New Flickr: has Yahoo lost its mind?

New Flickr
Flickr hasn't just changed its look. It's changed its focus

When Yahoo promised that it wouldn't screw up Tumblr, it forgot to add "but wait till you see what we've done to Flickr! Hoo boy!"

It's safe to say that the new Flickr design hasn't proved universally popular: users' response to the official announcement has been overwhelmingly negative.

Redesign-related uproars are nothing new, of course, but this one's different because it represents a sea change in what Flickr's all about.

Taking a Tumblr

Flickr's users are unhappy about two things: the design, and the new pricing structure. The new design looks awfully like a Tumblr archive, but the problem isn't just how it looks.

Users are complaining about basic usability, unwanted infinite scrolling, slow loading, the removal of titles (they only appear on mouseover now), problems finding stuff, the ability for someone else's glamour shots to dominate your front page, the complete impossibility of clicking links in the front page footer... you get the idea.

Most of it sounds like the sort of teething problems you encounter when a free service undergoes a radical revamp - but for its most loyal users, Flickr isn't a free service. It's something they pay for, and have done for a long time.

And that brings us to the second issue, price. Did Yahoo make up the new tiers in the pub? Before the change, you had a basic, free account and a $24.95 (AU$25.53, £16.46) per year Pro account offering unlimited uploads and ad-free browsing. Now, free and paid accounts both offer 1TB of space.

The only difference between a free account and a paid one is that the latter doesn't run ads - but the price of ad-free browsing has doubled to $49.99 (AU$51.15, £32.99) per year. You can spend more if you like: doubling the storage space to 2TB takes the price to a hefty $499.99 per year "with all the benefits of a free account". We think that means adverts.

Will Pro accounts go?

If you currently have a Flickr Pro account you have a choice to make. Existing accounts will be renewable, although you need to meet certain criteria (a Pro account not just active in January but set to auto-renew) and there's no indication that the price won't rocket. Alternatively you can swap your Pro account for a free account. If you want to do that you need to do it before August because reasons.

So that leaves us with four account options: free with ads; sticking with Pro until the price goes up or Flickr kills Pro accounts, whichever happens first; $49.99 per year for ad-free; and $499.99 (AU$511.58, £329.91) per year, possibly with ads.

Meanwhile rivals such as 500px offer pro snappers unlimited uploading for $75 per year, you can go ad-free for free by installing an ad-blocker and anyone who spends $499 per year to double their space instead of just registering a second free account needs locking up.

In summary, then, either Yahoo has completely lost its mind or Flickr doesn't want the pros any more.

The smart money's on the latter. Pros may have made Flickr what it is - and kept it alive during Yahoo's long years of neglect - but they're not a great demographic for ads, and that's what Flickr is chasing now. Flickr used to beg photographers to go Pro. Now, it seems, it wants the pros to go.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.