The Development and Rise of Flickr

Fig 1: Flickr icon on a phone (Cha et al., 2008)
Fig 1: Flickr icon on a phone (Cha et al., 2008)


Flickr is a social networking service that has become popular for hosting and photo sharing services. Besides, the company has set a niche for providing its users with a platform for having powerful and advanced features for sharing photos. As a social networking service, Flickr supports an engaged and active community in which individuals are free to explore and share photos. Flickr provides a platform where individuals can host hundreds of photos without paying a cent (Nov et al.,2008). Flickr is a social networking service based in America and was created in 2004 by Ludicorp. The organization has gradually become a popular means by which professional and amateur photographs can host high-resolution photos. The gradual growth the organization saw resulted in the company having approximately 87 million members in 2013 and a daily photo uploading rate of 3.5 million (Spyrou & Mylonas, 2016). Presently, the site is hosting over 7 billion images. The social networking services allow the hostage of videos and photos without necessitating the opening of an account. However, users of the social media site can create profile pages that entail their videos and photos to grant them unlimited storage space. The platform has official mobile apps for Android, optimized mobile site, and iOS.

The Historical Beginnings of Flickr

Video: How to Get Into Flickr in 2019 (Tech Photo Guy,2019)

Ludicorp launched Flickr in February 2004. Ludicorp was then a Vancouver-based organization established by Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield. Flickr was a result of the tools that had been initially created for Neverending, a web-based online game. Over the years, Flickr established itself as a feasible project that could be utilized throughout the United States. Through the course of its development, Flickr has undergone successive evolutions that have focused on filling or uploading back-end for personal users (Garg & Weber, 2008). At the initial developmental phase, some key features that were not present for the organization include the ‘favorites’ section, tags, and group photos. Over the years, Flickr has grown to become a popular social media service for embedding personal photographs and creating an online community. Besides, the service has grown in popularity to be used by photoblogger and researchers to be used for hosting images that are consequently used to embed in social media and blogs.

Figure 2 (Spyrou & Mylonas, 2016).

In 2005, Yahoo! Acquired Flickr for an acquisition that ranged approximately $22 million and $ 25 million (Koman, 2005). The acquisition resulted in the migration of the services’ servers in Canada to the United States. Flickr acquired the ‘gamma’ status in 2006 after previously belonging to the ‘beta’ service. The upgrade was accompanied by the increase in upload limits in terms of storage, i.e., it increased from 20 MBs to 100 MBs a month. The social networking service acquired the status of viewing and uploading high definition videos in 2009. From then, Flickr allowed its users to freely upload their normal resolution videos. In the same year, Flickr collaborated with Getty Images, where users could easily submit their photos for stock photography and consequently receive payment. Seven years ago, i.e., in 2013, Flickr launched a site redesign that introduced a close-spaced photo layout plus other additional features such as a terabyte of free storage. 


Business Model

Over the years of its operations, Flickr has relied on partnerships as its main business model. One major organizational club for Flickr has been Creative Commons. Creative Commons is a US-based non-profit organization that seeks to create photos and other creative works. Creative Common does the creative works through the use of several copyright licenses that appreciates and respects the ways creators want to share their pieces of works (Prieur et al., 2008). For instance, several creators usually agree to share their creative works on the condition that their identity and a link to their original work or profile will be cited. Through the partnership business model, Flickr has for the longest time partnered with Creative Commons to avail millions of photos on its site under various types of licenses. 

Fig 3 (Prieur et al., 2008).

As an organization, Flickr usually intends to make profits by having an instrumental approach to its online community. Flickr’s main sources of revenue are paid services and advertisements. These sources of revenue often direct the platforms they provide. In the business model, the advertisers’ demands and the need to raise the paid subscriptions usually limit the number of participants, the platform’s design, and the number of participants (Prieur et al., 2008). The terminology and functionality of Flickr are intended to guide its systems and behavior towards a particular ‘flow’ that is defined within the internet service provision. Flickr’s business model has emphasized expanding its global reach, speed, size, and activity. Instead of according users an integrated collection of photos, the partnership business model allows Flickr to build a collective platform for all the spaces that have unlimited stores. 

Fig 4 (Mislove et al., 2008).

Flickr has been able to build a successful company that entails an active base of users and consequently gain a profile. Flickr skillful design is solely responsible for the success. The business model is customer-centered and ensures the users focus on their photos (Spyrou & Mylonas, 2016). The business model allows users to take several pathways of exploring their photos. An example of such a method is through the Creative Commons that allows the user to follow paths such as groups, through searching, and through favorites. Flickr’s designers made a bold decision to set all the site’s functionality into default, thereby allowing the generation of free accounts and browsable systems. 


Internet Ecology

Flickr represents a classical rhetorical strategy for the utilization of Web 2.0. Flickr’s internet ecology is a reflection of the interacting agents within its system that depend on information technology to support and facilitate one another to carry out operations. The wall of logos has utilized Web 2.0 as a means of terrifying and exciting the audience by confronting their ignorance regarding the latest technological trend (Cox, 2008). Flickr has allowed the combination of several websites that have gathered under Web2.0 to facilitate its operations. In the technological sector, Flickr is regarded as a classic Web 2.0 site that informs its internet ecology. Web 2.0 defines several applications and websites that allow users to share and create online information. Applications that utilize web 2.0 include blogs, wikis, folksonomies, social networking, content hosting services, and podcasting.  

