Yahoo was so focused on winning search that it essentially surrendered social. In 2005, Flickr had far and away the best social connection and discovery tools on the Internet. Remember, back then Facebook was still very much a fledgling service, one that didn't even let you upload pictures other than the one in your profile. Yahoo, meanwhile, had existing internal social products, like Address Book and Messenger. Social was clearly the future. What Yahoo wanted, however, wasn't the future. It was to re-fight an old battle from the past. It was to beat Google.

"By the time we were looking at Flickr, Yahoo was getting the shit kicked out of it by Google. The race was on to find other areas of search where we could build a commanding lead," says one high ranking Yahoo executive familiar with the deal.

Flickr offered a way to do that. Because Flickr photos were tagged and labeled and categorized so efficiently by users, they were highly searchable.

"That is the reason we bought Flickr—not the community. We didn't give a shit about that. The theory behind buying Flickr was not to increase social connections, it was to monetize the image index. It was totally not about social communities or social networking. It was certainly nothing to do with the users."

And that was the problem. At the time, the Web was rapidly becoming more social, and Flickr was at the forefront of that movement. It was all about groups and comments and identifying people as contacts, friends or family. To Yahoo, it was just a fucking database.



There's a difference between a missed opportunity and a complete fuck-up. When Yahoo failed to capitalize on Flickr's social potential, that was a missed opportunity. But if you want to see where it completely fucked up, where it just butchered Flickr with dull knives and duller wit, turn on your phone and launch the Flickr app. Oh, what's that, you don't have one? Exactly.



Flickr's last best hope is that Yahoo realizes its value and decides to spin it off for a few bucks before both drop down into a final death spiral. But even if that happens, Flickr has a long road ahead of it to relevance. People don't tend to come back to homes they've already abandoned.
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