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Flickr Suppresses Screen Shots

If more than half of the pictures on your Flickr account are screen shots, Flickr will suppress your images in global search results. The theory is that people come to Flickr to see photos, not group shots of your World of Warcraft guild or the sculpture you just created in Second Life.

This is strictly a business decision. Either Flickr knows their users as well as they think they do, and this is the right call, or they’re cutting off a potential market for no good reason. Which is it? Beats me. The one thing that’s certain is that Flickr is a much better application for sharing screen shots than anything else I’ve seen, for the same reason it’s great for sharing photos.

If images could be categorized as screen shots, Flickr could just add an “include screen shots” flag to searches, so people could specify the kinds of things they care about. I wonder whether it would be difficult to write an image processing algorithm that automatically differentiates between photos and screen shots? I’d bet that it could be done.

Updated: See the comments for the final word on the subject from Flickr head honcho Stewart Butterfield.

6 Comments

  1. This is a hot topic among artists and illustrators too, who are finding themselves ‘NIPSA’ed (‘Not In Public Search Areas’) because they’re posting non-photos. See also here and from the Flickr forum. I wish they’d come up with a good compromise, because I love browsing the drawings, sketches, and illustrations on Flickr just as much as I like seeing the photos.

  2. This is very strange. I don’t really understand the justification. What does Flickr gain by blocking non-photographic images?

  3. “If images could be categorized as screen shots, Flickr could just add an “include screen shots” flag to searches, so people could specify the kinds of things they care about.”

    That is exactly what we’re doing 🙂

    (I explained that to the Wired reporter, but apparently she was more interested in the completely preposterous idea that not showing screenshots in Flickr’s global search somehow prevents universities and non-profits — including the Centers for Disease Control! — from doing their job.)

    Also, if you have a look at the general response, our current policy is what most Flickr users want (we do know our users pretty well):

    http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/06/14/1512250 http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,71119-0.html?tw=wn_index_1 (see comments) http://www.downloadsquad.com/2006/06/14/flickr-users-upset-over-screenshot-exclusion/#comments

    Finally, we’re not “blocking” non-photographic images. If your account is marked NIPSA, then other users and the general public can still access your photo pages, your images will still show up in groups to the other members, your contacts will still see your photos in their RSS feeds and contacts’ photos pages, you can still post photos to your blogs or other web sites, people can still comment on, add notes or tags to and favorite your photos, your photos can still be searched or browsed by tags, etc. The only thing that NIPSA does is remove your images from Flickr’s global search results (including group pools for non-members).

  4. “Quality”?

    Maybe screen shots have been abused (copyright violation, pron, etc).

  5. Flickr is opinionated software.

  6. I’ve been mystified by the NIPSA stuff for quite a while now. My account is NIPSAd (I post a lot of photos of my drawings (though they are still less than about 10% of my total images)) and I haven’t really cared enough to do anything about it. What does really annoy me though (and has made me really wish that there were a competing service good enough to give my money to instead of renewing my flickr account) is that they flag accounts without any kind of notification at all. The only way that you know you’ve been NIPSA’d is to go browsing in the public tag streams and notice that your photos aren’t showing up there. That, to me, is completely inexcusable.

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