Flickr – the possible impact Microsoft could have on the site with the possible Y! acquisition

Most people who are against the Y! deal, is mainly because of one reason : Flickr.

                                    + = ?

The most popular Y! property, is one that Y! really has as little to do with. There is integration of Y! ID, Yahoo! Maps (geotagging photos) and Yahoo! ads, but that’s about the only main thing. Flickr has pretty much kept the same simplified look it started with, and is still doing a hot job of what a photo-sharing site ought to be.

Most people have varying opinions on what possible outcome there could be on Flickr with the Yahoo! acquisition. Most being negative because it involves Microsoft of course.

So I decided to come up with 2 scenarios, the best possible outcome and the worst possible outcome when Microsoft buys Y! and gets Flickr. Here it goes:

SCENARIO : Good outcome

  • Pro account fees go instantly down – Flickr has a professional account with more features, but it comes at about $25 a year, which can still be quite a lot to most people. Microsoft, in order to keep the userbase from fleeing away, will most likely drop down pro account fees. I’m seeing around $15. This is a great thing.
  • Integration with Windows – There will be ways to make it easier to upload straight to Flickr from  Windows. Possibly in Microsoft’s picture software, or the picture folder on the system. Metadata (tags) that you put on your photos on the OS, can be synced to Flickr. It’s already possible with Windows Live Photo Gallery.
  • Site pretty much stays the same as it was – Now I don’t know how the whole Yahoo! ID thing will work, but most likely the site will stay the same, because that’s how people already like it. No need to fix what’s not broken. There will be NO Windows Live Photos, or migration to Live Spaces, or nothing like that. It’s going to stay the same as it pretty much was before.
  • Making adCenter ads spread to more users – This would be awesome for Microsoft and its advertisers. I’m seeing just simple text ads, none of that crazy annoying graphical banner ads.
  • Photosynth integration – Maybe now PhotoSynth will be ready to allow users to make a virtual 3D panorama of their photos. Or share them with other users as well.
  • HD View integration – Then there’s HD View. It’s like panoramic stitching of many photos but the ability to zoom in and out and get a pretty good high quality detail of the photo.
  • PhotoZoom integration – Another technology, very similar to HD View, but utilizes Silverlight and RSS/Atom feeds. Very neat. Check out the video.
  • Better JPEG XR/HD Photo introduction – Taking photos to the next level, Microsoft made this format. It has more higher quality rendering than the regular JPEG. This would be a great thing for users.
  • Media Center integration – Imagine surfing Flickr pics right from your couch. Or your own sets and photos you’ve made on Flickr. Very nice.
  • Silverlight integration – This could be a good thing if done right. I’d love to see Silverlight thrown on somehow. Maybe when browsing for photos? Where you can sort of interact with photos similar to a touch surface? Tossing photos you find interesting over here, other groups there, stretch out a few to see them in higher res, flip them to get their info., etc.
  • Group Shot software – This tool, created by Microsoft, can scan through a series of similar facial photos, and pick the best ones to put into one photo.
  • Live Search to definitely outdo Google Search in Image searching – Usually, any image search engine from the top 3 search companies doesn’t always contain the photos we want. Since Flickr has user-made photos, and since users are usually smarter than computers as to what we WANT to see, this would be far more reliable than using some fancy computer algorithm.
  • This could drive away the anti-MS fans – I go on Flickr a lot, and I notice a lot of anti-MS hate (all the time) on there. So maybe this will make some foolish Apple lover, go find some "alternative" and realize that MS doing all these things like I said in the bullet, has made Flickr better. That Microsoft isn’t as bad as they think it is. Of course, flamboyant Mac fans would probably never listen to reason, but to what satisfies their eye, eye candy.
  • Microsoft will learn to support other browsers – If they’re going to do any changes to Flickr, they’ll probably have to apply the same changes not to just Flickr IE users, but to all other browsers as well. This might finally get some WinLive/MSN sites in compliance with other internet browsers, or make sure IE8 will be indeed better in doing this.

SCENARIO : Bad outcome

  • Pro account fees stay the same OR go up – Microsoft doesn’t feel the need to win users over and show that they’re not idiots, so they just keep the price the same. Or the acquisition costs so much, that they might raise fees to bring some money back. Bad idea.
  • Loss of support for other browsers – though it would be pretty weird to go backwards in support for other browsers when Flickr already has it there, there could be a chance that Microsoft will be flimsy on supporting other browsers.
  • Taking Flickr, and turning it into Windows Live Photos – Microsoft might make the unwise decision to try to incorporate an already successful separate site, and make it work into their already existing site networks. The problem is, is that Windows Live still needs a ton of work (in the way it both looks and functions) and Flickr wouldn’t at all fit with Windows Live branding. And dropping it into Spaces and requiring Windows Live ID will make you infamous.
  • NO good blogs – The Flickr team employees love to blog, where as Microsoft employees don’t always have the appreciate for blogging regularly. Not all of them, but there seems to be quite many (hint : check out the numerous Live team Spaces).
  • Changing the look – Some people might fear that Microsoft will try to give a whole makeover to the site, but the makeover might make it uglier, harder to navigate, and slower. Not hard to believe with Microsoft’s past record.
  • Making it completely Silverlight – While Silverlight is amazing technology, not everybody might have access to it, or feel like they should have to download a "Microsoft" product just to view it.
  • Rabid fanboys go on a rampage – Those groups threatening to leave Flickr if bought by ‘M$’ might actually stay and try to cause trouble. Posting up as many (maybe even duplicates) of anti-MS hate FUD across Flickr. The whole point of Flickr is to share and find awesome photos. Hating isn’t what people want to see.

That about sums it up. Hopefully, Microsoft will take the smart route, and be careful with every crucial decision that might possibly kill the site’s userbase. One false move, and the acquisition of the Flickr site has become useless. So contrary to peoples’ doubts about Microsoft, I’ll take the high road and be optimistic about it.

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