Flickr getting video soon?

Yahoo created a bit of a stir last month when they announced they were closing down Yahoo Photos to try to consolidate all their efforts into Flickr. It was a good move in my opinion, even though Yahoo Photos technically had more users. The services were too redundant and in a stock market where mind-share equals market-share, Flickr is the clear leader in the photo community and the best chance for Yahoo to maintain that position against other competitors. Search engine guru Danny Sullivan has even commented on how Google employees prefer Flickr over their own Picasa Web Albums (which is actually very nice; and the Picasa software is fantastic.)

But lost in the headlines of that announcement was another passing line which didn't seem to get much attention - Flickr will soon be adding video services to their repertoire (very last line of the story.)

It'll be interesting to see how this is received. I have no doubts that some in the Flickr community will immediately complain and speak of how Flickr has jumped the shark. But it seems like it was an inevitable progression, in fact I'm surprised it has taken this long. Even two of Flickr's strongest competitors (Photobucket and Picasa Web Albums) now allow for online video hosting.

The biggest thing to watch will be how they handle the issue of copyrighted materials. Given Flickr's prominence (Flickr is often considered the YouTube of photos and vice versa) there will certainly be the possibility that Yahoo (or even Flickr users) could try to utilize the site as a YouTube competitor. And that could be a good or bad thing depending on your point of view and how they might actually implement it. But Yahoo's also aware of the mountain of lawsuits that come with that territory (YouTube wasn't sued until Google and its deep pockets bought them.) It would definitely be a big gamble.

I for one have been hoping for this service for quite some time. I have no doubts Flickr will implement the actual design, mechanics and formatting with the same touches that have made their photo hosting so popular. And while other video sites like Blip.tv and Vimeo have positioned themselves as great Flickr-like alternatives for video, nothing would beat having the same community that already exists in Flickr. Any site can host video, and put together a nice interface these days. It's the community and user-base which drive the sites. And with so many options for social networks these days I'd actually welcome a little consolidation for some of these core areas rather than spreading things so thin. I love competition and all these tech toys as much as anyone. But after awhile, it gets too time consuming to try to pick up and rebuild the same thing over and over and over again.

I think I may not be alone in that sentiment either. Even though there's increasing interoperability between networks, this is one of the reasons why AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo continue to dominate the instant messaging world while Google (for all its success in other areas) is having a harder time making headway. It might also explain why MySpace continues to grow in spite of Facebook's success and critical acclaim.

There will always be strong vertical and niche networks. And for certain areas (or people) it's easier to maintain a number of similar networks. But it'll be interesting to see if we soon start to see a gradual reversal or slowdown in the current Web 2.0 trend of ever-increasing specialized networks. There's only 24 hours in the day and the ties that define a social network are also the ones that make them the toughest to break.

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