14 June 2007

Flickr Going Downhill Fast

There have been numerous incidents at Flickr lately that indicates that the cool little photo sharing site it used to be is no more, probably due to the Yahoo! acquisition or else a victim of its immense popularity.

All of these incidents annoyed me, and every time, Flickr staff had explanations and apologies and assured people that it would be addressed so that it can't happen again. Of course, all of these people are pretty vocal and high-profile. I am sure this crap is happening every day with the nobodies of Flickr, like me. I fully expect my one picture which has been #1 in explore for more than a year to take a sudden nosedive in popularity after this post.

But I didn't get too worked up over these incidents. I have invested so much time in Flickr, and even money to upgrade to a "Pro" account, and I'm basically lazy. So there was nothing really getting me too worked up. But I can't help but thinking of Pastor Martin Niemöller's famous (but often misquoted) poem (translated from German):

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Well, yesterday this did come for me, so to speak. Flickr did something that seemed popular (and extremely long overdue) - they added the ability to view the interface in a few languages other than English, namely French, German, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Traditional Chinese.

But at the same time, something else happened. From the Flickr Help page:

What is SafeSearch?
SafeSearch is a feature that allows you to control what turns up in your searches on Flickr, and it's on for everyone by default.

Note: If your Yahoo! ID is based in Singapore, Germany, Hong Kong or Korea you will only be able to view safe
content based on your local Terms of Service so won’t be able to turn SafeSearch off.

Huh? What? So now I am forced to look at only what is deemed "Safe". Thanks. I thought I was an adult in a free country and could choose my own path in life. But Flickr doesn't see it that way, and has decided that everyone in Germany, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore have no freedom of choice. That's censorship. And, unlike the other examples above - it affects huge swaths of the world population.

The matter is made worse by the not one but two complete crap responses from Flickr founder Steward Butterfield. There is absolutely no explanation or reason for this. We'll see how this plays out, but I can see that my days on Flickr are probably numbered.

Update: Someone from the Flickr Staff finally told us why (which was the biggest problem). Only two days late. And still completely bogus, as anyone can sign up for a US. Yahoo account and get around it. And anyone in Austria or Switzerland is restricted in the same way as Germany. Or that moderation in Flickr is self-moderation. Or... I could go on for a while. It wasn't well thought out, and it isn't well implemented for the stated goals.

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