Home > business, smugmug, web 2.0 > The Dark Side of the Flickr Acquisition

The Dark Side of the Flickr Acquisition

January 31, 2007

You asked for it, you got it: SmugMug is offering 50% off to all Flickr refugees. Just sign up for our free trial using the coupon code flickr and if you like what you see, you’ll get 50% off your first year.

We’re getting some email from ‘Old Skool’ Flickr users asking us if they can get a discount because Yahoo’s making some changes they don’t like. Thomas Hawk has more coverage over on his blog, you can read the Flickr Forums for more reactions, and even check out the Flick Off group (aka the Flickr Accounts Mass Suicide Countdown group).

I’m afraid this is the dark side of acquisition, especially by a company that doesn’t seem to resonate with Flickr’s core passionate users. Every time someone inquires about acquiring SmugMug, we shut them down immediately because we’re terrified of exactly this happening – our user experience being damaged by a parent corporation that doesn’t “get” our customers.

I should be clear up-front, though, that while we’re thrilled you want to check us out – we’re not Flickr and we’re not trying to be. We’re short on social networking and long on advanced features like customization, style, and user interface. To make your photos look great, we are the place.

Give us a shot, though. It’s free to try, after all. And we have a track record of listening very closely to customer feedback and implementing what they want. So if you like most of what we have to offer, but we’re missing something crucial, let us know. We just may build it for you. 🙂

UPDATE: It was just pointed out that there’s a Flickr-to-SmugMug migration tool using our open APIs. I’m sure there are others, and I know there are SmugMug-to-Flickr tools, too, should you decide you don’t like our service after all.

Categories: business, smugmug, web 2.0
  1. January 31, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    I saw Thomas Hawks comments and found them a little overwrought.

    It should be disclosed that Hawk is CEO of a Flickr clone company, so his comments should be read as those of someone with a direct financial interest in discouraging as many Flickr users as possible.

  2. January 31, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    I don’t know anything about Flickr, but I can tell you that a big part of why I like SmugMug is that I’m dealing with the MacAskill family business. I’ve had tech support email conversations at 3 am and exchanged messages with the top people at SmugMug, and not because I’m anybody special. (Unless you make your vast hoard of minions all use MacAskill as their last name so we just think we’re talking to someone important…hmmm)

  3. January 31, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    @Jim Howard:

    In theory, I agree, but in practice, Thomas Hawk is one of Flickr’s biggest advocates. His posts on top 10 flickr hacks, top 10 ways to find great photos on Flickr, and top 10 tips for getting attention on Flickr prove that.

    When he does his famous photowalks with Robert Scoble, he posts his photos to Flickr first, Zooomr second.

    I truly believe he’s a passionate Flickr user who’s dismayed at these changes. His track record speaks for itself.


  4. January 31, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    Oh, and he discloses the fact that he’s Zooomr’s CEO in the first line of the post.

  5. jp
    January 31, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    …advanced features like customization, style, and user interface…

    Please please please change your logo so I can take that style comment seriously.

  6. January 31, 2007 at 2:20 pm


    We played around with changing our logo just a month or two ago, and our customers threw a fit. They love our current logo. (Personally, I’m sick and tired of it, but that may be just because I’ve been seeing it every second of every day for 5 years :).

    Sorry you don’t like it, but we listen closely to our customers. The message was loud and clear: they love it because it’s not a sterile corporate logo, but instead has some personality and they resonate with it.

    You should know that you can replace the logo with anything you’d like, and plenty of our Themes have different logos entirely.

  7. January 31, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Keep the LOGO for sure. Don’t ever change the logo. That is signature to Smugmug!

  8. January 31, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    In addition to a wonderful Flickr-Smugmug tool you can also use powerfull Auto Album Creation feature of the Star*Explorer (www.starexplorer.com) that will alow you to upload several years worth of pictures in a single shot.
    Since S*E trial lasts for 30 days you don’t event have to pay for it, just use it to upload your archives initially, and then use some free uploaders afterwards…


  9. January 31, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    Ha! Excellent move. Very savvy, Mr. MacAskill. (you really are Lex Luthor)
    As for your logo, it sounds like you have as much of a chance of changing it as Google has of changing their logo. On the bright side, logo redesign can be a long and painful process so you are better off saving yourself the trouble, the time, and the energy. *But* if you did decide to change it, maybe you could get away with keeping your brandmark (the grin) the same and updating the typeface a bit. It has a handwritten feel that you might re-explore and finesse.

