clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Flickr has been sold after 13 years at Yahoo. Can Flickr be relevant again?

It won’t be easy.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer onstage with a picture behind her from Flickr.
Marissa Mayer tried to rejuvenate Flickr in 2013, but it didn’t really work.
Mario Tama / Getty

Flickr, the pioneering online photo-sharing community — whose rise and purchase by Yahoo in 2005 was a key storyline in the “Web 2.0” era — has a surprise new owner.

Verizon, its current owner via its Oath subsidiary, has sold Flickr to SmugMug, an even older, subscription-based photo sharing service, as reported first by USA Today’s Jessica Guynn.

SmugMug’s founder and CEO Don MacAskill has taken to Twitter to talk up his hopes for the deal. “We will move heaven and earth to thrill you and photographers everywhere,” he told one Flickr Pro user.

If MacAskill can engage the most serious of remaining Flickr users — the site reportedly has “more than 100 million unique users who post tens of billions of photos” — it’s easy to see how the deal could be lucrative for SmugMug, which has long successfully operated in the small-but-profitable model.

And long-time Flickr fans sound excited at the news. Yahoo, to be sure, was a mostly bad owner; it’s sort of a miracle Flickr still exists.

But can Flickr start growing and really matter again? That’s a different proposition that will be much harder.

A lot, obviously, has changed since Flickr’s heyday — Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, squares, vertical, etc. More than anything, mobile has taken over, and photo sharing has evolved from albums to streams to Stories. Photo sharing isn’t just a thing anymore — it’s part of many things.

Google and Amazon Prime now offer effectively unlimited photo libraries and backup for free. Apple has made photography a core part of its operating system and messaging service. Instagram has become the culturally dominant visual community of the day.

And while Flickr has an app, it hasn’t cracked the top 150 iPhone photo apps in the past month, according to App Annie.

Perhaps that isn’t the point. If SmugMug can stabilize Flickr, please its enthusiast users with an excellent service and build things on over time, that will likely be a better future than Verizon could have offered.

But unless something significant changes, it’s hard to imagine a major Flickr comeback.

This article originally appeared on