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|Type of site||Photo/video sharing|
|Available language(s)||Chinese (traditional)|
Flickr is an image and video hosting website, web services suite, and online community. In addition to being a popular website for users to share and embed personal photographs, the service is widely used by bloggers to host images that they embed in blogs and social media. As of October 2009[update], it claims to host more than 4 billion images.
Flickr was developed by Ludicorp, a Vancouver-based company that launched Flickr in February 2004. The service emerged out of tools originally created for Ludicorp's Game Neverending, a web-based massively multiplayer online game. Flickr proved a more feasible project and ultimately Game Neverending was shelved.
Early versions of Flickr focused on a multiuser chat room called FlickrLive with real-time photo exchange capabilities. There was also an emphasis on collecting images found on the web rather than photographs taken by users. The successive evolutions focused more on the uploading and filing backend for individual users and the chat room was buried in the site map. It was eventually dropped as Flickr's backend systems evolved away from the Game Neverending's codebase.
In March 2005, Yahoo! acquired Ludicorp and Flickr. During the week of June 26 – July 2, 2005, all content was migrated from servers in Canada to servers in the United States, resulting in all data becoming subject to United States federal law.
On May 16, 2006, Flickr updated its services from beta to "gamma", along with a design and structural overhaul. According to the site's FAQ, the term "gamma", rarely used in software development, is intended to be tongue-in-cheek to indicate that the service is always being tested by its users, and is in a state of perpetual improvement. A further connotation, more specific to photography and the display of images, is that of gamma correction. For all intents and purposes, the current service is considered a stable release.
In December 2006, upload limits on free accounts were increased to 100MB a month (from 20MB) and were removed from Pro Accounts, permitting unlimited uploads for holders of these accounts (originally a 2GB per month limit).
In January 2007, Flickr announced that "Old Skool" members—those who had joined before the Yahoo acquisition—would be required to associate their account with a Yahoo ID by March 15 to continue using the service. This move was criticized by some users.
On April 9, 2008, Flickr began to allow paid subscribers to upload videos, limited to 90 seconds in length and 150MB in size. On March 2, 2009, Flickr added the ability to upload and view HD videos, and began allowing free users to upload normal-resolution video. At the same time, the set limit for free accounts was lifted.
In May 2009, White House official photographer Pete Souza began using Flickr as a conduit for releasing White House photos. The photos were initially posted with a Creative Commons Attribution license requiring that the original photographers be credited. Flickr later created a new license which identified them as "United States Government Work", which does not carry any copyright restrictions. The photos are posted with this disclaimer: "This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House."
In June 2008, Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield announced his resignation following his wife and co-founder Caterina Fake, who left the company on June 13, 2008. Butterfield wrote a humorous resignation letter to Brad Garlinghouse in which he stated that he was an old tin man in a new age.
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Flickr offers two types of accounts: Free and Pro. Free account users are allowed to upload 100 MB of images a month and 2 videos. Also, if a free user has more than 200 photos on the site, they will only be able to see the most recent 200 in their photostream. The other photos that were uploaded are still stored on the site and links to these images in blog posts remain active. Free users can also contribute to a maximum of 10 photo pools. If a free account is inactive for 90 consecutive days, it will be deleted.
Pro accounts allow users to upload an unlimited number of images and videos every month and receive unlimited bandwidth and storage. Photos may be placed in up to 60 group pools, and Pro account users receive ad-free browsing and have access to account statistics.
Flickr asks photo submitters to organize images using tags (a form of metadata), which enable searchers to find images related to particular topics, such as place names or subject matter. Flickr was also an early website to implement tag clouds, which provide access to images tagged with the most popular keywords. Because of its support for tags, Flickr has been cited as a prime example of effective use of folksonomy, although Thomas Vander Wal suggested Flickr is not the best example.
Flickr also enables users to organize their photos into "sets", or groups of photos that fall under the same heading. However, sets are more flexible than the traditional folder-based method of organizing files, as one photo can belong to one set, many sets, or none at all. Flickr's "sets", then, represent a form of categorical metadata rather than a physical hierarchy. Sets may be grouped into "collections", and collections further grouped into higher-order collections.
