Flickr had a big head start in the online photo-sharing race, but some of its early momentum was lost when competitors like Google, Dropbox, iCloud, and OneDrive all starting doing the same thing. So today, with version 4.0, Flickr is adding a new trick: Store all your photos here, and we’ll help you organize them.
With a new, automatic uploader for mobile and for desktop, Flickr wants to make getting your photos into the service as easy as possible. The app can upload any photo you shoot on your phone, or automatically start uploading as soon as you plug in your camera. Since you have 1,000GB of free storage, why not just upload absolutely everything? Then, once everything’s in the cloud, you get a nifty Camera Roll view, just like on your phone—all your photos, organized by date shot or date uploaded. The interface is fast and sortable, and is a much more useful interface for seeing your photos.
But how it sees your photos is where things really get interesting. You can now sort your photos by, let’s say, the animal in the shot. Flickr’s computers know the difference between a dog, a cat, and your uncle Teddy, and can create on-the-fly compilations starring whoever you want. Or, just click on “Sunsets” and see your dusk shots all together. You can filter by color, orientation, or even style—with one click, all your stunningly blurred-background shots come front and center.
Every time you upload a photo, Flickr scans it and applies a bunch of descriptive tags. Combined with the ones you add yourself, and the EXIF data from the shot, it creates an impressively specific set of identifiers for each photo, so you can find what you’re looking for. You get different results for “pumpkin pie” than “pie pumpkin,” the team showed me, and “dusty hills” now shows the ZZ Top bassist rather than some hills covered in dust. It works across Flickr, but is most impressive when used on your own shots: “That one photo, from last Halloween, with the dog and my daughter” is a search query you could actually use. You can now quickly share a bunch of photos with a single link, and even (finally) batch-download photos.
It all works on mobile, and on desktop. Everything’s been redesigned to look cleaner and more image-heavy than ever, and it’s a really nice upgrade. Flickr doesn’t just want to be a storage space, or a social network, or an editing suite—it wants to be all of them. The team loves to earnestly overuse the phrase “end-to-end solution,” but in this case the bit of Valley-speak sums it up neatly.
Andrew Stadlen, Flickr’s Director of Product Management, compared Flickr’s vision to Gmail’s. If search is powerful and specific enough, you don’t need to organize photos, or fret about deleting them. As cloud storage becomes essentially free and practically unlimited, more and more people are taking more and more pictures—it’s not the storing that’s the hard part anymore; it’s the organizing. And if Flickr can use the power of Yahoo‘s servers and machine learning to do that work for you, than that 1,000 free gigs of storage is looking better than ever.