TechCrunch and USA Today have news that Yahoo is to close its popular Yahoo Photos service completely in the coming months, telling people to either switch to Flickr or leave to a number of other competing photo sharing services.
From USA Today:
Yahoo has said that it kept both services going after the acquisition because they appealed to different audiences. But Thursday, it said in a statement that Yahoo Photos was closing because of the changing nature of the Internet.
Digital photography has evolved "into a social activity that allows people to communicate and connect," Yahoo said. "We have decided to shift our focus accordingly."
Wow. Pretty big gamble. I know plenty of people who upload photos not to be social in the Flickr sense but instead because it’s a convenient way to share them with a small number of friends and family. They are social as much as it is social to shove prints in an envelope and send them to someone you know.
USA Today has stats showing that Yahoo Photos has slipped according to Hitwise in terms of share of the usage of photo sites. Photobucket (recently profiled in Fortune as "the biggest web site you’ve never heard of" has a 25 percent share in April 2006, followed by Yahoo Photos at 14.4 percent. In April 2007, Photobucket had climbed to 40 percent. Yahoo Photos was still second, but with a drop to 5.7 percent. Flickr was further back at fourth, at 4.5 percent.
TechCrunch has different figures from comScore showing Yahoo Photos as the most popular photo sharing site with 31.1 million unique visitors worldwide, followed just behind by Flickr at 28.5 million. Add those together, and the 60 million combined visitors (assuming most use only one or the other service) would easily dwarf Photobucket’s 28 million.
Therein lies another reason to simply kill Yahoo Photos. If a huge chunk of the people move over, Yahoo will leapfrog above the competition (according to comScore figures), giving it bragging rights during a year when it has come under fire for perceived failures by Wall Street to grow search traffic or grow revenues more of the new Panama ad system.
TechCrunch reports that the change will happen over the coming months and that those who don’t want to use Flickr will be able to go to other services:
Yahoo is not forcing transition to Flickr – instead, users are being given the option of choosing among a number of top photo sharing sites. If you are a current Yahoo! Photos user, you will be given the option to export all your photos into Flickr (a one-click process) or you will be able to export to a few other services such as Photobucket, Snapfish, Kodak Gallery or Shutterfly. Most of these services have built special tools to transition users, Butterfield said. Users will also be able to download full sized original photos, or order CDs and prints at a discount to the normal price. “We have no interest in forcing anyone to switch to Flickr” Butterfield said. “We want happy users.”
I’m impressed that Yahoo will support the ability to export to so many services but also amazed at the possible stupidity here. How difficult can it be to maintain a rudimentary Yahoo Photos service for those who like what they have. If you need to combine the traffic into Flickr, just switch to using a Flickr domain. Don’t promote it any longer; don’t add features to it, sure. But kill it? You want happy users? I suspect a few million aren’t going to be happy at all — and they’re going to be walking over to Yahoo competitors.
Some more stupidity. I know the perception is that Yahoo Photos is used by grandmas barely able to run a computer. I know Flickr is the hot, hip, AJAXY taggy Web 2.0 future. And I’m absolutely a loyal and loving Flickr use. But I expect there are plenty of loyal Yahoo Photo users as well, ones that would have liked to have learned about this radical change from Yahoo directly, rather than when reading their morning paper.
Instead, there’s nothing at the Yahoo Photos site telling you this is coming. Nada. The Flickr Blog had squat, too.
Lastly, TechCrunch notes that Flickr is finally getting over its "we can’t do video" fear and will allow video uploads in the future. Good. So many people shoot short video clips with the same digital cameras that they use for images that this move is long overdue.
For more discussion, see the recap at Techmeme.
Postscript: Yahoo Photos now has a FAQ about the closure up here. Of course, when I log into Yahoo Photos, it’s ironic that I see this:
That big “The new Yahoo! Photos will be here shortly” button points to this News.com article covering the closed beta that I guess is going to stay closed forever now.