Flickr doesn't suck.
Kord Campbell, CEO of Zoto.com, seems to think Flickr sucks. It doesn’t. His point is that the rest of us didn’t get enough credit when Flickr finally introduced geotagging. He mentions that Zoto, SmugMug, and Zooomr have had geotagging for years. He’s right, but who cares?
The Flickr wannabees are always screaming about how they don’t get any recognition and that Flickr steals all the press. One of the Webshots founders recently said ‘Pound for pound [Flickr] is certainly the greatest PR machine in net history.’ That’s very true, but again, so what?
Flickr isn’t even the market leader (Webshots is, and Yahoo! Photos is much larger even at Yahoo), but they’re still an incredibly cool site with a very low barrier to entry – no fees, simple signup, and a great community.
The press and people who don’t really understand business always latch on to a market leader or a company with a ton of momentum and declare victory. Remember when Google couldn’t get any respect because AltaVista had “won” the search engine wars? What’s their market cap? Remember when fatbrain.com was dismissed because Amazon owned bookselling online? So how’d they become a $100M-in-sales, profitable company? For decades, pundits have been speculating that one of the car companies will own the market and we’ll all drive the same make.
It’s not gonna happen. There’s plenty of room for everyone to play – you just have to find your market, find your business model, and go for it. Google’s approach was anti-portal with a little PageRank mixed in. fatbrain.com went after the technical and business market, and provided in-house bookstores for the likes of IBM and Sun. And duh, we’d not all driving the same car. There’s room for BMW alongside Toyota.
At SmugMug, we have a lot of respect for Flickr and what they’ve been able to achieve. They deserve all the credit in the world. Personally, I wish their innovation rate hadn’t slowed way down when they got acquired by Yahoo – but I can’t think of a single ‘large company buys small company’ event that hasn’t caused that. Can you?
We have no desire to play in Flickr’s market, and never have. It costs money to use SmugMug – we have no free offering. We launched years before Flickr did, and we were profitable before Flickr even entered the market. We still are. We have a very different approach to the business and to our customers than Flickr does. Does that mean Flickr’s wrong and we’re right? Of course not. Do we wish we got more press coverage? Of course we do, every company does. But we’ll buckle down and earn it.
Companies triumph over market leaders all the time. They do it by innovating and executing brilliantly. If Flickr is stealing your customers or your press, it’s your own fault. Victory is there for the taking – but I think the first thing to do is to acknowledge that your competition doesn’t suck. Once you realize they’re talented and aggressive, you can fight them on their own turf.