Fig 5 (Van Dijck, 2011).

Flickr’s key functionality is giving users a platform to upload photos and consequently pushing them out. The social networking service allows photo uploads through the web, e-mail, or from a phone and pushes the photos out through Application Programming Interface or RSS. Since 80 percent of the content in Flickr is publicly shared, the social networking services have described the user-generated content (UGC), which is a big idea of web 2.0. In Flickr, tagging represents one of the most notable representations of UGC. According to Koman (2005), the tagging feature on Flickr was copied from However, a difference between and Flickr is that the former allows hundreds of users to tag one Universal Resource Loader, thereby building a collective view of its content. In Flickr, tagging can only be done by the photo’s author. Even though Flickr’s users have, in general, focused on tagging, there are other means of author-generated metadata such as titles, set, notes, and free text description. The metadata can be used in user’s blogs and other platforms because Flickr is storage space. 

Fig 7 (Zeng & Wei, 2013).

According to Flickr’s functionality, tagging is a key aspect of its internet ecology (Mislove et al., 2008). However, tagging may not be significant to user behavior. When users tag, they do so to acquire traffic for their content, i.e., photos, and the aim is maximum impact. The aim of the tagging is not a full representation of the image’s subject. Flickr’s functionality implies that tagging active users may seem like spam. The tags are characterized by concatenated and misspelled words. Furthermore, the tags are often of low quality. 

In Flickr’s internet ecology, interaction among users occurs when users add comments regarding a specific user’s post. The interaction may also take place in groups. Flickr’s users have the opportunity of setting groups that consist of member listing, discussion area, and a pool of photos. According to Sieberg, Flickr had about 300,000 groups in 2007 (Cha et al., 2008). The groups are a way Flickr uses to simultaneously support the many subcultures. Flickr’s users can create their pathways through internet ecology. The Application Programming Interface is a classic feature of Web2.0 that illustrates the service’s internet ecology. Through API, several applications have been created using Flickr’s content. On some occasions, the applications created have extended the services of the social networking services through mixing it with data.

In relative terms, Flickr has been extremely successful in establishing an expansive active user base, thereby obtaining a high profile. The service is usually inspiring and entails minimal sensation of content lost through hyperspace because of purposive searching. Flickr’s user interface can be described as ‘unfussy’ because it is user friendly. Users with internet access, photographic devices, and bandwidth connections have permitted Flickr’s success (Zeng & Wei, 2013). Flickr’s combination with blogging has characterized the services continuing structure. The photo streaming concept is an example of the structure that echoes its blog reconstruction ideals. The services’ open API has made techno enthusiasts embrace it and consequently develop applications that have increased awareness of Flickr. 

Fig 7 (Van Zwol, 2007)

Flickr’s strongest competitor is google photos. Google photo is a platform for storage service and photo-sharing that was developed and continues to be maintained by Google. Since Google is among the firms with international recognition and reputation, Google Photos has gained a significant market share at the expense of Flickr. Google Photos is simple to use as millions of people around the world have google accounts. The service allows automatic upload and backup that a user takes (Akrouf et al., 2013). As a social networking service, Flickr accords its users a “supportive” environment where they can stimulate their activities. The service’s logo “Flickr loves you” is an expression of its supportive nature. Flickr offers a space that users can express their pictorialist values that are embedded in hobby photography. Flickr has been encouraging its users to gradually create steps up the ladder and turn their pictorial values into serious hobbies. However, Flickr’s internet ecology is characterized by a lack of hierarchy, technical terminology, and hierarchy that have prevented it from becoming a satisfactory platform for serious amateurs (Van Zwol, 2007). The idea of the affinity of space in Flickr indicates that it is a model of a caring and respectful community. Over the years, Flickr has established itself as a platform for individual creativity and has focused on the importance of learning. Such characters imply that Flickr lacks hierarchy as all learners are accorded similar platforms. Flickr can be described as a benign space but as a platform that is guided by commercial needs.

Flickr Ecosystem



As a social networking service, Flickr underlines the importance of creativity and interconnection in the internet space. Flickr accords users an unlimited storage capacity where they can upload or share images with other interconnected users. Flickr presents a learning opportunity for its users because it is motivated; it is social; it is enjoyable; it is compelling and is within people’s lives. Web2.0 represents the service’s ecology that integrates several applications for enhancing user experience. 



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Koman, R. (2005), “Stewart Butterfield on Flickr”, O’Reilly Network, available at: www.oreillynet. com/pub/a/network/2005/02/04/sb_flckr.html

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Van Dijck, J. (2011). Flickr and the culture of connectivity: Sharing views, experiences, memories. Memory Studies4(4), 401-415.

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Zeng, X., & Wei, L. (2013). Social ties and user content generation: Evidence from Flickr. Information Systems Research24(1), 71-87.