Flickr tosses free terabyte accounts as new free limit set at 1,000 photos

What is old is new again, as Flickr's new owners introduce a reachable limit to free accounts.

Flickr will once again return to driving subscription revenue, as new owner SmugMug imposes limits on free users not seen since Yahoo handed all users 1 terabyte of free data in 2013.

From January 8, 2019, free users will be restricted to 1,000 photos in total. Those photos are not restricted in terms of file size.

Andrew Stadlen, vice president of product at Flickr, decried the shift to the free terabyte in a blog post.

"In 2013, Yahoo lost sight of what makes Flickr truly special and responded to a changing landscape in online photo sharing by giving every Flickr user a staggering terabyte of free storage," Stadlen said. "This, and numerous related changes to the Flickr product during that time, had strongly negative consequences.

"Most crucially, the free terabyte largely attracted members who were drawn by the free storage, not by engagement with other lovers of photography. This caused a significant tonal shift in our platform away from the community interaction and exploration of shared interests."

Stadlen said the new free limits will focus Flickr on subscriptions and users, rather than advertisers.

"You can tell a lot about a product by how it makes money," he said. "Giving away vast amounts of storage creates data that can be sold to advertisers, with the inevitable result being that advertisers' interests are prioritised over yours."

The Flickr Pro tier is set to cost $50 annually; however, the company is offering 30 percent off until the end of November.

Users on the free tier that exceed their limits will be unable to upload new content after the January 8 cutover, and will have until February 5 to download their content or upgrade before Flickr begins automatically deleting old content until accounts fit within the new bounds.

"We believe this is the right path forward to build a sustainable future for Flickr and our community so we can continue developing features and products that shape the world of photography for years to come," Stadlen concluded.

Flickr Pro users will get the ability to upload 5K content and 10-minute videos early next year.

Verizon completed its $4.5 billion purchase of Yahoo's core operating business in June 2017. The price was reduced by $350 million after Yahoo revealed that a pair of attacks had exposed over 1 billion accounts.

SmugMug purchased Flickr from Verizon in April 2018.

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