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Flickr to Grant Commercial API Key to Competitors 58

eobanb writes "The Yahoo-owned photo sharing site Flickr has come under fire recently for the perceived 'lock-in' that their API creates. Flickr's terms of service state clearly that all photos uploaded to Flickr by users are owned by their respective users, yet Flickr's API only allows uploading, not exporting. Surprisingly, Flickr developer Stewart Butterfield posted in the thread on Flickr: "I actually had a change of heart and was convinced by Eric's position that we definitely should approve requests from direct competitors as long as they do the same. That means (a) that they need to have a full and complete API and (b) be willing to give us access." This means that users will soon be able to freely move data between different photo-sharing sites, like Zooomr (which has already implemented the Flickr API), Google PicasaWeb, 23hq, or Tabblo."
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Flickr to Grant Commercial API Key to Competitors

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  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @05:05PM (#15559078) Journal
    yet Flickr's API only allows uploading, not exporting.

    Umm...

    Right-click. "Save As".

    For those images that use "protection", I recommed the wonderful "Nuke Anything" plugin for FireFox... Just right-click the image, "Remove this object" to get rid of the transparent image over it, then you can save it.


    And yes, for the "didn't read the FP" Nazis, I realize that the API does not equal the actual webpage - I just consider the distinction irrelevant.
    • That's not exactly an option if you have hundreds of pictures uploaded and want to migrate.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Well, then you just upload the pictures from your harddrive to the new site. People don't actually keep their only copies on Flickr, do they?
      • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @07:22PM (#15559405) Homepage
        I don't know why it surprises everyone when they use free services and aren't allowed to do something you want. Like when you use a free email service, and all of a sudden they start charging for POP access. Or with free web hosting, they decide to take away features, or just cut you off because your using too much bandwidth, or the company goes bust. If you want web hosting, you'd be better off paying for it. For under $10 a month, you can get 20 GB of space, 1000 GB of transfer, and lots of nice features like blogs, email, photo albums, databases, and your free to access all the stuff you're hosting by FTP, SSH, or whatever else your host provides. If the free stuff isn't good enough, then cough up some money for some good hosting. It isn't expensive, and will save you a lot of grief.
        • Even better - i host pics, email and blogs for about 25 close friends and family members on a $10usd/mo plan. Everyone gets a bunch of email addresses, space aplenty to share their family pics, and all I ask them is they buy me a beer or two whenever I catch up with them. Total outlay for me? $120 + about 1/2 an hour showing people how to use the admin panel I set up for them. Benefit to me? About 5-8 beers month on average, and I would have been paying for the hosting just to have my website up anyway. Oh,
          • Most people don't have the time or inclination to set up their own hosting with photo sharing software and all the hassle that comes with it. It's much easier to use some thing like flickr.

            I host my photos using Apache::Gallery on a linux box at home. There are no hosting charges and bandwith isn't much of an issue since only family and friends view them ;)
            • There's no set up necessary when you get a hosting plan. Just click on Gallery 2, and it gets installed for you. Nothing to set up. Apache is set up, MySQL is set up, Email servers set up, webmail set up. I trust that the guys running the hosting service know more about properly setting up all this stuff than I do. Also, I save money on the electricity of running that extra box, the cost of having an extra box, and I pay cheaper Internet access rates because I'm not hosting a server. It's also more re
              • There's no set up necessary when you get a hosting plan. Just click on Gallery 2, and it gets installed for you. Nothing to set up. Apache is set up, MySQL is set up, Email servers set up, webmail set up. I trust that the guys running the hosting service know more about properly setting up all this stuff than I do. Also, I save money on the electricity of running that extra box, the cost of having an extra box, and I pay cheaper Internet access rates because I'm not hosting a server. It's also more reliable
    • by ceejayoz ( 567949 ) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Sunday June 18, 2006 @05:20PM (#15559132) Homepage Journal
      Or just use http://flickr.com/services/api/misc.urls.html [flickr.com]

      "You can construct the source URL to a photo once you know its ID, server ID and secret, as returned by many API methods."
    • by Lewisham ( 239493 ) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @05:40PM (#15559187)
      We're talking about *commercial* APIs guys: a mass transfer of hundreds/thousands of megabytes of data a day to a competitor's site. The personal API keys are fine for doing little cool things on user's desktops, but do not allow such intensive work specifically so someone can poach your customers.

      I understand Stewart's reluctance, but I think people on his team have got it right, Flickr has to step up and say "We are the best, and we are going to prove it." Locking customers into your site is the sort of pro-corporate anti-user image that Flickr avoided, and won them such goodwill.

      Personally, I think Flickr is still the best. It's clean, it does things well. Zooomr is OK, but it's a complete carbon copy, with some pointless added bits.
      • So you're saying there is a company that specializes in transferring photos from one service to another?
      • Zooomr is OK, but it's a complete carbon copy, with some pointless added bits.
        Most notably that extra "o" in the name.
      • We're talking about *commercial* APIs guys: a mass transfer of hundreds/thousands of megabytes of data a day to a competitor's site.

