A Guide to the Flickr Photosharing Service - Yahoo's Newest Purchase

Yahoo Buys FlickrLucidcorp's Flickr, perhaps the Internet’s best photo-sharing service, has just been acquired by Yahoo. This means that the relatively small Internet startup favored heavily by bloggers will go from relative obscurity to mass market discovery in a very short period of time. Now seems like a perfect time to have a guide available for those who want to acquaint themselves with a service that will soon become a household name.

For those of you unfamiliar with Flickr, it has gained a lot of popularity over the last few months because of the unique ways users find and share photos with each other. The service is based on a unique "tagging" system which allows users to add a series of descriptive key words that help identify the content of each photo. For example, this picture is tagged with the words "qwiki, aymnetwork, burning man, goa, psytrance, trippy, purple, robe and colorful." If you click on any of those words, you will be taken to a page where you can view photos posted by other Flickr members that have the same tags appended to them. Anyone who wants to view pictures relating to the color purple will find my picture alongside a lot of other very purple pictures. Things get even more intriguing once you begins searching for tags like Iraq, which turns up soldier’s personal photos, protest pictures and just good old fashioned family photos from people who happen to live in the area.

This method of categorization, collectively maintained by each individual user, turns up far more relevant and interesting image results than can be provided by any of the image search engines such as Google or Yahoo simply because a software program has a much harder time trying to figure out the content of each image than people do. Usually, these search engines look to items such as the filename, the alternate pop-up text that appears when you hover over an image, and words on the webpage that an image appears on. People, on the other hand, will simply add descriptive adjectives or the names of the places, people and events featured in the photos. Each picture will also tell you who uploaded it so it becomes very easy to find people who have similar interests as you do. People form photo-sharing “groups” as a result.

Groups add another way to organize, categorize and search for photos since a person can search for a tag like Los Angeles as well as look through photo groups comprised of people with an interest in sharing LA-related photos. This has led to some very interesting groups such as the One Letter group whose members take photos of individual letters of the alphabet. Because Flickr has a public API for interested web programmers, this has led to the development of web sites that will do interesting things like spell words made up of random photos of indicidual letters. These groups, just like people’s individual photos, have commenting features and discussion forums.

Do you like a particular person’s photos? Add them to you list of contacts alongside your friends and family! All of a sudden, keeping track of the photos that your friends have just recently uploaded has become a whole lot easier. For all you web geeks out there, each Flickr gallery and group also has its own syndication feed so it becomes incredibly easy to keep track of any updates and have them automatically load and display on your own website.

Of course, while it is nice to give titles, descriptions, tags and the ability for people to comment on and discuss your photos, havent’ you ever wanted to draw attention to one particular thing in a photo? Well, with Flickr, you can actually highlight a certain area of a photo and comment on that particular item. See what I have said about my sunglasses in this photo.

All of these features make it a very attractive purchase for any company as well as the single most fun and functional photo sharing service out there today. As long as Yahoo avoid killing Flickr off with advertising, this community will thrive greatly.

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