Flickr and Social Business Models

I am a huge fan of Flickr.

I love the Lemonade-out-of-Lemons domain name – youjust know that they sat there with Godaddy, punching in everycombination until a misspelling finally came back as available:Nowadays people don’t decide upon a business name and then try tofind a correlating domain. Instead they check out random or looselycorrelated domain availability and compromise. yafla had just such an origin(though it has really grown on me since).

I love the simple interface design of the Flickr website. I lovethe features (intuitive “Web 2.0“features like in-place edits of titles, captions, and so on,coupled with massive capacity and bandwidth with a remarkablyliberal usage policy. Even on the desktop Flickr is a winner, witha simple yet powerful resize & uploadutility that makes incrementally populating one’s onlinephoto archive a breeze).

I love occasionally browsing through some of the beautifulphotos uploaded by other users for a bit of entertainmentand inspiration. I love the ability to combine photos into sets. Ilove the distributed keyword method of loosely categorizingphotos.

I especially love the way that you can set relationships toother people, allowing me to limit certain photos (such as those ofmy children) to family, other photos to friends, and so on. While Idon’t use it to build new cyber-relationship networks, I do find itworthwhile as real-world friends and family join the service(mostly at my incessant urging. I don’t spam out emails full ofpictures of my kids anymore, but instead upload to Flickr andprovide access for the appropriate people. If they’re interested,they can look. If they’re not then at least I haven’t filled theirinbox quota).

The Road

If Flickr keeps going with the current philosophies and designs,it will continue to be a winner. Its competitors will have a reallytough time doing something better, unless they start sendingout cheques to users for using their services. If there wasone possible weakness in Flickr’s armour, it is that itscompetitors could use feature-rich desktop photo indexing softwareto kickstart their web venture.

I am not Flickr’s optimal customer, however.

A large selection of llama inspired gifts, jewelry,art, collectibles and stuffed animals from Nose-N-Toes.Com.

While I use it to store and share my photos, I never click onads (not only are they something I naturally tune out anyways, thekeyword correlations makes for some really ridiculous impressions.I recently uploaded a picture of allama at a country fair I visited. Now I’m getting ads sellingllama goods and services), and the stickiness ofthe site is limited for me. Instead of uploading my photos and thenparticipating in late nightdiscussions with other amateur photographers, oohing and ahhingabout each of their photos and hoping for the same in return, I’mvery utilitarian in the way I use the site. My relationship networkis not built in Flickr, or on the online world, but instead Icrystallize my real-world network in Flickr.

This interests me because the business model of a large numberof sites, particularly “Web 2.0” sites, rely upon aconsiderable amount of stickiness – Not only will you visit, butyou’ll hang around. Just like television, these sites hope to drawyou in for a period of time under the premise that not only are youmore likely to see some revenue generation that interests you (e.g.ads), but you’re also more tightly bound to that community.

Time is finite, however. I’ve discarded countless web ideasbecause while the services might be utilitarian and useful for someneeds of some people, they were too marginal to realisticallycharge a fee, yet there was no way I could rationally establishenough stickiness (you can only create discussion groups about somany things).