  10. January 31, 2007 at 3:29 pm


    Thanks for the comments. Our customers were adamant that they loved the handwritten feel because it made them feel like they could relate to us, that we weren’t some giant faceless corporation. So I think we’ll keep the handwritten feel. 🙂

  11. BlogReader
    January 31, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    Just wanted to comment that I find it great that you just found out about a 3rd party / user that made a tool to use your APIs to further your services. This is such a sea change from the old top-down “you must register with us to do anything and we’re the only way to do X” mentality that a lot of places have.

  12. Harold
    January 31, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Gah, if only you hadn’t chosen the biggest tool ever (Thomas Hawke) to boost this post. If only you hadn’t aligned yourself with the biggest jackoff ever to use flickr…

    Otherwise, hey, smart marketing. Taking advantage of the unease, I mean.

  13. angelo
    January 31, 2007 at 6:28 pm


    change the logo and I’ll make certain you live up to your handle!!!


  14. mark
    January 31, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    I find it a little low class that smugmug would try and paint flickr in such a negative light. Don’t get me wrong, I know you’re a competing company, but smugmug has always seemed to be on a higher level. I guess not.

    And unless you can put it in writing you’ll never sell out, then there’s always the chance you’ll be in their boat.

  15. January 31, 2007 at 9:53 pm


    I’m a big fan of Flickr – search my blog archives if you don’t believe me (such as Flickr doesn’t suck). I’m not trying to be negative in any way, and I don’t feel like I painted them in any sort of negative light.

    Flickr customers came to us asking for a discount. They came to us complaining about the situation. I didn’t really comment on the situation (other than acquisitions can be problematic), I just offered a possible solution.

    We will continue to give Flickr business when people expect something more like Flickr when they sign up for SmugMug. We’re very different businesses, and I think I was up-front about that in my post, too.

    There is the chance I’ll be in their boat, you’re absolutely right. I hope, though, if we are, that we can work with our customers to make sure they’re happy with and ok with the suitor in question. Only time will tell.

  16. February 1, 2007 at 1:53 am

    i’m in for a try.

    Another area of concern for a lot of flickr folks is nudity, and it’s ugly sister censorship and account deletion. Love to hear something about what smugmug has to say on that.

    lastly, it’s far from low class to offer customers a free chance to try something out and a discount beyond that. It’s your business to compete with other photo sharing sites and while it might not sit well with flickr, if they care at all, it isn’t even close to unethical. Moreover, it’s damn good business because if flickr doesn’t care about me and the 2200+ people who follow my flickr stream, I’m happy you try you out.

  17. February 1, 2007 at 10:46 am


    I’m afraid if you’re a nude photographer, SmugMug isn’t the place for you. We’re a family safe site, and we will ask you to take down any photos that violate our terms of use.

    If, however, you’re a photographer who’s sick of their non-nude photos appearing side-by-side with nudes (we hear this a lot), we’re the place for you.

    Anyway, give us a shot, let us know what you think. Thanks for the kind words.

  18. February 1, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    I’m not exclusively a nude photographer, but like most, I have nude work in my archives.

    I presume youre anti-nude stance only extends to public galleries?

    So far I like your functionality a lot. You’ve packed a lot of cool stuff into the site, and while I don’t quite understand how you can offer a professional level photography membership and not anticipate nudes, given nudity is very acceptable in fashion, I still think what you’ve got going on here is pretty good, and if I’m right about the nudity and privacy then you and I should get along fine, I have no problems with restricting my nude work to people I’ve granted access to.

    having said all that, I would love to see you write a plain english blog about smugmug’s stance on nudity, implied nudity, sensuality, eroticism and where these things fit, if at all in smugmug, you may that a pretty substantial core of flickr’s “old school” types also contain substantial quantities of these types of photos and I think it would be useful to everyone to know where smugmug stands. Flick has made themselves more than clear by deleting/hiding without notification some of flickrs best photographers work (and I mean all their work, not just the nudes).

    Just a thought.

  19. February 1, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    Don, very smart move. I’ve forwarded this on to the couple of flicker users I know that were looking to leave, I’d already given them my cupon code, so we’ll see which they use. 🙂

    @ruzz: smugmug has a great collection of help text, click the help link at the top next to the search bar and search for “nudity” on the resulting page. The three (really only two unique) hits in the middle (ironically, between the google ads for porn!!) have the clear statement I think you’re looking for. Specifically it’s in the terms of service document, search down to “nudity”. Having said that, I’ve found a fair amount of “fashion nudes” in various smugmug galleries that have been there for a while… and aren’t hard to find… so I’ve got to imagine they’re within the realm of what smugmug finds acceptable.

