I just read that Flickr has passed the 2 billion milestone in photo uploads. That’s definitely a lot of photos, and while most are probably blurry pics of somebody’s cat, the 2 billionth is actually quite pretty:
So super, Flickr is more popular than Jesus. On some levels it’s absolutely awesome to be a part of the biggest thing going on, but obviously on other levels, it sucks. The coolest stuff always seems to be going on in the fringe. The mainstream doesn’t innovate.
I listen to metal, I use Linux, I still game occasionally. While all of those things are definitely climbing in popularity, they’re still weird, geeky things to like. Definitely not “cool” yet. Is Flickr cool?
I googled “is flickr cool?” and got only one page back, entitled “Flickr is fun.” Interesting. This research certainly doesn’t count much on its own, so I undertook to bolster the validity of it by running a Google Fight between “flickr rocks” and “flickr sucks”. Results were encouraging.
Now, Flickr being huge definitely affords some advantages. It’s absolutely the largest image repository on the web, so it’s usually tapped as a source for imaging data. For example, I often search Flickr tags when looking for a picture of a specific type of object. For certain things, it can be much more helpful than Google Image Search, as the tags are applied by humans. Check out this awesome project that mines and aggregates images from Flickr.
Networks all over the place are growing much faster than comfort dictates, as in the case of Facebook partnering with Microsoft and rolling out a new intrusive ad system, which kind of gives users the middle finger. And of course people are still talking about Google surreptitiously taking a stab at world domination.
Basically I’m trying to strike a balance between maintaining diversity and achieving critical for a userbase. I think that Ubuntu has done a wonderful job in rallying and organizing support for a Linux distribution, but I can’t help but wonder whether such success is harming the open source movement by catalysing too much homogenization. It’s certainly possible that Ubuntu is recruiting new users to Linux, rather than leeching them off of other, existing distributions, especially given Ubuntu’s n00b-friendly vibe.
It’s difficult for me to imagine what will happen after the great exoduses from the major data repositories on the internet. As it stands, places like Flickr, MySpace, Facebook, and Last.fm would wither and die without round-the-clock content submissions from eager users. Once those users are gone, though, all the data they already submitted will still be there, unlooked at.
What will become of that data? It’s unlikely that it will simply be handed away to academic institutions to be pored over. Since a good deal of the interactions occur behind password authentication, it’s inaccessible to projects like The Internet Archive. I think it’s actually quite likely that it will just get deleted, as the costs for maintaining it will become too high, once the userbase is lost. No users, no advertising.
I guess what I’m waiting for is a flexible platform for social networking that is domain independent. I should be able to post my photos on my personal blog, yet still tag them with Last.fm event numbers and have them show up in group pools on Flickr. I envision it rather similar to how WordPress works: I download the open source software, upload it to my personal server space and configure it, then I’m part of the global WordPress network, without ever needing to interact with the WordPress site again.
Well, there’s always tomorrow.