Flickr — Yet another (but a cool!) social networking service

people and relationships, photography, society, technology

I’ve had the pleasure of playing with a relatively new online networking service called Flickr, and — especially after reading Melanie’s thoughtful review — I thought I ought to chime in with a few thoughts of my own.

What is flickr?
It’s a service, based largely on the flexible-and-powerful Flash, that lets people interact, meet, link, chat in real time, post on message forums, and share pictures with one another. It’s free, it’s fun, and it’s pretty darn easy to get the hang of after just a few minutes. I recommend that you give it a try.

So what’s to like about it?
– The use of Flash brings familiar drag-and-drop, a fine live chat interface, and real-time built-in instant messaging / presence features. Entertaining and functional!
– The staff members of Flickr frequently interact with everyone in chats, and they’re both friendly and funny.
– The members of the service are also a delight to interact with… the complete opposite of cliquish.
– Unlike most other social networking services, Flickr lets you designate links as ‘acquaintances,’ ‘friends,’ and ‘best friends’… which is both smart and helpful!

But it’s not perfect.
– Frankly, I don’t get the emphasis on photo-sharing. The interface in this area isn’t robust and feature-rich enough to make it particularly worthwhile (you can’t upload more than one photo at a time!), and you can’t even upload a photo directly into a chat conversation; you must upload it to your “Shoebox,” find it in your Shoebox, then drag and drop it into a chat room and hope it’s still relevant and interesting by that time.
– The boards aren’t very active yet, unlike with orkut, which — hugely popular even after just a week or two — had some pretty active boards even early on.
– Some of the language on the site and in the default invite text could use some major tidying up.

If I were in charge…
I would have ditched the whole photo idea (at least to start), and instead extended many more features into the message forums and chats. Real time alerts when someone mentions a ‘watched’ keyword on the boards or in a chat. Rich-text editing in the forums. Better search and categorization of forums. And so on.

With all that said, I think Flickr is pretty cool, and I have no doubt it will continue to be a welcoming, friendly, and fun place for a long time.

2 comments… add one
  • George Mar 2, 2004

    Hi there!

    Thanks for the write up Adam… we LOVE to hear feedback about Flickr, especially good stuff like this!

    We are working really hard to get Flickr out of beta right now, and will be releasing a bunch of new features really soon, many of which are based squarely on suggestions from the community that’s building in Flickr.

    If there are particular ideas you’d like to suggest about how to make Flickr better, we are always open to that! Power to the people!

    Feel free to contact me directly, or in Flickr if you see me…

  • Craig Johannsen Feb 13, 2005

    Thanks for the compliment regarding the FlickerLive chat.  Eric Costello developed the Flash interface and I designed and developed the high-performance Java server that supports it.

    I agree that the chat was inexplicably deemphasized.  I also am inexplicably not working for Flickr/Ludicorp any more.

    The chat was not as popular as they hoped it would be, but it is one thing that strongly distinguishes Flickr from its competition.  It is a feature that, though it looks simple, is very hard to the competition to reproduce.  That is, it is technically difficult to make Flash do what we made it do and to provide scalable services on the server side that support photo exchange and frequent notifications about contacts, fellow group members, etc.

    Regards,
    Craig Johannsen
    Systems Architect
    Critical Path Consulting, Inc.

What do you think?