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When your assets are no longer monetizable: Yahoo! Photos to close

TechCrunch is reporting that Yahoo! will announce tomorrow that Yahoo! Photos is closing.

I wonder whether this is the start of a trend of marque/top-tier asset storage sites (photos, movies, etc) closing because they can no longer monetize their services effectively – either through acquisition or diversification of other properties in their portfolio.

Michael cites an interesting visitor figure graph for Flickr vs Yahoo! Photos, based on Comscore metrics:

Graph showing Flickr overtaking Yahoo! Photos in usage figures

The interesting point to note is that Yahoo! Photos has 2bn photos, Flickr has only 0.5bn. However Flickr is now achieving more page-views (and thus presumably advertising revenue) than Yahoo! Photos.

Factor in that Yahoo! Photos needs 4 times the storage requirements than Flickr and that Flickr has a subscription model too and it’s not surprising that Yahoo! want to can Yahoo! Photos. I know Flickr doesn’t show adverts to subscribers, but the $24/y clearly makes up for the ‘lost’ revenue from those users.

I think what’s interesting is this news demonstrates the true volatility of asset storage/distribution services we all rely on – from pictures and audio through to video. Nothing is ‘for life’ on the Internet (take from someone who used to run a ‘free email for life service’).

What happens when our treasured assets we have entrusted Yahoo, Google, et al to look after suddenly disappear because they are no longer being hosted on the platform de jour?

I’m certainly eying up those videos on Google Video and wondering what happens when Google is forced to take a close examination of the viability of running two distinctively different but still conceptually overlapping services (Google Video vs YouTube, of course). Just because both services host videos, doesn’t mean that the two can be merged. YouTube’s (successful) sharing and social interaction cannot necessarily be overlayed on top of Google Video’s often dry video offerings.

And this is where the rub lies for the Yahoo! Photo users who are now contemping their options. Yahoo! does run a conceptually similar service, Flickr, however it is wildly different in it’s dynamic. Quite frankly many of the photos, and their owners, from Yahoo! Photos would not be welcome in Flickr’s high-quality, open, community-orientated environment.

Yahoo! has enough smart people to realize this and so it is for that reason they have turned down the otherwise lucrative opportunity of simply merging all those photos into Flickr to create the biggest photo site on the net (2.5bn photos).

Instead they are offering users the option to migrate to Flickr if they feel it appropriate – but surprisingly (in a good way) they are also offering the opportunity to migrate to one of Yahoo!’s direct competitors such as Photobucket (which does not have the niche, boutique, qualities of Flickr).

Presumably photos in those accounts which are not migrated in due time will sadly be deleted. But this is the correct and smart approach to take, short of keeping both services open regardless.

But mark this as a lesson if you use such services. 2007 will only see more acquisitions of such asset storage service, and it’s quite likely this ‘duplicate property’ scenarios will occur again. Make sure you keep backups in case your assets end up on the ugly sister site that’s falls out of favor with the cool kids. Or the accountants.

Published in News


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  2. ant ant

    Intriguing news. I suspect that killing Yahoo photo’s will generate far less spume and vitriol than changing the flickr login process (something I vented much spleen upon, and then succumbed to when a nice chap at flickr set me up with a yahoo account – I didn’t know him, I’m not digerati or anything, I’m just a user and he went the extra mile). Perhaps this is Yahoo shedding a layer of corporate skin to re-emerge with far more ‘flickryness’ in it’s ‘personality’?
    I do hope that for users of Yahoo photo’s it’s not to traumatic a process.
    I woder also if this is the mergence of the fundamental archive refresh cycle of online storage? WIth a traditional archive in video for instance, the main weeding cycle was driven by the need to migrate carriers- from U-matic to Betacam for instance. Whenever you migrated carier, you’d prioritise the content and expect to loose the bottom slice (as small as you could afford). Maybe the main cycle driver is now the commercial viability of services, as opposed to the economic viability of carriers. (N.B. very little migration is driven by decay- far more is due to increasing costs due to obsolescence).

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