Jun 1, 2009

Flickr vs. Wikimedia Commons: why Flickr is doomed

I was always puzzled why people prefer to use Flickr to Wikimedia Commons. Flickr, after all, has litte to offer compared to Commons: Flickr allows you to upload images, set copyright, tag them, comment on them, and is not fully free - Wikipedia allows you the same, plus is completly free, and comes with a community that will actually IMPROVE your images - by adding missing categories, correcting wrong ones, improving/translating description, etc. As far as I can tell, the only feature that flickr offers that seems useful and is not implemented on Commons, is mapping part of the image and commenting on it. And of course, for those strange people who don't like others using their work, flickr allows the use of non-free licenses...


Flickr popularity on Alexa: 33 most popular site online

Wikimedia Commons popularity: 186 most popular site online

What gives? I think that the flickr is more popular because it looks more "cool", and with the snowball effect, it reaches more people. It's also slightly more user friendly, and better integrated with popular networking sites like Facebook. Wikimedia Commons is not that popular outside the Wikipedia crowd. Yet with Commons "wisdom of the crowd" approach, its steadily improving quality of images, and drive to move useful and freely licensed images from Flickr to Commons, while Flickr keeps accumulating more and more crap, I'd predict that in few years, time, Flickr will be relegated to a repository of porn, non-encyclopedic images and copyright violations.


Sage said...

Flickr is a photography community; the vast majority of photos taken are not encyclopedic and not intended to be.

What Flickr does better than Commons:

1. Social networking functions
3. Tags
4. You don't have to worry about your photos getting deleted
5. Easy mass uploading
6. Easy mass renaming and organizing
7. WYSIWYG captioning
8. Notes
9. In-browser editing

As a Commons users and a paying Flickr user, I don't see leaving Flickr any time soon. Commons offers absolutely nothing to most amateur photographers.

Piotr Konieczny said...

My counterpoints:
* Wikipedia is also a photography community - see for example this page* very few photos are non-encyclopedic
* wiki software has social networking functions allows comments, allows tags (categories)
* only copyvio or non-encyclopedic photos are deleted
* mass uploading is easy with Commonist software
* mass reorganizing is easy, mass renaming not yet but I am sure it will be implemented
* I know what WYSIWYG is, I am not sure what you mean by WYSIWYG captioning
* Not sure what you mean by notes
* Wikis are build around in-browser editing

That said, I think you are right: Commons should reach out to amateur photographers more. That said, as an amateur photographer myself, I prefer to upload my photos to Commons - they will be improved by others, and a few used to illustrate articles. Why should I upload them to flickr?

Sage said...

Like Wikipedia, Commons enforces it's mission and doesn't give much leeway for using the site for other purposes. You say very few photos are non-encyclopedic? A whole lot of Flickr content is shots of family and friends, and a whole lot more is not attempts to document reality but attempts to create art. For the most part, the community on Commons considers that kind of thing outside project scope. Commons is not defined as a stock photography project or an amateur photo community or archive, but as an educational project.

Flickr is for *me*; I never have to worry about whether what I upload fits into the project or whether it might get deleted, and I get to control what I upload (delete comments, delete photos, makes photos private, etc.).

Categories are not tags; they serve different, complementary purposes in organizing large numbers of photos and making them searchable. I look forward to the day when tags, as well as categories, are available on Commons.

Commonist is only available to the few of us in the know; it's not a general tool for new users, since it's an outside program rather than part of the site. Also, it's annoyingly out-of-date; you can't do CC-by-sa 3.0 as a default license, and it has some other issues that hold it back. The most annoying for me is that you can't specify content to go after the normal infobox, like geocodes. So that means you have to make individual edits after you do the mass upload, if you want it to be properly formatted.

By WYSIWYG captioning, I mean you don't have to edit a page full of markup in order to add captions or descriptive info. After the initial upload, the markup and coding is too much for typical users to have to deal with, if they don't know wikimarkup.

Technically, Commons has social networking capabilities. But that's not part of Commons culture. Making comments like "ooh, that's a really pretty picture" is not encouraged.

By "notes" I mean what you called "mapping part of the image and commenting on it". On Flickr, these are called "notes".

Usability issues are superficial. The main reason why Commons can't be a free Flickr competitor is [[Commons:Project scope]]. Almost every Flickr user has at least a few photos that fall outside of Commons scope, and no one wants to be told they can't upload the photo they want to upload.

Anthony said...

I've had several of my images deleted from Commons. That's one good reason to use Flickr instead.

Anthony said...

"only copyvio or non-encyclopedic photos are deleted"

Maybe that's the theory, but it's not the reality, and why should I try to guess whether or not my pictures are going to be considered "encyclopedic" anyway?

"Almost every Flickr user has at least a few photos that fall outside of Commons scope, and no one wants to be told they can't upload the photo they want to upload."

More importantly, we don't want to upload a photo and worry that it might be deleted. I suppose this is slightly less of a problem now that undeletion is possible, but it's still an unnecessary hassle.

Akknumi said...

Simple thing - I upload to Commons things, which I decide to release on free licence. For storing stuff, which I want to be copyrighted there isn't better place (for really reasonable price) with unlimited, software supported mass upload. I don't have to worry, that someone will use my photos (yes, occasionally I sell them) in commercial project.

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