Earlier this week, the Internet was abuzz with news of new terms of service from Instagram. At first glance, the new terms seemed to indicate that Instagram could sell user photos as stock photography, without compensation to the user. It probably wasn’t that simple, as the legalese of the new terms was unclear, but users balked, and eventually Instagram backed down.
My personal guess was that the stunt was an attempted rights grab. Instagram was trying to see what it could get away with without anyone noticing. However, it’s also possible it was just a legal PR blunder, of the breed we Internet-heads see every couple of months these days. Either way, it boils down to the fact that nobody trusts Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, with rights or privacy anymore.
I liked Instagram. It was extremely simple to use. The social network aspect was also clean and simple. I’m even a defender of the often-derided overused photo filters. Yeah, few people could truly make magic happen with the photo tools, but that’s the nature of, well, everything.
Yet in the midst of the rights kerfuffle, I deleted my Instagram account. I didn’t wait to see if the company would revise their stance, nor did I give them the benefit of the doubt. I just up and killed the account.
Why? I had a few reasons:
- It was yet another social network that I really didn’t have time to follow or interact with. I only ever produced content.
- The photo editing tools, simple as they were, were too simple for any finesse.
- I’d never left Flickr.
- Flickr had just released a new version of its smartphone app that was absolutely awesome.
Really, all the noise about rights didn’t play into my decision to leave at all, except that it made me think about why I was using Instagram in the first place.
I really don’t begrudge Instagram attempting to make money. When you are a user of a free online service, you are the product, not the customer. Instagram suddenly making a rights grab of user-created content isn’t cool, because that’s not what the users signed on for. However, it’s Instagram’s right to make their online kingdom profitable.
Flickr, on the other hand, may win in perpetuity because does not have a completely free business model. Free users have limited upload capacity, but can otherwise use the service freely. Pro users pay $25 per year for full usability of the service. At just over $2 per month, I happily pay for my Pro account. I have done so for years.
Flickr has long been a great online tool for photo sharing. It has its own groups and communities. You can easily use it as photo storage for blog services hosted elsewhere. You can twiddle with the EXIF information. You can edit the photos themselves right there on the site. You can specify photo rights photo-by-photo. You can sort thousands of photos into categories that are easy to navigate. Seriously, I’ve loved the site for ages.
However, for the longest time, Flickr’s iPhone app suuuuucked. It was difficult to use for navigation, uploading… everything. For very long periods of time, it wouldn’t work at all, suffering frequent crashes.
But chalk one up for Flickr’s sense of timing! They made a major overhaul of their app, releasing it into the wild just before the Instagram news exploded.
I can’t recommend the new Flickr app enough. Not only does it contain the easy shoot-filter-upload one-stop-shop aspect of Instagram, it includes far better editing tools, easy navigation to see other folks’ uploads, and easy point-of-upload cross-service sharing options. And it looks good. Yes, the myriad of options offered by Flickr makes using the app a bit more complex than the utter simplicity of Instagram, but I find myself loving the Flickr app far more than I ever loved Instagram.
The new app even includes a fast, simple user search, so you can easily find Flickr users you already know through other networks.
I admit, I’ve been pleased over the last week, seeing dozens of contact requests flow through Flickr. I’m sure some of these folks were already Flickr users but we’d never connected before, but it looks like many others came over from Instagram. I feel like I just introduced a whole bunch of friends to my longtime favorite restaurant, and everyone loved it.
Welcome back to Flickr, everyone.
Flickr, please don’t fuck it up.