Can Flickr Revive Itself After Getting Acquired By SmugMug?

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Flickr, the once red-hot online-photo sharing community, withered under the ownership of Yahoo and lost its sheen to close rivals in the market. The pioneering online social platform, that hosted photos long before it became a trend, has teamed up with SmugMug, another professional photo hosting company.

SmugMug, an independent, family-owned, subscription-based photo-sharing firm, has bought Flickr for an undisclosed amount from Verizon’s digital media subsidiary Oath, according to a report from USA Today. Flickr was born in 2004 and sold to Yahoo a year later for $35 million. Last year, Yahoo was acquired by Verizon for $4.8 billion, which combined it with AOL to create a new subsidiary called Oath. Flickr’s fate has been up in the air since then.

Despite its small size, SmugMug, founded in 2002, believes in revitalizing Flickr and seems confident to bring back it’s glory days. A lot has changed since Flickr’s heydays when bloggers and photography enthusiasts were obsessed with its fine-grained controls. Now it is overshadowed by popular platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc. The traffic on Flickr has shrunk drastically. It claims to have more than 100 million unique users and more than 75 million registered photographers. On the other hand, Instagram clocked 800 million monthly active users in September 2017. Flickr had 13.1 million unique visitors in March this year, up from 10.8 million a year earlier, according to research firm comScore.

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Yahoo basically squandered the company’s efforts forcing Flickr team to focus on integration, not innovation. Though Flickr blossomed for two years after the acquisition, their DNAs didn’t match and eventually, everything fell apart. Yahoo didn’t come out to be the right fit for Flickr in the long run. Even Merissa Mayer, became Yahoo’s CEO in 2012, tried to improve Flickr but it didn’t really work. By the time new Flickr app came with terabytes of free storage, it was too late to acquire the lost ground. The Flickr app could not even find a position in iPhone’s top 150 photo apps in the past month, according to App Annie. Flicker has only managed to hold on to some loyal users and shutterbugs.

In an exclusive interview with USA Today, Don MacAskill, SmugMug CEO, “Flickr has survived through thick-and-thin and is core to the entire fabric of the Internet.”

Can SmugMug Be A Boon For Flickr’s Lost Popularity?

Photo sharing has evolved from albums to streams to stories. Flickr was once poised to take on the world, and now it has become an afterthought. Flickr’s best feature was not what you think. A different game was hidden within the photo-sharing: Social Networking. Flickr was, nearly a decade ago, on its way to building what would have called the Social Web.

SmugMug, on the other hand, has been around longer than Flickr. It has successfully operated with a small-scale but profitable model. SmugMug caters to people who are willing to pay for storage and privacy, offering four types of subscriptions that appeal to budding and professional photographers alike.

CEO MacAskill, longtime Flickr fan, said that he is committed to breathe a new life into Flickr though he is still figuring out his plans. He emphasized that he prefers feedback from users and employees. The company intends to keep Flickr as a standalone community.

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Even if SmugMug goes the extra mile to rejuvenate Flickr, and offers it better future than Verizon, it has a tough task at hand. Old school tactics won’t pay off very well, though SmugMug is long known for defying conventional wisdom in the Silicon Valley. It has to compete with rivals like Instagram and Snapchat that have reached soaring heights and still continue to be the culturally dominant visual communities. Flickr can surely leverage upon shaking hands with an almost similar company that has resided in the Silicon Valley hood since long.

But will Flickr revive and really matter again? Time can answer that question better.

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