12:54 PM

Flickr at Center of Perfect Storm: An Interview with Stewart Butterfield

By Richard Koman for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

O'Reilly Network is running my interview with Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Flickr, today. There's a lot of interesting stuff in that interview but a couple things that may not have made it in are that Flickr does not necessarily see itself as only a photo service although they realize the difficulties in branching out beyond that for the foreseeable future; and they will have quite a few interesting announcements at the O'Reilly Emerging Tech conference in March.

At the risk of being sooo self-referential, I thought I would offer an extended quote from my introduction to the interview, which I think captures Flickr a classic Web 2.0 service.

As of this writing, Flickr boasts 270,000 users, four million photos, 30 percent monthly growth in users, and 50 percent monthly growth in photos. (As a datapoint, when I interviewed Stewart about ten days ago, those numbers were 240,000 users and 3.5 million photos.) And these numbers don't even begin to tell the story. Flickr is a phenomenon, a fundamentally different way of using digital photography and the Internet. Flickr is simply the manifestation of the perfect storm of camera phones, consumer broadband, blogs, RSS, and folksonomy tags.

Several of these factors come together in a simple post by Cory Doctorow on the Boing Boing site.

To quickly deconstruct, we're looking at someone discovering an extraordinary photo by subscribing to an RSS feed defined by a metadata tag and posting it to his blog. While Cory copied the photo over to Boing Boing's site, it could just have easily been served by Flickr via their integration with major blogging software.

Flickr is part of something else too, something radical: the massive sharing of what we used to think of as private data. Photos, bookmarks, and journals used to be considered personal. The social networking revolution--which encompasses everything from Flickr and del.icio.us to blogs and wikis to P2P itself--encourages us to share everything.

The sharing imperative includes not only stuff but also ideas, such as how we think about things (tags) and how we program (APIs). From this openness spring galaxies of supporting applications, revolving around a core web service like Flickr.


Stewart Butterfield on Flickr


Contact Richard Koman at rkoman (at) gmail.com