Why is Flickr afraid of Zooomr?

Flickr says that users own the the images and tags we enter into their system. Apparently that doesn’t mean they have to make it easy for us to take what we own elsewhere.

When Kristopher Tate, the founder of the feature-rich startup photosharing site Zooomr (see prior coverage), asked Flickr earlier this month for access to their Commercial API, Flickr’s response by email was that “we choose not to support use of the API for sites that are a straight alternative to Flickr.” Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield posted to a Flickr forum on Wednesday saying that when it comes to direct competitors like Zooomr, “why should we burn bandwidth and CPU cycles sending stuff directly to their servers?”

What’s at issue is the ability for innovative companies to build server-to-server import interfaces that make it far easier for non-technical users to try out a new service and take what they own with them. There are a number of third party tools available for Flickr users to download all their data to their computers. That data can then be uploaded into another system. Competitor Zooomr wants to make transitions like that easy to do, and Flickr apparently doesn’t want them to.

Tate from Zooomr says that the exports are a cost of doing business, that Web 2.0 is where “the roach motel stops” and that Zooomr will always make it easy for their customers to take their data elsewhere. That’s easy to say when you’re the underdog, but the issue does lead to some questions about data portability and web services. Day one of the post-Gates era seems like a good time to consider such questions.

Update: Comments below refer to the policy that Flickr says it is most likely to shift to. See this post in the Flickr forums for more details. Flickr founder Butterfield in particular says he’s had a change of heart.