Finally, Flickr offers a fairly comprehensive web-service API that enables programmers to create applications that can perform almost any function a user on the Flickr site can do. To use the Flickr API, users need to know their Flickr NSIDs. Several sites have been developed to aid users in this, including idGettr and What Is My Flickr Id.
Organizr is a web application for organizing photos within a Flickr account that can be accessed through the Flickr interface. It allows users to modify tags, descriptions, and set groupings, and to place photos on a world map (a feature provided in conjunction with Yahoo! Maps). It uses Ajax to emulate the look, feel, and quick functionality of desktop-based photo-management applications, such as Google's Picasa and F-Spot. Users can select and apply changes to multiple photos at a time, making it a better tool for batch editing than the standard Flickr interface.
Flickr has a partnership with the Picnik online photo-editing application that includes a reduced-feature version of Picnik built into Flickr as a default photo editor.
Flickr provides both private and public image storage. A user uploading an image can set privacy controls that determine who can view the image. A photo can be flagged as either public or private. Private images are visible by default only to the uploader, but they can also be marked as viewable by friends and/or family. Privacy settings also can be decided by adding photographs from a user's photostream to a "group pool". If a group is private all the members of that group can see the photo. If a group is public the photo becomes public as well. Flickr also provides a "contact list" which can be used to control image access for a specific set of users in a way similar to that of LiveJournal.
In November 2006 Flickr created a "guest pass" system that allows private photos to be shared with non Flickr members. For instance, a person could email this pass to parents who may not have an account to allow them to see the photos otherwise restricted from public view. This setting allows sets to be shared, or all photos under a certain privacy category (friends or family) to be shared.
In March 2007, Flickr added new content filtering controls that let members specify by default what types of images they generally upload (photo, art/illustration, or screenshot) and how "safe" (i.e., unlikely to offend others) their images are, as well as specify that information for specific images individually. In addition, users can specify the same criteria when searching for images. There are some restrictions on searches for certain types of users: non-members must always use SafeSearch, which omits images noted as potentially offensive, while members whose Yahoo! accounts indicate that they are underage may use SafeSearch or moderate SafeSearch, but cannot turn SafeSearch off completely.
Many members allow their photos to be viewed by anyone, forming a large collaborative database of categorized photos. By default, other members can leave comments about any image they have permission to view, and in many cases can add to the list of tags associated with an image.
Interaction and compatibility
The core functionality of the site relies on standard HTML and HTTP features, allowing for wide compatibility among platforms and browsers. Organizr uses Ajax, with which most modern browsers are compliant, and most of Flickr's other text-editing and tagging interfaces also possess Ajax functionality.
Images can be posted to the user's collection via email attachments, enabling direct uploads from many cameraphones and applications with email capabilities.
Flickr has increasingly been adopted by many web users as their primary photo storage site, especially members of the weblog community. In addition, it is popular with Macintosh and Linux users, who are locked out of photo-sharing sites that require Windows and Internet Explorer.
Flickr has entered into partnerships with third parties to offer printing of various forms of merchandise, including business cards, photo books, stationery, personalized credit cards, and large-size prints, from companies such as Moo, Blurb, Tiny Prints, Capital One, Imagekind, and QOOP. In addition, Flickr has partnered with Getty Images to sell stock photos from some users.
Flickr provides a desktop client for Mac OS X and Windows that allows users to upload photos without using the web interface. Uploadr allows drag-and-drop batch uploading of photos, the setting of tags and descriptions for each batch, and the editing of privacy settings.
In March 2007, Flickr introduced mandatory filtering of all photos and a process of central review of photos by staff to set levels of appropriateness. By default all Flickr accounts are set to the status appropriate for a minor and must be changed by the user in their account.
Flickr has since used this setting to change the level of accessibility to "unsafe" content for entire nations, including South Korea, Hong Kong, and Germany. In summer 2007, German users staged a "revolt" over being assigned to the user rights of a minor. See Censorship below.
