So it happened — Flickr has got rid of almost-unlimited storage

Photographer in a city

Last year, when I said it’s time to reclaim our digital lives, I said the following about Medium:

What happens when [Evan Williams] gets bored of Medium? Or when its investors get tired of it not making any money and pull the plug? Will they do a Geocities and wipe all your content off the face of the world wide web?

Then I said this about Flickr:

I already feel bad that I entrusted Flickr with my photos. It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

When Flickr was bought by SmugMug earlier this year, I said:

I doubt I will begin using Flickr again. And that’s not just because I’ve had my fingers burnt by relying on external silos too much in the past.

This week, Flickr announced that free accounts will be limited to only 1,000 photos. This is down from the 1 terabyte offered before. Today I am using 0.8% of my storage on Flickr. Come January, I’ll be using 298.1% of it.

On the one hand, a whole terabyte is an almost comically large amount of storage. It marked Flickr (and Yahoo) out in comparison to even the likes of Google, who have become a bit more stingy on storage recently.

In a sense, it was probably too good to be true. SmugMug is a relatively small operation — at least, in comparison to the ambitions of Yahoo. Why would they commit to giving everyone a terabyte of storage for free?

But that is exactly why I won’t be coming back to Flickr — or any other externally-run content silos.

What I do now with my Flickr photos is another matter. I have 2,981 photos, dating back to 2005, stuck on Flickr. My account “will have content actively deleted” to adhere to the new storage limit. That means photos embedded on old blog posts will disappear.

My thoughts also turn to Google Photos, which is where my recent photo archives now live in practice, since all my photos are now taken on my Android phone. We bloggers know all too well that Google will pull the plug on a whim, as they did with Google Reader all those years ago.

In theory, the photos I want to publish all get uploaded to my own webspace as well. But what if I want to find a photo that I didn’t publish or otherwise save in a safe place that I control, and Google decides one day to delete it?

I should own my content. The only way I can control that is by taking ownership of it — and hosting it on webspace that I control.

Update: Since I published this article, Flickr have confirmed that Creative Commons photos will not be deleted after all. See The Commons: The past is 100% part of our future.

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