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Yahoo claims it won’t be ditching Flickr

yahoo+flickrIs Yahoo! Committed to Flickr?

“Hell yes we are!” Yahoo product chief Blake Irving wrote on his Twitter earlier this month. But you can’t blame the public for doubting the photo sharing site’s future – it seems like any domain under the Yahoo umbrella is fair game right now.

Yahoo has been forced to cut a host of its web properties in an attempt to combat its quickly accumulating losses. Popular bookmarking site Delicious fell victim to the cuts, and after some user outrage, Yahoo claimed it will be selling the company. A buyer has yet to emerge.

And Yahoo continues to struggle. Its search engine rankings have fallen once again and it was forced to enter yet another round of job cuts, though far less sweeping than the massive scaling back the company went through in December.  Which is why there is some reasonable cause for concern when it comes to Flickr’s future.

The site, though exceptionally popular with photographers semi-serious about presenting their art, is seeing its Web traffic slip. According to a comScore study, its number of unique US visitors fell 16 percent this year. And it can partially attribute this loss to Facebook.

Facebook Photos have always been a popular feature of the site, but with high-res capability, facial recognition, bulk upload, and expanded tagging capabilities, its numbers have grown significantly this year. Digital cameras have tapped into this by marketing easy and instant share features, which (generally) auto-upload and tag photos on the social networking site. Camera manufacturers have good reason to: In the past year, Facebook Photos saw its numbers climb 92 percent.

What seems to be hurting Flickr the most seems to be the age of the amateur photographer and the rise of smartphones. Phone apps like Hipstamatic and Instagram offer effects that professionals may slave over with filters and expensive lenses, and the ability to achieve instant gratification and immediate sharing through these apps makes them popular to an ever-growing audience. Flickr’s niche audience is more professional, which means it doesn’t secure itself a firm spot in the smartphone market.

But Yahoo insists it’s sticking with Flickr. Being Yahoo’s flagship photo sharing feature does help its cause, and head Flickr exec Matthew Rothenberg tells The New York Times the site is profitable and new user registration is on the up. He also tells the NYT that upgrades are on their way that will allow users to upload larger files and log in through Facebook and Google.