, finds his photos of famous and important people in use all over the Web — including such sites as MSNBC, Fox News, The Atlantic and Mashable. What drives his work? Click on to see his take on the matter.