We show ourselves the world

flickr.com and the ecstasy of the visual

In the course of the boom that has been flooding the world for some years with an enormous number and variety of cameras, one has often heard the question of what to do with all the countless photos that are taken with these cameras. The material produced, so the implicit insinuation, is mere redundancy; not even the amateur photographers themselves would even look at the stuff they are snapping together with their high-tech toys. Far from it, as the success of flickr.com and other photo-sharing services on the Internet.

We show us the world

Image: awfulsara

You know the. Boredom quickly develops when looking at photo magazines. One picture and another and another – at some point it’s enough with all the pictures, and you turn back to the reality outside the camera. And now imagine a dynamic digital photo magazine, simultaneously served by any number of photographers, around the clock, with millions of photos available for real-time access, growing by the second. The nightmare of a chaotic picture pile without sense and reason, where you feel as if you got caught in a confetti avalanche? Not necessarily.

Flickr is initially just a photo sharing service, nothing more than a public bulletin board on the Internet, where you can hang your digital photos and let others admire them. If this remained the case, the whole thing would be about as interesting as the rough display board at the club office of a photo club (including the annual presentation at the market of possibilities in the local multi-purpose hall). Even the fact that the whole thing is taking place on the Internet doesn’t make it much more exciting in itself; Hintertupfingen would remain Hintertupfingen on the Internet, just like the Hintertupfingen photo club.

Image: rustman

What makes flickr special is a software base that offers incredible social and content networking density. It is in principle possible to remain alone and unseen on flickr, especially if one actively resists this networking density, but it is not really practicable (and of course not sensible either). An overkill of linking, search and communication possibilities constantly opens up new pages in this photo album for the user. It is possible to share your photos with other collections ("group pools"), you can search flickr for keywords ("tags"), under which images have been rubricated, one can identify participants whose images were liked as "contacts" subscribe to it and turn it into closed or open "groups" invite, and so on and so forth. In addition to the public comment function, which is available for each individual image, there is also an internal private channel, which serves the contact between individual members ("Flickr Mail").

We show ourselves the world

Image: Mr Lunatic Fringe

Pictures can be uploaded not only over the Web interface, but also by E-Mail, by photo cell phone or over an external Uploader, which is available naturally already now, in the beta phase, not only for Windows, but also for Mac OS. One of the nicest features of flickr is the possibility to upload whole photostreams (i.e. the complete collections of individual members) or thematically limited albums ("sets") as a slide show – some members make use of it, that professional slide show providers could become fearful, and with a good soundtrack from one’s own computer something like this can become an enjoyable break for five, ten, fifteen minutes. Of course, how often others look at one’s own photos or slideshows is paid for, which is also a not unimportant feedback element that clarifies which photos are liked and which are not.

We show ourselves the world

Image: Snapatorium

All these functions, and this is what is really remarkable about flickr, are housed in a web interface that is surprisingly simple and almost self-explanatory. Opening a free account was allowed to take even inexperienced Internet users less than fifteen minutes (aming English language skills), and even the more sophisticated features (like creating sets) became accessible in no time at all.

The programmers of ludicorp, the company behind flickr, have understood two things: If they want to be successful in business, if they want to offer the world a photo album (which is obviously their ambition), then you have to be able to place, manage and publish your pictures there easily. And secondly, they know exactly how the growing number of broadband Internet accesses and Flash technology will help them achieve this goal. Result: As far as the speed of information turnover is concerned, flickr behaves to weblogs like weblogs behave to homepages. flickr is once again closer than the mainly text-based weblogs.

We show ourselves the world

Image: lil

And who cares about all that? Who needs it, who wants to look at it? The flickr company blog claims to have hundreds of thousands of users after a year of beta testing, the Guardian spoke of 254 at the beginning of February.000.

The photographic potential accumulated on flickr is phenomenal. They’re all there: the lomo snappers and the black-and-white experts, sixty-year-old professional photographers who’ve only owned a digital camera for six months and twenty-year-old naturals who don’t know anything else, asthetes, propagandists, nude lovers, cat lovers, photographing knitting bloggers and regulars’ tables of overweight people, everyone. Some blob fight their boredom, others discuss the most sophisticated camera and lighting tricks; there are some who only show off the incredible photos they find at flea markets and household liquidations; design students experiment with photo collages, and still others migrate with their family album to the net for good. And the photographed material really spans the planet.

Image: BombDog

The "flickrworkr" of ludicorp provide the infrastructure, check whether the rules of the game are being followed, and naturally hope that as many beta testers as possible will migrate from the free basic services to the "Pro-Accounts" switch with full functionality; after all, they want to sell the latter by giving away the former. They had already succeeded. They are brilliantly implementing a good idea, and if the paid accounts continue to cross-fund the free ones, then the world can continue to look at itself in its own photo album.

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