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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The New Flickr Is Pretty, but Is It Social?

On Monday, just a few hours after Yahoo officially announced it had purchased Tumblr for $1.1 billion, the company unveiled a new version of Flickr, a photo-sharing Web site.

It sure is pretty, with lots of high-resolution, rectangular photos and a clean, grid design. The company is also offering everyone on the site a free terabyte of space to store their photos. That's potentially enough to stores hundreds of thousands of photos.

But the new Flickr still feels like it's missing one thing: social. Like its counterparts, including Facebook, Instagram and Google Plus, the new Flickr site has a familiar design: There is a banner across the top, which is a place to showcase a person's favorite image. There is the classic square profile picture for each user off to the left.  To the right, a counter shows the number of photos someone has uploaded to the site and when they joined the service.

Where Flickr deviates from the rest of the social pack, however, is with the company's choice not to show how many friends or followers a user has.

Yes, this might sound like a much-needed departure from the norm of ego-driven social Web sites, but how many people follow someone on a social site can do a lot for the users of the service.

First, for people browsing a social Web site like Flickr, a follower count can be a quick signal to help someone understand if a person is worth following. It's almost a quantified look at the so-called wisdom of crowds.

There is, of course, the ego aspect of displaying such a number. A simple search on Twitter for ““more followers than”” shows tens of thousands of friends publicly prodding each other as they race to gain a larger following on the site.

On Instagram, there are more than 370,000 images tagged with hashtag #moreFollowers. There are also over three million pictures tagged with #100likes, where people desperately hope to pass 100 “hearts” on a photo they have taken. Although Flickr offers a “star” button to say someone likes a photo, its almost impossible to find on the site, especially for newcomers.

These numeric signals are more than just ego, they help create both a game dynamic and a reward system on these social sites - one that still seems to be missing from Flickr.

Last year, Yahoo unveiled a new Phone application, which begged the question: could Flickr, once the best photo-centric Web site on the Internet, regain that crown?

Its latest design seems to push it closer to that point. Now it just needs to show people how many new friends the site has made.