An open letter to Flickr

Flickr launched its new iPhone app this week

Note: I actually wrote this for publishing last Friday, but given the tragic turn of events, I didn’t think it was an appropriate time to post a silly letter about an app. Now with the announcement Instagram claims the right to sell all of the photos you post starting January 16, I figured highlighting this delightful piece of technology would be good for today.


Dear Flickr,

You’ve recently released a new iPhone app. It looks like it could be an awesome thing. In fact, after trying it, I feel a little excited. The controls feel much more powerful and intuitive than Instagram’s boring offering.

But I’m also hesitant. You’ve broken my heart before.

To understand where I’m coming from, let’s go back half a decade.

During 2005, I lived in Ontario, Canada, and was working as a volunteer in what I guess could be called a travelling stop-smoking program (since it seemed everyone living in Ontario who fell into the lower income bracket smoked, and that’s all who would talk to us). During our weekly day off, I’d occasionally sneak over to your site and bask in the beauty of Last 7 Days Interesting. My soul felt enriched at seeing the beauty captured by photography enthusiasts. Your site helped me develop my latent passion for photography and eventually branch off into other photo sites.

And then, around early 2007, I moved back to LA, and you changed. You became a collection of overly processed, aesthetically perfect but lifeless photos. Any semblance of community was shattered, but I was unfortunately not aware enough at the time to understand why.

Then, a little over a year ago, Instagram happened. It was magic. Like Casey Neistat said, it was like Facebook but just the good parts.

And it’s what you could have been, Flickr. Nay, it’s what you should have been.

Flickr, you’re like Barnes & Noble: you had all the opportunity in the world to do something great, to create something magical before anyone else, but instead you let some upstart (in B&N’s case,; in your case, Instagram) do the job you should have done yourself. And in so doing, you missed a wonderful opportunity.

But I can forgive you for that because I love you. Love and happiness aren’t always the same, though. Don’t break my heart again.

To be honest, Instagram is getting kind of stupid (note: YES). If you follow anyone with a decent following, you’ll see just how many idiots there are using the service. It’s like making a constructive, non-asinine comment is impossible. And that’s where I think you have the opportunity to stand out.

A sampling of the less-irritating comments.

I wrote about how much I love G+ this week, and one of the reasons I cited for my affection was how people seemed smarter on G+ when compared to Facebook. Guess what? Facebook owns Instagram now! You’ve got the same opportunity as G+ to differentiate yourself in a good way!

I also wrote about how G+ is better because your conversations aren’t interrupted by idiot advertisements. Guess what? Since Facebook paid a billion frigging dollars for Instagram and also now has shareholders (such a stupid move for them), they have to earn that money back through Instagram! That means more alienated users, and that means an opportunity to win for you!

I want you to win. I really do. But I also don’t want you to screw this up. Please, please don’t screw this up. Make it something special. Make Flickr a place where photography enthusiasts can post awesome photos again. Push it away from the overly-processed, boring photo world Flickr has been for a long time. I believe in you. If anyone can do it, you probably can.

Looking forward to your impending success,