One of the first and best-known photo-sharing services, Flickr, has been bought by the independent image-hosting firm SmugMug, as Verizon begins the breakup of Yahoo.

The deal, terms of which have not been disclosed, sees Flickr – with its tens of billions of photos and 75 million users – become part of a similar family-run service in SmugMug.

The Silicon Valley firm, founded by a father and son team in 2002 without the help of venture capital or outside investment, says it intends for Flickr to “continue to operate separately, just as it has been”. SmugMug said no changes would be made to Flickr’s current plans or rates: “Flickr’s free accounts are foundational to its community of influential and engaged photographers.”

Don MacAskill, the SmugMug chief executive, told USA Today: “Flickr has survived through thick and thin and is core to the entire fabric of the internet.

“It’s a fantastic product and a beloved brand, supplying tens of billions of photos to hundreds of millions of people around the world.”

MacAskill pledged to invest in Flickr and restore it to its former glory. SmugMug intends to migrate Flickr’s back-end infrastructure over to its technology, but maintain the pioneering social photo-sharing service as a separate entity and site. Flickr’s user and photo numbers are thought to dwarf those of SmugMug.

Flickr was started in 2004 and acquired by Yahoo in 2005 for approximately $25m (£18m). The site proved popular with both professional and amateur photographers, forming a central role in the cultural life of the internet, hosting 6bn photos by 2011 and 87 million registered users by 2013.

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But Yahoo failed to invest in Flickr, leading it to miss the boat on smartphone photography and the rise of Facebook and Instagram. After a series of cost savings and layoffs at the firm, Flickr was given a brief reprieve in 2012 when Marissa Mayer took the helm of Yahoo, giving users 1TB of storage for free and an overhaul of its user interface. But by then too much ground had been lost to Facebook businesses.

Verizon bought the ailing Yahoo for $4.8bn in 2016 leaving many of its most dedicated users, who had collectively uploaded 12.4bn photos, fearful for the future. Verizon began cutting costs and selling off parts of its Yahoo and AOL combined business, renamed Oath, at the start of 2018, including Moviefone and the e-commerce firm Polyvore.

The SmugMug acquisition puts to bed rumours of Flickr’s imminent demise at the hands of Oath cost savings.


Samuel Gibbs

The GuardianTramp

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