Flickr Burning As Yahoo Fiddles: Head Of Service Walks Away

When you ask Yahoo who is in charge of Flickr, they always point to one man: Matthew Rothenberg. Well, technically, there are people at Yahoo above him in charge of the group of products that Flickr is in (Applications Division). But it’s Rothenberg, as head of product, who they’ll tell you is leading the day to day.

Not anymore.

Rothenberg is out as head of product for Flickr. He tweeted the news himself earlier today. He had been on the team for five years, dating back to when original co-founders Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake were still running the ship. They left long ago, but Rothenberg stuck around. And for the past two years, he’s been the guy in charge.

One funny thing here is that we had been hearing for weeks that Rothenberg was leaving. But Yahoo kept denying it until the bitter end. But it’s hard to deny a public tweet, I guess.

Here’s their official statement:

Matthew Rothenberg has made the personal decision to move on to a new endeavor.  In the interim, Markus Spiering will be stepping in as head of product management. Flickr continues to have an innovative, energetic and creative leadership team that is dedicated to its community of members. Flickr remains a key priority for Yahoo! and we are fully committed to making it the best photo-sharing experience on the Web.

Note the wording. He made a “personal decision” — Yahoo clearly wants avoid the impression that he’s leaving a sinking ship. But there’s a reason we’ve kept hearing rumors about his imminent departure: the situation is not great inside the once proud service.

Following the leak of the “sunsetting” of Delicious, talk quickly moved to Flickr: what would happen there? Everyone was worried, but Yahoo publicly stated that they were very much backing the service. Still, ex-employees and users alike didn’t seem too sure about its future.

And lately, we’ve been hearing a lot of talk of internal turmoil within Yahoo and the Flickr group. Last fall, John Matheny took over the group Applications Division in charge. He’s an ex-Microsoft guy, and you may recall during the time when Microsoft was trying to buy Yahoo, users took to Flickr to boycott such a deal specifically because they did not like Microsoft. We’ve heard around a half dozen or so folks have left just in the past few months.

Of course, the situation wasn’t said to be much better before Matheny took over. Flickr has had some big time layoffs over the past couple of years and leaders have butted heads with those at Yahoo over direction.

Frankly, it’s surprising that Rothenberg stuck around this long. But now he’s gone (officially, his last day is next week, we hear). He’s moving on to greener pastures.