  20. February 1, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    Any chance of getting a retroactive discount as a previous convert?

  21. February 1, 2007 at 10:59 pm

    @cabbey, thanks, I did review those documents, but i wanted it from the horses mouth. It’s a hard to answer question, and reading TOS agreements and fine legal print is one of the things I hate about flickr since yahoo took over–just tell us in plain english what the deal is…

    and having TOS and actively enforcing them are two different things, if flickr ever was to enforce theirs to the letter of the law, well, a lot of unhappy people would be looking for a new home.

    still, I would love a response to the question if it’s possible.

  22. February 2, 2007 at 1:21 am


    Our nudity policy is pretty simple and written in plain English. You can see it in our TOS. The summary line is as follows: “we prohibit the uploading and display of photographs or other Media portraying explicit nudity that would be unacceptable in a public museum where minors visit, for example. If your photos would only be suited for adult sites, adult magazines, or R-rated movies, they are not suitable for Smugmug.”

    We do enforce this rule to the best of our ability.

  23. February 2, 2007 at 1:28 am

    @Brendan Larrabee:

    I think that can be arranged. 🙂

    Email our Support Heroes and tell them I said it was ok. 🙂

  24. February 2, 2007 at 3:43 am

    If only you had offered this discount a few days sooner 😉 I just moved from zooomr to Flickr. The only advantage Flickr had for me was price, you offer a pretty nice setup here overall also and I’ll certainly keep an eye on the future.

  25. February 2, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    fair enough, by my standards I don’t feel any of my work belongs in adult magazines or adult sites, I guess we’ll see if you agree 😉

    hopefully I will find that out before I plunk down the money for a pro account, not after, which is why TOS are not meaninfully helpful. It isn’t quite like enforcing a speed limit is it?

  26. February 2, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    I do think those post reads like a large percentage of Flickr users are horrified and experiencing huge problems, and I just don’t think this is the case. Flickr staff is amazing, their responses quick, informative, reasonable, and above all, personal and human. The parent company has little to do with who is running the show, and that remains the same group that started the show.

    As for “Flickr’s core passionate users”, those that yell the loudest aren’t by definition speaking for the majority of core users, and their volume (in both senses of the word) doesn’t make them anything more than louder than the rest of us. The vast majority of Flickr folk are barely feeling a ripple, if they even know what is happening, and even those who just merged our accounts in the last few days (of which I am one) are, for the most part, not wailing and gnashing our teeth.

    I’m glad you are being very clear that Flickr & Smugmug are very different places (I am a member of both) and I do think it was a great opportunity for you to offer your service up for those who do decide Flickr is no longer right for them.

    But please, Thomas Hawk isn’t the Voice of Flickr, he’s just got an amazingly loud voice.

  27. February 2, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    I am on the whole happy with flickr, as a pro (old skool too, yes) member. But the current debate lead me to think about the slippery slope of change, and the future with Yahoo. Yes, things can be as good as now, or they might change.

    A friend (ronza) first brought to my attention this site and this offer has made me think, why not – try it and see what SmugMug can offer me. So I’ve signed up for the pro offer.

    Thanks Don.

  28. dirk
    February 5, 2007 at 9:23 am

    Thank you guys for this nice offer! I’ll try Smugmug. The thing is just that I have to pay for your service all the time — otherwise I’ll loose all my photos. Im a Pro-User at Flickr, but I love the idea that all my photos are kept (and the last 200 are visible) even if I decide not to reup my account for a specific period of time. And if I switch to Pro again all my pics will be restored.
    If you could offer a free account with limited space and the feature I mentioned above I will switch to Smugmug immediately 🙂

  29. February 11, 2007 at 10:49 am

    (as posted on a flickr forum re: WHERE DO WE GO?)

    i started out with photo sharing on YAFRO, until it went mostly porn/meat market (and bad porn at that!!!). when that happened many of my “photographer friends” moved here, to FLICKR. i had already explored this site long before and had signed up for an account, making me “old skool”. i couldnt believe the difference…people here were actually sharing quality PHOTOS, not webcam shots and cell phone pix of their privates!!!

