Can Yahoo be trusted with Flickr?

flickrFlickr is Yahoo’s saving grace. Amidst the site’s myriad of problems and ill-defined purpose, the photo-sharing platform has been a beacon of hope, with its dedicated users and razor-sharp focus. Which is why Flickr subscribers are concerned about Yahoo’s direction for the site.

Former Flickr employee Nolan Caudill says the site will be cutting a crucial portion of its customer support team. “For reasons I don’t know, Yahoo laid off the highest level of Flickr’s customer support, the people that end up filing bugs against the developers and helping the trickier cases get solved for the members,” he wrote via blog. “Those guys getting shown the door is as bad as it sounds.”

“Having people on your team aware of everything the site does it huge,” he laments. “You literally can’t buy that or replace it or outsource it, though it appears that Yahoo thinks it can.”

Flickr’s committed users and continued strength have defied everything that’s been thrown at the site. The platform recently cut some excess baggage in the form of dead applications that never fueled user interest, and top exec Matthew Rothenberg’s exit following a massive slashing of Yahoo products increased concerns.

While Flickr capitalized on the social-photo platform early, it’s become stagnant compared to the constant innovation from competitors. It was late to the mobile app arena, which hurt its popularity with more casual photographers, and was slow getting integrations with outside sites like Twitter up and running.

There’s also the fact that Flickr accidentally deleted 3,400 of a user’s photos last year. The bug was fixed and photos restored, but the error cost Flickr some face. And that’s why its now-lighter customer support team is renewing users’ fears about the site’s future. Yahoo has claimed that Flickr is a high priority that it will continue investing in, but insiders worry all the innovation and work the team puts in is going to be squandered by its owner.

“The users of Flickr lost their major advocates today,” says Caudill. “At product meetings and developer meetings, it would be these support folks constantly asking, ‘But what about the users?’”

It wouldn’t be the first beloved Web app that Yahoo has driven into the ground. Hopefully Flickr avoids the same fate — and that the site’s traction doesn’t come at users’ expense. 

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