15 November 2018

CNET: “Flickr imposes 1,000-photo limit, drops 1TB storage for free accounts”

SmugMug, trying to strengthen its Flickr site as a community for photo enthusiasts, will limit free members to 1,000 photos and scrap the old policy of a terabyte of storage in an attempt to move toward subscriptions.

If you’re a free member, Flickr will work the same through Jan. 8, at which point you won’t be able to upload any new photos or videos if you already are past the 1,000 limit. You’ll have until Feb. 5 to upgrade to a pro subscription or download your Flickr photos. After that, Flickr will start deleting older photos and videos, leaving the 1,000 most recently uploaded shots.

Stephen Shankland

Since Flickr was acquired by SmugMug back in April, I’ve been vary about the future of the photo service I used for the past decade, to the point that I stopped uploading new photos there. After a six-months long silence, it turns out my concerns were valid: their plan for the future is to completely nerf free accounts, expecting that people will move to their (now more expensive) paid plan. Prior to the announcement, I had already canceled my Pro subscription, and as things stand how I will never renew it. I plan to close my account instead and migrate my photo portfolio elsewhere, most likely to Google Photos.

There are so many things that make this decision terrible for users, no matter how much the CEO may declare that he wants to support and improve the community. You can’t foster community by excluding people, and that is how the limit of 1,000 photos feel like. In today’s world, with smartphones and cameras everywhere, it’s virtually impossible to limit yourself to 1,000 for a lifetime. Even as a photography enthusiast building a portfolio of your best work, setting a hard limit on the number of photos is stifling. What SmugMug is offering now is essentially worse than free Flickr accounts back in 2007, when the service limited the monthly upload capacity. I wish more companies would take Spotify as example of how to treat free users: as they said time and again, their generous free plan is continuously attracting paid users, while at the same time generating a small income stream for the company.

And on top of this, deleting photos from free accounts with more that 1,000 photos?! This is downright extorting people into choosing the paid plan in the next three months, with no guarantee whatsoever about the reliability of Flickr in the coming years. I would understand if free accounts exceeding this arbitrary limit would be barred from now uploads, but deleting photos (and breaking links and embeds on the web in the process) is unacceptable! How could anyone ever trust a company that so casually decides to delete people’s content, including from long-time users? A decision so bad, it deserves it’s own hashtag: #flickrexit.

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