Yahoo revamps Flickr and offers a terabyte of free storage

Full-quality image uploads and a photo-rich interface are at the heart of the updated service

Yahoo has made some radical changes to its Flickr photo sharing service, which now has a more photo-filled interface and comes with a free terabyte of storage so that users can upload images at their original resolution.

The changes were announced Monday evening at an event in Manhattan and follow Yahoo's news earlier in the day that it will buy the blogging site Tumblr for US$1.1 billion.

Since acquiring Flickr in 2005, Yahoo has been criticized for allowing the service to languish with few major improvements. Flickr has seen its popularity wane with the rise of competitors like Instagram, and of social media sites generally, though it still has about 89 million users.

The changes announced Monday are designed to "make Flickr awesome again," CEO Marissa Mayer said several times during Monday's event.

Users now get a terabyte of free storage and find it easier to share photos across social networks like Facebook, Twitter and, of course, Tumblr. They can also upload photos in their original, high resolution. That's a "huge differentiator to any other product out there," said Flickr head Markus Spiering.

A terabyte of storage can accommodate 530,000 high-quality photos, Yahoo said.

The new Flickr also has a more immersive, photo-centric interface. The idea was to take out much of the text, links and other extraneous content and focus more on the photographs.

The new service is live on the Web now, and there's also a new app for Android smartphones. An update to the iOS app came out last December.

Flickr also offers two levels of paid service, though the options are different from before. Users can pay $49.99 a year for a version of the service that displays advertisements. They can also pay $499 a year to double their storage allotment to 2TB.

Reinvention has been Yahoo's goal lately. It's been chiseling away at its services, scrapping some and improving others, by redesigning its homepage, updating Yahoo Mail and launching a new mobile weather app.

Yahoo hopes Flickr will occupy a key space among a more unified set of services. "When you look at these products as we roll them out, you see a new, consistent look and feel," Mayer said.

The company has also been on a buying spree, gobbling up mobile apps such as Astrid, Summly, Milewise, GoPollGo and Jybe. The Tumblr acquisition is Yahoo's boldest move since Mayer became CEO to gain a younger audience and make itself more relevant.

Yahoo is also moving most of its New York staff into a new office space in the former "New York Times" building in Times Square, the company said Monday. The Tumblr staff, however, will remain at their downtown office in Manhattan's Union Square, Mayer said. Yahoo's main headquarters are in Sunnyvale, California.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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Zach Miners

IDG News Service
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