        Seeing that the photos are owned by the people who upload them, this kind of mass transfer is completely out of the question. Unless, of course, said competitor has secured the permissions from the thousands of contributors beforehand. In which case it's probably easier to inform the world of a alternative service and hope for the best.

        • by Guido von Guido ( 548827 ) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @10:31PM (#15559797)
          You're missing the point.

          What this does is to allow customers to switch easily between Flickr and/or its competitors. Let's say you have an account with Flickr and want to move to one of its competitors. The competitor would now have access to Flickr's API, so it could write a script which (with your permission, of course) downloads all of your Flickr photos and puts them into galleries in your account with the competitor. This would be easier for most customers than downloading all their files.

          Because they require a reciprocal key from the competitor, this would also allow Flickr to build a script to move your images from the competitor to your new Flickr account.

          Capiche?

    • Here's a bookmarklet that gives you the full-size original photo: "Get Flickr Original."

      javascript:%20for(%20i%20in%20global_photos%20)%20
      {%20p%20=%20global_photos[i];%20}%20window.locatio
      n%20=%20'http://static.flickr.com/'%20+%20p.server
      %20+%20'/'%20+%20p.id%20+%20'_'%20+%20p.secret%20+
      %20'_o.jpg';


      Remove the linebreaks (inserted to get around Slashcode-enforced spacing) and you're set. Works in Safari, and I'm assuming Firefox and Opera as well.
      • Here's a bookmarklet that gives you the full-size original photo: "Get Flickr Original."

        Holy Batman, Batman!

        And here I thought myself clever for the suggestion to use "Nuke Anything" to remove the transparent div.

        Best javascript trick I've seen this month... Even if it just sticks an "_o" on the end, I didn't realize Flickr kept the original, I thought they downsampled everything to 400x500 (or 500x400) for the sake of space.

        Thank you!
    • Umm...

      Right-click. "Save As".


      Oh, that's easy if you have maybe 10-50 images in Flickr. Try that with... oh, I guess I only have 200 photos [http] in there. I guess this is why people have the paid accounts. Otherwise, Gallery [zhrodague.net] seems to work okay, even if it misses most of the Flickr features.
  • If not, what does this mean to me?
  • Web 2.0, finally (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Peturrr ( 940456 ) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @05:13PM (#15559100)
    Great!

    Here we finally see the big move happening that's the real mark between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0!
    No more individual sites, where your data resides, but interchangebility between websites without all the hassles.

    I think lots of other services will follow this example because the resulting freedom will definately be missed when has been tasted somewhere. In the next few weeks I expect to see a lot of other companies open up their API's to allow the same kind of data sharing.
    Yes, I am very excited!

    Next step will be the availabilty of this extended API for every normal user, so they have real freedom. But that will probably take a year or even longer.
    • I am also pretty happy with this, it goes into the stream of locking in everything. Ok, it wasn't their IP to begin with, but they could reason that their uploading interface or whatever is their own property and sharing stuff after uploading is therefore a breach etc. etc.

      Good thing there are companies around that still know that you're there for your users, and not the other way around!

    • by a16 ( 783096 ) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @06:22PM (#15559278)
      Currently I'd say the really defining aspect of "Web 2.0" is be super friendly and offer everything you possibly can, just to get the biggest community and hopefully sell it, or advertise to it.

      You may note from my URL that I run a "competing" image hosting site, and have been for years - before these new guys were all around. You'll also notice that we offer the grand total of 1mb of free storage on free accounts (although this will be increasing in the next few months for the first time in years), and yet we have over 23,000 users. But we simply can't compete with Flickr/Google/any Venture Capital backed outfit.

      However, we're proudly "Web 1.0" in terms of we're backed by real money and if something is going to cost us more than it will generate to keep the service running, it won't get added. Contrast this with the Web 2.0 method of offering everything under the sun, and you may think I'm nuts. But how long does everyone really think these "unlimited" feature sites are going to be around for? When the Venture Capital finally runs out, it'll be the old Web 1.0 sites that remain. Youtube and flickr etc. are costing hundreds of thousands of dollars per week, or even day, just to maintain - and they generate no income. Some of us have been here and seen all this before.

      I am sure I'll be modded down on this however, because as a user there has never been a better time to use the web. You can get whatever you want for free, people are fighting to offer you the greatest services that they can all at no cost - and now for you to be able to move elsewhere if you want to. It's also a great time to be a Web 2.0 startup and become a millionaire from venture capital. I just wonder how long all this will last :)
      • Flickr generates income from, at the very least, selling pro memberships. While the prints, DVDs, calendars, etc. are done by other companies, I imagine they get referral fees or a percentage of the purchase price for every user who purchases goods or services from them through Flickr.

        They also have the money of Yahoo! behind them, which should provide a good day, two days' worth of emergency cash, I'd think.

