Sunday, February 27, 2005

Flickr of Interest

A recent entry in Aaron’s Blog piqued my curiosity about Flickr, a rapidly growing online photo hosting service that emphasizes community-oriented features. By making it easy for subscribers to locate, organize, and markup their own – and each others’—photos, Flickr becomes one humongous photo album/personal directory with the combined industriousness and intelligence of all its users.

Experiencing the smooth interface and hearing of the free accounts, one might be tempted to place Flickr in the same league as, say, Gmail: internet manna. But alas, Flickr, though a very interesting service, is no land of milk and honey for the poorest of poor wayfaring photographers. The bounty comes with a price.

The problem is that the free account, despite hosting the obligatory ads via Google, is really just a tease for anyone who wants to do more than, say, show off a new grandchild. The most serious restriction is the upload limit of just ten megabytes per month. On the free account I opened, I uploaded twelve images of a trip my wife and I made a few years back to Idaho and the adjacent Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. I had more, but after just these twelve images, which I had already scaled down to the size of a quality desktop background image, I was benched for the next 29 days. So, while Flickr technically offers free account users unlimited storage, it would take one of them more than eight years to upload even a gigabyte of data – an amount which, by 2013, would seem positively Lilliputian; Heck, Gmail users had that much free space back in 2004!

The non-paying subscriber, just like a non-subscriber, faces what are effectively download limitations as well, since Flickr processes each uploaded image into several standard sizes which are henceforth the only ones available to anyone who does not hold a “Pro” account; these can access and download the original uploaded files, regardless of their size. Fortunately, Flickr’s generic “large” size (for original images at least that size) is 1024 x 768 pixels – adequate for most desktop backgrounds, though first-time users may not immediately notice the links to these versions of each picture.

That “Pro Account” currently costs $41.77 a year, boosts the monthly upload limit to a gigabyte, and pretty much removes all other limitations on the account. I suppose 42 bucks isn’t all that much, but it’s more than I am willing to pay for offsite disk storage since photography is, for me, an infrequent hobby at best. If I needed a clever photo organizer, or wanted to get to know other people through their photographs, I would consider joining the club. But, like paid subscription “meet markets” for singles, I think there’s just something slightly unseemly about paying for a service where feature content is provided by other paying members.

At any rate, Flickr is fun just to browse around in, and I’ve begun to use it alongside Google Images when I’m searching for an image of something I’m reading or thinking about. It’s well organized, and the average posted photograph is better than you might think. I guess that makes sense; if you’re a freeloader like me, you’ve got to make those 10 megabytes count.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your Yellowstone pics. My wife and I worked there back in '96, but we haven't been back since. We're planning on going in '06 for a little 10 year fun. I'm surprised at how many thoughts and memories your pictures bring up to the surface. Being their in person will probably blow my mind.

9:16 AM  

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