The filter system of Flickr assumes that photos may be unsafe and should not be public until a staff person has validated that the material is safe. Until this happens, which could take up to a month, material cannot be viewed by persons without a valid Yahoo and Flickr account. A Flickr site not marked as safe can only be viewed by people in the community who have set their filters beyond the default status of that of a "minor".
Flickr offers users the ability to either release their images under certain common usage licenses or label them as "all rights reserved". The licensing options primarily include the Creative Commons 2.0 attribution-based and minor content-control licenses - although jurisdiction and version-specific licenses cannot be selected. As with "tags", the site allows easy searching of only those images that fall under a specific license.
In addition to using commercial mapping data, Flickr now uses OpenStreetMap mapping for various cities; this began with Beijing during the run-up to the 2008 Olympic games. As of October 2008[update], this is used for Baghdad, Beijing, Kabul, Sydney, and Tokyo. OpenStreetMap data is collected by volunteers and is available on a CC-BY-SA 2.0 license from Creative Commons.
According to the company, as of August 2009[update] Flickr is hosted on 62 databases across 124 servers, with about 800,000 user accounts per pair of servers. Based on information compiled by highscalability.com, as of November 2007[update] the MySQL databases are hosted on servers that are Linux-based (from RedHat), with a software platform that includes Apache, PHP (with PEAR and Smarty), shards, Memcached, Squid, Perl, ImageMagick, and Java; the system administration tools include Ganglia, SystemImager, Subcon, and CVSup.
On June 12, 2007, in the wake of the rollout of localized language versions of the site, Flickr implemented a user-side rating system for filtering out potentially controversial photos. Simultaneously, users with accounts registered with Yahoo subsidiaries in Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Korea were prevented from viewing photos rated "moderate" or "restricted" on the three-part scale used. Many Flickr users, particularly in Germany, protested against the new restrictions, claiming unwanted censorship from Flickr and Yahoo.
Flickr management, unwilling to go into legal details, implied that the reason for the stringent filtering was some unusually strict age-verification laws in Germany. The issue received some attention in the German national media, especially in online publications. Initial reports indicated that Flickr's action was a sensible, if unattractive, precaution against prosecution, although later coverage implied that Flickr's action may have been unnecessarily strict.
On June 20, 2007, Flickr reacted by granting German users access to "moderate" (but not "restricted") images, and hinted at a future solution for Germany, involving advanced age-verification procedures.
Virgin Mobile ad copyright
In 2007, Virgin Mobile launched a bus stop ad campaign promoting their cellphone text messaging service using the work of amateur photographers who uploaded their work to Flickr using a Creative Commons by Attribution license. Users licensing their images this way freed their work for use by any other entity, as long as the original creator was attributed credit, without any other compensation being required. Virgin upheld this single restriction by printing a URL, leading to the photographer's Flickr page, on each of their ads. However, one picture depicted 15 year-old Alison Chang at a fund-raising carwash for her church, for which Chang sued Virgin Mobile and Creative Commons. The photo was taken by Alison's church youth counsellor, Justin Ho-Wee Wong, who uploaded the image to Flickr under the Creative Commons license.
On November 27, 2007, Chang filed for a voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit against Creative Commons, focusing their lawsuit against Virgin Mobile. The case was thrown out of court due to lack of jurisdiction and subsequently Virgin Mobile did not incur any damages towards the defendant.
Yahoo announced that they would shut down Yahoo! Photos on September 20, 2007, after which all photos would be deleted. During the interim, users had the ability to migrate their photos to Flickr or other services (including Shutterfly, Kodak Gallery, Snapfish, and Photobucket). All who migrated to Flickr were given three months of a Flickr Pro account.
Several museums and archives post images released under a "no known restrictions" license, which was first made available on January 16, 2008. The goal of the license is to "firstly show you hidden treasures in the world's public photography archives, and secondly to show how your input and knowledge can help make these collections even richer." Participants include George Eastman House, Library of Congress, Brooklyn Museum, Nationaal Archief, National Archives and Records Administration, State Library of New South Wales, and Smithsonian Institution.
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