        • I agree. The pro memberships are a revenue stream along with the print services. The other opportunity here comes from the tagging. Through tagging, Flickr can know what the images are about. This enables contextual advertising beyond what images.google.com could ever hope for.

          Because the non-pro memberships on Flickr limit users to 2 sets, users are encouraged to use tags to organize their own photos. So, Flickr has really created an incentive for users to perform data entry that Flickr can use to comme
      • Then again, Flickr has been bought over by Yahoo and there are many users (such as myself) who are paid subscribers, so yup, while, say, YouTube's long term viability is under a question mark, Flickr definitely seems to be there for the long-haul.

        Nothing to take away from your website, though, :-), just saying things aren't as black-and-white as you point out even in the Web2.0 world.

    • Re:Web 2.0, finally (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      A fairly major correction to the original post: "yet Flickr's API only allows uploading, not exporting". Flickr's API has *always* allowed exporting. As pointed out by Stewart on TechCrunch [techcrunch.com] you can already buy a DVD backup of your Flickr photos complete with metadata, use one of several open source utilities built on Flickr's open API to download your photos to your local machine, or roll your own if you have the scripting skills. This is all pretty revolutionary, but they did it a few years ago.
    • Here we finally see the big move happening that's the real mark between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0!
      Are you referring to the site naming, by any chance? "Flickr", "Zooomr", "Tabblo"... call me backwards striving, but if this is the hallmark of Web 2.0, I'd rather stay with Web 1.0.
  • by bobob ( 916956 ) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @05:37PM (#15559185)
    As well as all the usual 'everything should be open arguments' there's a really simple reason why Flickr is right to implement this for their own reasons. It gives them great metrics on where their users are going. If Zoomr uses its api key to request a certain Flickr user's photos, and then that user becomes less active on Flickr, Flickr knows where the user has gone. This way it can see good data on its competitors and take any action necessary by producing features which specifically target one particular competitor.
    • This is very interesting. An important part of the "web-mapping war" relates to two important characteristics: (1) how the API are complete and easy to use and what's the licence, and (2) how well Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, Ask, etc. successfully integrates many services together. It is not only about satellite imagery resolution, it's also about the API and licenses and services integration.

      About the new commercial use for Yahoo! Maps and API (from slashgeo [slashgeo.org]):
      " Yahoo! Maps now allowing commercial use [yahoo.net]. From Yahoo!: "Until today, the APIs were available only for non-commercial use unless you applied for an exception. The concept of commercial and non-commercial has gone away and exceptions are no longer necessary in most cases. We have given you explicit Usage Policies to help guide you. Whether on your business website, blog or personal site, you no longer have to ask for permission." There's also a new Official Yahoo! Maps blog [ylocalblog.com] "

      But that's not the end. Starting this week, the new Google Earth licence does not allow you to install Google Earth at work at all, even for personal use. Again from slashgeo [slashgeo.org]:
      "The Ogle Earth blog indicates that if you use Google Earth at work (the free version), you're in illegality [ogleearth.com]. From the site: "1. USE OF SOFTWARE The Software is made available to you for your personal, non-commercial use only. You may not use the Software or the geographical information made available for display using the Software, or any prints or screen outputs generated with the Software in any commercial or business environment or for any commercial or business purposes for yourself or any third parties. "

      Oh yeah, and unrelated to the story but still very interesting, you can geocode your Picasa photos using Google Earth [slashgeo.org]. I'll stop there. See my sig to learn more ;-)
      • (now I'm getting off-topic to flickr and Yahoo!, but in order to add important information to my parent post, I dare face the mods... ;-)

        There's seem to be some confusion. A lot of people I told about the free version of Google Earth not being allowed in a business environment quickly forget the "free" in my sentence :-) If you haven't read the links I provided in the parent post, the Ogle Earth bog also tells us: "The EULA for the Free and Plus version of Google Earth 4.0 has had a slight reorganization, w
  • FlickrBackup (Score:2, Informative)

    by Serff ( 183148 )
    This has long been a concern of Flickr users. I was one of them, so I wrote an application that will allow you to download your pictures back from Flickr. I know it doesn't solve the entire concern of moving your library, but it is a start. You can check it out here [sourceforge.net].
  • Sure public APIs initially sound like a gift from god, but from a business viewpoint there's a lot more to it than just "granting your lesser competitors access to your data." In an altruistic world it would only be used to suck off a users data when the user definetively makes the switch. But what happens when they go back? You have a competitor with access to their data who now my endlessly refresh the users data and taunt them to come back because "It's easy your data is already here!" Clearly that's
  • "Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they. How did this change come about? I do not know. What can make it legitimate? That question I think I can answer." Jean Jacques Rousseau. A lot of charged language has been flying around over the past four days or so with regards to Flickr [flickr.com]and what rights their users ought or ought not to have with regards to their content. It started off with a thread in Flickr Central [flickr.com] w

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