Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Opal Fruits, Marathon, Jif, now Flickr - Grrrrr!

Ok so the first three on that list are product name changes, but the principle remains the same - punters were not happy about Opal Fruits becoming Starburst (incidentally here's a great site showing other sweets from days of yore) and nor now it would seem, are fellow Flickr members about this email we received within the past 24 hours:

"Dear Old Skool Account-Holding Flickr Member,
On March 15th we'll be discontinuing the old email-based Flickr sign in system. From that point on, everyone will have to use a Yahoo! ID to sign in to Flickr.
We're making this change now to simplify the sign in process in advance of several large projects launching this year, but some Flickr features and tools already require Yahoo! IDs for sign in -- like the mobile site or the new Yahoo! Go program for mobiles,
available at:
95% of your fellow Flickrites already use this system and their experience is just the same as yours is now, except they sign in on a different page. It's easy to switch: it takes about a minute if you already have a Yahoo! ID and about five minutes if you don't.
You can make the switch at any time in the next few months, from today till the 15th. (After that day, you'll be required to merge before you continue using your account.) "

My initial reaction was one of simple annoyance. I DON'T WANT to use a Yahoo account to get into Flickr and that was the extent of my ire last night - it will be inconvenient. After all since Yahoo bought Flickr a changeover of some kind was on the cards. And many of us have coveted our 'Old Skool' logins. Using it made us feel just that wee bit special.

However I did not expect the veritable tsunami that has arisen today in the wake of that email. A discussion forum set up to discuss this topic within Flickr had received over 700 posts within 24 hours the last time I checked it and the anger is palpable. Many people have taken the news far worse than I did. It has become clear that this is a very emotive topic.

Now don't get me wrong, there are far worse things that can happen in life than a username for a website having to be changed, but this has several associated issues that make it a cause worth fighting for.

In a way this has soured the social, friendly feel that Flickr had helped to foster and in one fell swoop they have undone several years of chummy neighbourliness that money couldn't buy. People are talking about deleting their Flickr accounts because they do not want to have anything to do with Yahoo and I have to admit some elements don't sit well with me
There are some excellent posts on the Forum and if ever there was a time for a company to pay heed to their customers, I think that time is now.

Now what this shows to me is that the social web has sort of 'backfired' on some companies. After all, the Flickr site is all about sharing your photos with other people. But now these sociable members are rebelling against decisions affecting what is, after all, only a service they use, and many use it at no cost! They feel ownership of Flickr and perhaps there's a danger there for all other Web 2.0 companies that are bought by larger companies in future.

One irony is that Yahoo are now restricting the number of contacts a user can have - surely at odds with the ethos of a site that wants people to share their images with as many people as possible. Also the limit (albeit at 75) of the number of tags a photo can have assigned to it, this seems to stifle the collaborative nature of the site. Surely its a total contradiction to have a site that is built on an ethos of social networking, and then to limit the number of social contacts you can have! That in itself shows that yahoo are not 'at one' with the what Flickr stands for.

I wondered what was 'in it' for Yahoo when they bought Flickr (just as I did about Ebay buying Skype!) and now I wonder if one nagging thought will come to fruition. That is to say I wonder whether Flickr will ultimately become Yahoo's images repository. And as Mrphillip says "here in the UK Flickr would be on very shaky legal ground on this one - certainly in terms of refunds. They're forcing people to sign up to another service from the same (parent) company in order to continue to use something they've already paid for. If users don't sign up for that other service, they are then going to be denied access to a service for which they have already paid in full, but they're also being denied rights in relation to their own intellectual property (photographs). That breaks all kind of consumer laws here."

Add to that this taken from Yahoo's Terms of Service:

"c) With respect to all other Content you elect to post to other publicly accessible areas of the Service, you grant Yahoo! the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sub-licensable right and licence to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed. "

And here, here, here, here and here are further reasons why many people do not trust Yahoo. Here's a nice blog post that summarises the arguments well.

And you have a very dodgy situation in my book. A bit like Paul McCartney being powerless every time Michael Jackson flogged rights to all Beatles songs.

It's all a bit icky and I bet Flickr didn't see this coming, or if they did this is a bit of a PR disaster despite how helpful their staff have been so far within the Old Skool Merge Forum.

I have just added THIS LINK which shows just how Yahoo intends to marry the use of Flickr with their advertising (thanksderek@antiquark) - and this Yahoo advert for the Wii features 'all rights reserved pictures' ! Oh yes I think this story has just moved into a different league and may spell a crisis for Flickr.

More on this concerning Yahoo's intention's can be found here, including this explanation about their rationale: "In addition to presenting strong imagery and other unique media content, the Brand Universes will pull photos from Flickr tagged with that specific brand name, Yahoo Answers related to the brand, and user-generated bookmarks and links from tagged with the brand, giving users the power to control parts of the site's content. Yahoo is not asking for input from marketers nor seeking licenses for the content, however, Broady told reporters. "We're doing what makes sense for the users," he said. "Yahoo has loved to work with brand owners, but we've shown we don't need them to promote the content. We don't pay a license, we're tapping a community within Yahoo."

Here is the same page after some civil disobedience that I helped to instigate:


Mike Rothermel said...

I breezed over this, nice review. By the way, did you see BBC picked up on this tidbit of news?

Good luck with deciding on what to do now. Shall be a slippery slope from here on out.

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