The Flickr Gunners

Flickr wasn’t the first photo sharing site, and it isn’t the most popular. In fact, it isn’t even the most popular photo sharing site owned by Yahoo – this is. But Flickr caught our attention and, at least with the technology-savvy crowd, it has become synonymous with photo sharing.

A whole new crop of services are gunning for flickr and the title of “coolest photo site”. I call these the “Flickr Gunners” and I’ve written about them often. Yahoo Photos and Webshots, two newly rejuvenated services, are also combining new and exciting features with their massive existing customer and photo base.

Photo sharing sites are sticky by nature. Once you’ve gone to the trouble of uploading your photos, tagging them and creating albums, it’ll take something very special to get you to move. Flickr had this “specialness” – the social tagging and viewing features built a network effect that made flickr more valuable to a new user as it grew.

But Flickr has weaknesses. First, as I said they are not the biggest photo site. Yahoo Photos, Webshots and others dwarf them both in terms of users and uploaded photos. These larger services can afford to wait and see what works best and then duplicate it (and Yahoo Photos is rolling out new stuff that isn’t available on Flickr. Second, flickr hasn’t done much in terms of new features lately. They missed the video boat entirely, and YouTube now has a big lead in that category. And third, there are a number of UI issues that could easily be fixed but remain unchanged, stubbornly: the need for sub albums, better batch editing features and the ability to view more photos on a page. Yes, flickr has been working hard on scalability issues, but that shouldn’t stop them from evolving the UI and feature set.

And brand new or very young services are rolling out new features regularly. These small companies are hungry and obsessive and will do anything for market share. Here are three I’ve been tracking:


I really like BubbleShare. As I’ve written before, it takes about 10 seconds from hitting the site for the first time to actually viewing pictures that you’ve uploaded. You don’t even need to create an account.

BubbleShare has added new features often since launch. Recent upgrades include Audio Caption, BubbleBar (a way to bring photos right to your desktop, similar to Slide or FilmLoop) and the less serious but really fun BubbleCaptions, (where you can add cartoon text captions to photos).

BubbleShare’s big weakness is that they do not allow tagging of photos, or photo search. This service isn’t about discovery, it’s about sharing photos and albums you’ve uploaded/created with others.


Ookles is Scott Johnson’s (Feedster Founder) newest venture, and my expectations are very high for this yet to be launched photo service.

There aren’t many details yet, but Scott has described Ookles as Flickr+Riya+YouTube (click on the Zooomrtations on the bottom right sidebar). In a recent podcast with Gregory Galant, Scott called Ookles the “next gen Flickr” targeted to people with children. He stressed that both the front and back ends will be compelling – a “beautiful UI with everything Ajax”, and an intelligent, scalable back end. He also disclosed that the company has gotten to launch stage on just $75,000 in funding.

The hype machine is on. Scott, you have our attention. Please deliver.


Zooomr came out of nowhere a few weeks ago and suddenly 17 year old founder Kristopher Tate is the coolest guy at the party. Zooomr 2.0 is coming out next week and includes new features like “inspector” (a quick view of photo details), “smartsets” (dynamically generated albums based on rules, such as certain tags, dates, people, etc. – Yahoo Photos is doing something similar), geotagging improvements and more.

Kristopher is listening to his users, too, and adding features quickly, sometimes real time. Read Thomas Hawk’s post about how he recommended that Kristopher add trackbacks to photos and it was up within an hour.

Keep an eye on Zooomr – my bet is that it gets acquired quickly, if only so that one of the big players can get their hands on Kristopher. My original profile on Zooomr is here.