SmugMug CEO calls Flickr “the world’s most-beloved, money-losing business”, calls for support

MacAskill says Flickr will need more paid users to survive.


Remember Flickr? Once one of the most popular websites on the internet, right along with nostalgic blasts from the past like MySpace, Ask Jeeves and AltaVista.

Unlike most websites from the early days of the internet that have since changed direction or got folded into another service, Flickr remains true to what its roots: a photo hosting website for photographers.

Flickr focuses more on the photos than the social aspects. This is attractive to photographers, giving them advantages like freedom of dimensions, privacy control, and content ownership.

While these features may seem meaningless to the average person, they matter to photographers, especially since Facebook owns all content posted on their platforms, hindering photographers’ ability to profit from their work.

Yahoo was launched in 2004 and acquired by Yahoo! in 2005. In 2017, Verizon acquired Yahoo!, including Flickr. Finally, in 2018, Flickr was acquired by SmugMug, which is also a photography service, aimed more at portfolio building.

With the SmugMug acquisition, Flickr ended their free 1TB storage plan and instead replaced it with a maximum of 1000 pictures, in an attempt to encourage users to upgrade to a Pro plan.

Today, SmugMug's CEO Don MacAskill sent an open letter to users to sign up for the Pro subscription to help “keep the Flickr dream alive”. The letter details Flickr's ongoing financial struggles, with quotes like “We cannot continue to operate it at a loss as we've been doing” and describing it as “the world's most-beloved, money-losing business.”

However, McAskill makes it clear that he's not interested in donations out of pity. Going on to explain “We didn’t buy Flickr because we thought it was a cash cow. Unlike platforms like Facebook, we also didn’t buy it to invade your privacy and sell your data. We bought it because we love photographers, we love photography, and we believe Flickr deserves not only to live on but thrive.”

Flickr is currently running a promotion through the holiday season, discounting the Pro's subscription from the usual $49.99 a year to just over $3 a month.

Read the open letter here.


Carl Sinclair

Carl Sinclair is a technology reporter covering anti-competetive practices and privacy issues for Reclaim The Net. [email protected]