The Instagram vs Flickr Quandary

December 20, 2012

App Overviews

Earlier this week the photo service Instagram changed their terms of use; the result of which had pretty much the entire Internet up in arms. Somewhere between the moment they were acquired by Facebook and this week, Instagram decided they had the right to use your photos however they saw fit. Or…at least that’s the conclusion we all jumped to. In the days that followed Instagram back-peddled a bit, and a letter from one of their founder’s surfaced on the Instagram blog which more or less loosened the reins on that dreadful terms of use (TOU). Just as an aside, I’d be curious to know how many people complaining about the TOU have a “wide open” Facebook page, or a Twitter account full of pictures of their toddler. Just sayin’…

As a relative newcomer to Instagram I wasn’t overly concerned about the changes to their terms of use. My photo library is relatively small so it really made no difference to me how things unfolded. As I sat and watched everything come to light though, an odd thing happened; an updated Flickr app appeared in the App Store…and it’s really good.

This is where things get complicated.

The old me…the Instagram hating, anti-hipster, anti-food snapshot “me” surfaced. I was excited by the possibility of returning to a photo site that was more about photography and less about filters and what everyone else was doing. After all, it always bugged me that Instagram is web service that’s limited to only cell phone cameras – where’s the quality in that? Finally, the idea of staring at pictures of coffee cups and dogs (both of which I’ve taken!) were replaced by the thought of endless, high-quality, digital SLR shots of the Flickr universe.

So, I did something I’ve done before with Flickr. I get all geared up to drop everything and change over to their service…but then I realize something. The simple fact is, there is no one there – and it’s not just me who’s noticing. In fact, it was this post by blogger Jessica Malnik that got me fired up enough to write this now, ever-reaching yarn!

Flickr, with it’s newly updated app (first time in 2 yrs) has rivaled, if not surpassed Instagram in the features department. But as Jessica points out, it’s too little too late. With the exception of my year off, I’ve been a Flickr Pro member for the better part of six years. I can tell you that in that time, my $30 a year certainly hasn’t been going into site updates or features. Flickr is also owned by Yahoo! now too, and that’s not helping.

I liken this to the digital music debate that I struggled with a few years ago. It took me forever to let go of CD’s because I refused to sacrifice the quality that goes with physical media. What I came to realize however was this simple fact; the convenience of digital music trumped everything else, and it far surpassed any minor artifacts I thought I could hear in the music. Honestly, I couldn’t REALLY hear much of a difference. The same goes for Instagram. Yes, the pictures are from my smart phone, but you know what? They’re actually pretty cool, and there are a ton of people out there to share them with.

I definitely want to send kudos to Marissa Mayer for getting the Flickr application up to speed. Maybe in time my bitterness will heal, but for now, I prefer sticking to my low resolution cell phone shots that will actually be seen by a community of people. It’s also nice to see so many photos being published each and every day as most of my Flickr contacts haven’t posted in about 2 years!

Oh…and for the love of god, is the “F” on Flickr capitalized or not? Even the people running their site can’t seem to decide!

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