Tech

Flickr Takes Another Sad Turn, Gets Bought by Something Called SmugMug

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Screenshot: YouTube

In the latest of an endless series of unfortunate events to befall the once beloved photo-sharing service Flickr, the company has been resurrected from the grave of Yahoo and bought for an undisclosed amount by premium photo-hosting platform SmugMug.

According to USA Today, which broke news of the acquisition Friday, the family-owned SmugMug intends to try to breathe new life into the service—though company CEO Don MacAskill admitted to the publication that he really has no idea what he’s going to do with his new toy.

“It sounds silly for the CEO not to totally know what he’s going to do, but we haven’t built SmugMug on a master plan either. We try to listen to our customers and when enough of them ask for something that’s important to them or to the community, we go and build it,” MacAskill told USA Today.

In an FAQ about the deal posted by SmugMug, the company said that it plans to allow Flickr to continue to operate as its own, standalone platform. Existing Flickr accounts will continue to work same as they ever have, both for free users and Flickr Pro subscribers. SmugMug did note that over time, it will migrate Flickr onto SmugMug’s technology infrastructure and will port user photos over to the platform as part of that move, but the photos will remain accessible on Flickr.

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Flickr users will also be subject to SmugMug’s terms of service and privacy policy and will have 30 days to either accept the new terms or opt out. Users who do nothing will automatically opt-in to SmugMug’s terms. Those who choose to opt out will have to delete their Flickr account and retrieve any photos on the platform or risk losing them forever.

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SmugMug is pretty vague on any other plans for Flickr. “We don’t have any plans for immediate changes. If we make any changes, we’re going to make sure the changes are for the better,” the company says in its FAQ. “We’ll make sure to involve our loyal customers in the process as we grow both SmugMug and Flickr.”

Flickr, once a vibrant and social platform for photographers, has been left to languish since it was acquired by Yahoo for between $22 and $25 million in 2004. The platform was supposed to replace Yahoo Photos and serve as a flagship feature for the Web 1.0 giant as it tried to get a foot in the door for the social media era. Instead, Yahoo starved Flickr of resources and allowed it to be supplanted by other services like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Since Verizon bought up Yahoo in 2017 and stashed its properties, including Flickr, under the Oath umbrella, the photo-sharing service has mostly been forgotten. “We’re thrilled for these two brands to come together to grow their photo sharing communities and continue to innovate for their members,” Oath said in a statement to USA Today.

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Fans of Flickr seem cautiously optimistic about the move. On the r/photography subreddit, a number of users have expressed hope that SmugMug can make good on its promise to revive Flickr. “I really hope they have the chops to run Flickr on the scale it needs. Especially on the backend. I’m actually optimistic about the site’s future, for the first time in a long time,” one user, who claimed to be a Flickr user since 2006, wrote. Others praised SmugMug as a worthwhile service on its own.

If nothing else, SmugMug now finds itself in possession of a cherished relic from the early days of Web 2.0 and a shit-ton of photos that can be printed on tote bags or whatever. Good for it.

[USA Today, SmugMug]

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