    THEN….when YAHOO bought out FLICKR i noticed many people complaining about their images being stolen and used without permission all over the web. this concerned me very much. the answer isnt to make your images viewable only to a select group, this limits how many people “SEE” your work.

    since yahoo lost my login info to my first web based email address more than 10 years ago, leaving me stranded without passwords, contacts, etc….and had no specific reason as to why this happened and never gave help or service, i switched to hotmail, and then eventually gmail….and never ever looked back. i would never use yahoo for anything important ever again…yet alone, link it to a site i PAY to use (pro account)!!!!

    since starting to do professional shoots, i bought a pro account with SMUGMUG, not only do they have the versatility to customize the layout of my images but they also provide (right click/save) image protection, printing, personalized dot com masking (use your own dot com and SMUGMUG hosts), the ABILITY TO SELL YOUR IMAGES USING ANY MARK UP YOU WANT, with no back end work to the user….(printing, shipping, billing all done by SMUGMUG, you just collect!!!) back printing on sale images, image novelty items, optional password protection on sets, watermarking, commenting, ranking, etc, etc, etc, ….the list of features goes on and on and on….but the most impressive thing about SMUGMUG is the service.

    on several occasions ive had to contact support, (mostly because i was being stupid and didnt know what i was doing with applications) and though they say they will get back to you in 24 hours or less, i usually got a reply within minutes, and a majority of the time, from one of the direct owners of the site (family owned site).

    the only complaint ive heard from friends that ive directed to SMUGMUG is the cost of a “pro” account…to that i say, “what is quality hosting, the ability to market your work, impeccable service and online image protection worth to you???” …to me $149.95/yr is a very small price to pay for peace of mind.

    i send all of my clients to my site (hosted by SMUGMUG) to view and/or purchase their images and have never had a complaint with print quality or user friendliness, they are always thrilled with the product!!


    footnote: after a quick look at zooomr, i might go back again to explore further. i dont use my smugmug account to “socialize” and zooomr may be my alternative to flickr after the “merge” for that outlet.

  30. April 20, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    *Today* STARTS http://shankargallery.smugmug.com/, here VISITORS will find ART AND PHOTOS BY RICHARD LAZZARA !!! Many thousands of images I have deleted from flickr /yahoo will now be here.Enjoy, comment and purchase Art by Richard Lazzara.

  31. December 21, 2007 at 4:42 pm

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  32. January 28, 2008 at 5:10 am

    I signed up for a trial before I saw that if I like what I see and have a flickr account I could have received a discount if I put flickr in coupon space. I’m on day 1 of trial and love what I see…. can I still get a discount if I migrate all my flickr library over here?

  33. Suave Santana
    May 14, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Can i get the 50% discount for coming over from Picasa, I was looking around and really like what I see here at SmugMug.
    Tell me what I need to do for the Discounted membership for transfering

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    January 6, 2009 at 10:12 pm

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  35. SahaC
    February 5, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Is it free?

  36. March 3, 2009 at 2:28 am

    Interessante Informationen.

  37. Amir K
    November 13, 2009 at 5:44 am

    Dear Chris & Don MacAskill,

    I'm excited to use your service buy I have to say that there was a little mis information during my free trial process. When I signed up i entered a discount code "flikr" and was told that after my trial period I would pay 50% off my first year, it did not happen. When my trial period was over I was charged the full price 😦

    There was a note simply stating that the discount code I was using had expired. I'm going to use the service this year but that left a bad taste in my mouth. I cared enough to tell you.

    Amir K.
    10 Universal City Plaza
    Suite 1950
    Universal City, CA 91608

  1. January 31, 2007 at 3:11 pm
  2. January 31, 2007 at 4:20 pm
  3. January 31, 2007 at 5:12 pm
  4. January 31, 2007 at 5:15 pm
  5. January 31, 2007 at 5:52 pm
  6. February 1, 2007 at 6:16 am
  7. February 1, 2007 at 9:44 am
  8. February 1, 2007 at 1:15 pm
  9. February 1, 2007 at 7:30 pm
  10. February 11, 2007 at 2:50 am
  11. March 6, 2007 at 2:44 pm
  12. March 29, 2007 at 8:05 pm
  13. May 4, 2007 at 12:18 am
  14. May 6, 2007 at 12:22 am
  15. June 15, 2007 at 5:03 pm
  16. December 30, 2007 at 10:19 am
  17. September 15, 2008 at 3:38 am
  18. September 18, 2008 at 9:37 pm
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