Flickr has launched a new iOS application. I’ve never owned a smartphone or a tablet, so I don’t have any experience with applications in the mobile space, but I was linked to a review of the application at the New York Times which discusses the future of Flickr in light of the app. It struck me with one particular statement:
The updated mobile experience now feels like a social network that focuses on photography, not a photography Web site that happens to have a social network.
I signed up for Flickr in 2007. It was my first plunge into the whole Web 2.0 thing, and the first web application that I ever payed for. As I wrote back then, what appealed to me about Flickr was that it a social-networking site that was built around something. The reason I have never gotten into services like MySpace and Facebook is that they seem to me to be websites that do social networking for the sake of social networking. That has never appealed to me. They offer no services that don’t exist elsewhere.
In contrast, take a look at the social networking websites that I am active on. Flickr is a photo hosting website that happens to have social networking features. Github is a code hosting website that happens to have social networking features. I take advantage of the primary function of those websites — photo or code hosting — but I also gain extra value with the secondary social-networking features. It surprised me to see that the inverse was true for the author of the New York Times piece.
My Flickr Pro account expired last month. As has been my habit for the past couple of years, I debated if I wanted to renew it, or to use the opportunity to jump ship to a different service like OpenPhoto or MediaGoblin. In the end, I decided to renew and put off the move till next year. If Flickr is indeed changing from a photography website that happens to have a social network to a social network that happens to have photography, my move may be expedited.