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Photo-sharing site heralded as ‘future of the web’

10 December 2004

Photographers, camera-phone users and bloggers alike are abuzz about Flickr – the Creative Commons-friendly photosharing site that allows live chat and ‘social networking’ around user-uploaded images. Camera phone images have appeared on the site so fast that the site has been termed as an alternative to major news sites such as CNN, and the 'future of the web' by various salivating tech reporters.

Flickr, still in beta release, is a cross-platform web service developed as open source software by Vancouver-based Ludicorp. It takes the online posting capability offered by photo-printing sites like Ofoto or Snapfish  and adds a selection of features that make images easier to upload, organise, search and share. The site does not sell prints of users' photos, but it does allow camera phone users to upload their images direct to other users, or to their own webpages, RSS feeds or blogs.

The site allows users two modes of copyright protection - traditional copyright protection, and Creative Commons which allows users to specify what kind of use they will allow for their work.

Because of the ways photos on Flickr become part of group discussions, they can draw interest long after they were posted, says a report in Wired magazine.

"Your photos really never go stale like they do on a lot of photo sites, (where) photos from even a month ago nobody looks at anymore," said the somewhat ironically-named Caterina Fake, the service's co-founder. "On Flickr, they're constantly part of these dynamic groups (and) they come up in somebody else's search."

One of the main features of the service appears to be the speed at which camera phone users can upload shots on the move. When bombs went off in Jakarta, Indonesia, in September, news sites such as the BBC weren't the first to provide images. Instead, members of Flickr were among the very earliest to see pictures of what had happened.

"There were photos on Flickr before even any news stories," said Fake. "Within the hour, three Flickr users who happened to be in Jakarta had uploaded photos."

Earlier this year, the Guardian reported that ‘social networking’ sites which allow vast networks of friends and associates to become networked (such as Friends Reunited and Orkut) were the net industry’s buzziest feature – so much so that they seem to have become a default part of life on the web, perhaps the e-equivalent to the ubiquity of reality TV.

Flickr adds similar types of social networking features to photo sharing, so that people can discuss, tag and share images, with images also forming a way for people to meet and network. With 50% of UK web users now on broadband, and an increasing popularity of legal file-sharing, it seems that Flickr could offer creative professionals - and everyone else - a whole new way to create, disseminate and discuss visual material. Or just to join the throngs who will doubtless use the site to upload Heat magazine-style celebrity gossip shots from their mobile phone..

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