How old is my Flickr account? Older than this blog, which is saying something. It’s so old, the first picture on it is of me with a full head of hair in our first California apartment. I don’t think my account predates the Yahoo acquisition, but like Yahoo, Flickr is one of those things that everyone had once and in many cases probably forgot about – because it predated Superphone Time.
Much like Dodgeball ran on the rocks because it arrived before apps on GPS-enabled phones, Flickr needed you to upload your digital photos, presumably being taken on a nice camera and piped through your computer. Once you started to have a 5-megapixel point-and-shoot-grade camera in your hand all the time, though, the first mover was Hipstamatic, with its filters to make the best of shitty phone cameras, quickly passed by Instagram and its built-in social networking mechanism. Instagram was impossible before Superphone Time, but it dominated after, and even though Flickr got a lot of run from people who were committed to it, it sort of fell off the radar with the rest of Yahoo.
And then, SmugMug snapped it up, a site and service dedicated to more professional photography. Which means Flickr is that rarest of birds: a legacy service not in thrall to the Big Evils of Silly Con Valley. You can dump Facebook and all its pomps and all its works and all its empty promises, dump Google, divest yourself of Twitter, but how are you going to share your pictures with friends? And there, largely unchanged since 2005, sits Flickr, with the ability to offer an RSS feed and easy IFTTT integration so that everything you’ve been taking on Instagram goes there too. And when the time comes to cut off the last piece of the Facebook evil empire, you’ll still have a spot for pics.
Flickr predated the social media era and lingered half out of sight for years, but in doing so might have been saved alive from the worst of How We Internet Now. The retreat into siloed services, and Facebook as the 21st-century AOL, gave a handful of companies a ridiculous amount of control over our data and what we share. And yet, Flickr makes it possible for me to theoretically dump the last app that either Google or Facebook have on my personal device. That, plus the slow rumble around micro.blog and Mastadon, and the continuing enthusiasm for plain old RSS readers among the digerati, makes me think that it will still be possible for some time to get away with rolling your own blog, hosting your own email, and having a nice quiet life without the hassle and inconvenience of being bled dry by the Beasts of Mountain View and Menlo Park.
Only thing is, you have to hope Signal keeps getting money from somewhere.