The photo-sharing and storage service Flickr has been struggling to regain market share for years, ever since it was purchased by Yahoo more than a decade ago. Now Yahoo is taking steps to revitalize Flickr -- and in the process, maybe itself. The company is adding features to Flickr that promise to make it easier for users to manage and search for photos.
The new tools are meant to help users take advantage of the whopping terabyte of free storage that Flickr offers its users. For example, Flickr now lets users automatically upload photos to their cloud accounts across devices. A user can snap a photo and have it backed up to Flickr immediately. This new utility can be activated by turning on the Auto-Uploadr feature on any phone or tablet.
Yahoo said on Thursday that users can now find photos more quickly, whether they’ve uploaded the photo themselves or are looking for something placed by one of the site's other 100 million users. One new search filter lets users search by colors in a photo, such as a pink sunset. Flickr said it's the first service to offer such a feature.
Essential for Growth
Yahoo bought Flickr in 2004 for about $25 million, but the product has languished under Yahoo. Part of the reason is that Flickr faces fierce competition from other companies in the photo-sharing market, such as Amazon, Apple, Dropbox, Facebook and Google.
We reached out to Forrester principal analyst Julie Ask, who told us that it’s a step in the right direction for Yahoo to upgrade its mobile services -- in fact, it's essential to the company’s future.
"Each of the large players, [such as] Facebook, Google and Apple, is strong in a handful of areas," said Ask. "Facebook has already indicated that media is of interest to them. It wouldn't be hard for Google to acquire yet more media, beyond YouTube."
The new features are part of a strategy to make Flickr the place to store all -- not just some -- of the photos you take. In February, Flickr debuted a feature called Camera Roll that lets users browse their entire libraries of photos chronologically. The service gives every user a terabyte of space, which is enough for about 500,000 photos.
A terabyte of capacity means that search and management features have to be top-notch to keep users from drowning in photos. The company said that newly beefed-up image recognition technology will make it easier to find photos even if they aren’t tagged with metadata when they’re uploaded. Users can also search by photo orientation (portrait or landscape) as well as by date and keywords.
Flickr also has new features for sorting photos. When a user uploads a group of new images, Flickr's Magic View technology will automatically categorize the pictures by what and who they depict, meaning it can group shots of animals, or separate black-and-white shots from color photos.
Yahoo this week also released new versions of its mobile apps for Apple's iPhone and iPad, as well as for devices running Android. Not all the new Flickr features are yet available on the mobile apps.
"Photo sharing is more closely tied to social networking, where Yahoo is building a presence," Ask said. "Cloud is emerging in importance. Yahoo is going to have to continue to bolster mobile services just to keep pace, let alone to grow their share of mobile ad revenue."