In the world of internet content management systems (IMS), which are now ubiquitous services, Flickr belongs to the world. But how much control does the company actually have? Here’s the key thing to remember when considering Flickr. And if you’ve ever had a look at a photo on Flickr, that’s what you need to remember.
Founded in 2003, Flickr has been in a slow, steady climb up the charts—to become a $8 million-a-year business in 2012, after more than a decade of development, from a one-person operation (Jeff Bauman) with a garage full of computer parts (Brian Clark), whose first project was using images to make an online database (Jules Bianchi) that could be used by anyone to search, in his words, “the whole of the web.” “It’s probably a good idea,” he admitted, in 2005, about his decision—then and now—to give free accounts for personal use, and give people the opportunity to monetize their images (“There’s a pretty healthy business of people who sell their images.” he told me, “and they get a whole chunk of revenue off each image on Flickr, which means they get some money”).
But back then, there was a big question that hung over it: How will you monetize your users’ images? In a sense, the question is now the same. “It is now that the problem that faced us in 2007 was still on our doorstep—whether we could get people who were paying for their images to come back to us,” says Mark Goulston, a cofounder of Flickr. “It’s the same problem with Facebook. We’re in a similar position as with Instagram and Tumblr. If we get the attention of people who are willing to pay for advertising, there will be a way to monetize that.”
The idea is simple: If people are paying for a site—or, increasingly, just sharing photos—it makes a lot of sense to have something for everyone. But as for the rest, what are you going to do with that page of images? If you have it, you can distribute it and generate some revenue. It’s the same concept as the way Spotify sells music, where you have an ad and can download it for free.
Image credit: Flickr CC3.0 License
So why do you pay and what do you get for the “image” that Flickr creates for you? Well, according to Flickr’s guidelines, users
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