Photo-storage startup Snapjoy had a clever idea for competing with Flickr—create a tool that directly imports from Yahoo’s service, allowing users to switch over easily. The idea turned out to be a hit, and in two hours “Flickraft” was used to “rescue” more than 250,000 photos. But then Snapjoy hit a snag—Flickr disabled their API key, effectively blocking the service from harvesting any more images. The knee-jerk reaction would be to assume that Flickr is clamping down on a potential threat by locking up its users' data (or that they simply don’t like being compared to a sinking ship), but there’s a major hole in that theory. Snapjoy acknowledged that the Flickr API key has a limit of 3,600 calls per hour, and that the sudden rush of imports pushed Flickraft over it—in essence, they broke the rules and got cut off accordingly. The team has contacted Flickr over the issue, and hopes to restore their new feature as soon as possible.
The bigger story, though, might be how quickly Flickr users were willing to leave it behind. Let’s look at the criticisms that might have motivated all those imports, and what alternative services are out there for serious photographers.
Flickr’s user experience has taken some flack over the years, most notably from one of its own designers, but most of the criticism directed towards it relates to licensing. The wealth of Creative Commons licenced imagery on the site makes it a great resource (we’ve certainly drawn from it), but some have complained that its privacy settings are too complicated, that it strips copyright data from images, and that it’s API makes it easy for 3rd parties to misuse Flickr photos.
For more casual users, those concerns may not be a problem. But for professionals who need to guard their work more closely, licencing is serious business. Fortunately, there are some goodposts out there about alternative services—not all of them have free options, but they might be better choices for anyone who’s leery of Yahoo’s product.