Last July I posted a very popular article about the photo hosting site 500px. At the time 500px was still relatively unknown and starting to create a buzz. As I said,
“… there is a lot that 500px is doing right and I’m looking forward to seeing if this service can really grow in the coming months.”
Since then Flickr has continued to decline while 500px has gone from strength to strength. For example, 500px just matched Flickr, by releasing an Android app. But, 500px has an excellent iPad app, while Flickr has never even released an app for the best mobile device out there for showcasing photos.
Giving Flickr The Flick
As I mentioned before, I had a lot invested in Flickr; a lot of photos, a lot of conversations and, of course, a lot of money buying Pro accounts. But, while Flickr’s vast library of images has continued to grow, the service has been slow to improve. It’s still sluggish, somewhat ugly and caught in the past. Meanwhile, other services, like 500px, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ have changed our expectations of what an online platform can offer photographers.
So, I am going through my Flickr followers, getting in contact with them & suggesting they might like to connect on other platforms (like this blog, Twitter, 500px or Instagram). Next Friday I will delete my Flickr account.
Sharing, Commenting, Exhibiting & Curating
There are four basic things people like to do, online, with photos; sharing, commenting, exhibiting & curating. Flickr was once a leader in each of these four activities. Now, for all those interests, there’s at least one other service that is the leader.
Sharing – OK, the web might well be drowning in photos of cats, flowers and breakfasts. But, people like to share their experiences, passions and life stories through photos. Facebook understood this; they made sharing everyday images central to their platform. It made sense when they bought Instagram, a fast growing and reliable service that was built for sharing mobile photography.
Commenting – One of Flickr’s big breakthroughs was making it easy to comment on photos and neatly formatting those comments. But, Flickr now looks terrible compared to the commenting process on Google+.
Exhibiting – While sharing, is all about letting people see your latest images, exhibiting is about showing off your best images. Flickr gave us the ability to group images into sets, but it was never really a great place for your portfolio. By contrast, 500px really is about amazing work. It’s faster and classier than Flickr ever was and, since I wrote that piece last year, it really has become a place for serious photography (take a look at Scott Kelby’s trawl through great 500px images on his The Grid video cast).
Curating – One activity that is sometimes missed is curating, or sharing your favourite selections of other people’s images. Some folks like to exhibit their good taste or their ability to find interesting new work. Flickr made this possible through groups, but Pinterest has elevated curation to new heights.
It’s hard to see Flickr regaining the lead in any one of these fields. And, of course, there are other services I haven’t even mentioned, like Tumblr, Path, Lightbox, and SmugMug who, in their own ways, beat Flickr.
I really like the way 500px has implemented sets (you can see mine here) and their approach to mobile apps. But, the service is not without some problems. For one, I’m not a fan of exhibiting scores next to images. I had the experience where I shared an image on Twitter and in a few days, the number of views and likes went up, but the score went down. That’s a turn off.
And, I deeply dislike the flow feature. It mixes your photos up with the the photos you have liked and changes the crop and perspective of the images in the layout. If the purpose of a site is exhibiting, then the photographer should have more control over how their images are seen.
I believe the action, in the coming year, will be between Facebook (with Instagram) and Google+. Instagram will continue, for the time being at least, to grow and influence the mobile photo sharing space. While Google+, especially when you consider the talent they have assembled for their upcoming photography conference, will shape the game for serious and commercial photography.
Of course, 500px still has an edge for exhibiting, but that’s a very slim edge. I’d be very surprised if we don’t soon see Google+ adding better galleries soon. And, of course, Pinterest may well be swallowed up the way Instagram was.
There’s an irony in SoundCloud saying they want to be the Flickr of music, while Flickr is becoming the MySpace of photography. Flickr was, for a number of years, the benchmark for sharing photos online. But, I’m afraid that time is well and truly behind us now.
UPDATE>> I deleted both my Flickr and 500px accounts in November, 2012. To read more out that check out Goodbye Flickr Goodbye 500px.