image courtesy of Mike Lacon (via Flickr)

 

In December 2012 Flickr released the second large update to their app over the course of the year.The biggest part of this change means that users can apply filters to their snaps. So, now that Flickr has joined the smartphone-based image-filtering movement, is the service ready to retake it’s spot at the top of the photographic pile over 2013?

 

Back in February Flickr introduced HTML 5 technology, which meant users could use drag and drop when uploading pictures. This made it a lot simpler to upload multiple images simultaneously, even on mobile phones, and is a very useful asset for heavy users of the service.

 

Flickr’s latest update came just two days after Twitter announced the introduction of image filtering to its own picture app, in fact both companies used filtration software supplied by Aviary. The new Flickr app has named its filters after various animals (ocelot, mammoth, panda) and has introduced Photostream and Activity streams, very much like that found in that other big player, Instagram.

 

Instagram is of course the big name that hangs over this story, unmentioned by Flickr, but surely a part of their calculations. Although Flickr was once the leading light in photo hosting sites, it lost some ground since being bought by Yahoo! in 2005. Some have blamed Yahoo! for this decline, but it would equally be important to remember that the intervening years have seen the creation of two crucial internet phenomenon: Twitter in 2006 and Instagram in 2010.

 

These two sites became phenomenally popular and changed the way we thought about both social media and digital pictures. Firstly Twitter stripped down social media to its essence – just 140 characters of text. Secondly, Instagram acknowledged that most people now take most of their photos on their phones rather than using SLRs. And the addition of some simple software could allow these phones to tweak and polish what might be pretty ordinary pictures into something that looks lovely.

 

In line with the on-trend image filtration function, Flickr now allows users to share their images on various social networks including Facebook, Tumblr, and of course, Twitter. An explore function allows users to see the most interesting photos posted during the day and those that have been uploaded close to you.

 

The February update already allowed users to grab data from other services including the ever-popular Apple iPhoto. This meant that titles and tags from external photo collections can also be uploaded in conjunction with the photos – taking a lot of the fiddly detail out of the process.

 

 

The app also allows you to carry out familiar browser-based Flickr tasks like uploading original resolution pictures, assigning images to groups and sets, not to mention tagging people.

 

The February update included a feature that allowed you to see thumbnail previews of photos while you are in the process of adding them. This meant that you can organise them as they upload rather than once they have all been incorporated into your photostream. The uploader goes even further to help you save time by also giving you the option to zoom and rotate the images prior to being uploaded.

 

In fact the uploader essentially allows you to do almost anything in upload mode, including tag friends and play around with advanced options.

 

With privacy issues high up on the agenda, many of you will also no doubt be pleased that Flickr have eradicated the old policy of uploading all photos straight to the public domain. Nor are they thinking of selling users photos for no remuneration.

 

So will these new updates make Flickr the go-to photo storage service once more?

 

The February update made the uploader work noticeably faster, and perhaps more importantly, speed up photo-management tasks by allowing you to work on your albums while you are uploading. Being able to convert tags from other software is a life-saver.

 

As we said earlier Instagram is the big player in photo-storage services nowadays, so does Flickr want to grab some of their custom. Craig Kanalley of the Huffington Post has written that the new Flickr app is “like Instagram but better” – pointing out several advantages the new app has over its larger rival. In fact, the only issue Kanalley sees is that fewer of his friends are using the service. But we could add that functionality should increase popularity over time.

 

Possibly the biggest advantage of Flickr is its versatility. It is finally fit to compete with Instagram and 500px in the realm of shared camera pics, but the service still has all the advantages that you associate with an old-school photo-hosting site: yes, you can still upload large, hi-res pictures, and yes you can still upload both portrait and landscape shaped photographs rather than simply squares.

 

So, now that Flickr has expanded its ambit to target phone camera users, it looks like all it will have to do is start working on its brand image. This is what makes us all think of Instagram when we think of quick snaps, but what if we thought of Flickr instead? That way we’d also be able to think of high resolution photos in various shapes, and that the site’s owners are not thinking of selling for advertising without our permission.