Yahoo extends Flickr with video

Digital cameras can do video, and Flickr will be able to as well. The catches only pro members can post videos, and there's a 90-second limit.

In a bid to broaden Flickr if not actually crush YouTube, Yahoo is adding videos to what has just been a photo-sharing site.

The change, which the company plans to launch publicly later Tuesday, is a modest but significant extension of Flickr's features. The videos, limited to 90 seconds and 150MB, will be shown as thumbnails alongside users' photos, and will inherit all the features of photos stored on the site: users can add comments, captions, comments, geotags, and privacy restrictions so only friends or family may view the videos, the company said.

Videos are shown on pages similar to photo pages, and videos can be embedded on other sites.
Videos are shown on pages similar to photo pages, and videos can be embedded on other sites. Josh Lowensohn/CNET Networks

The company sees the videos in effect as "long photos," moving snapshots people take now that digital cameras (except SLRs) can record video as well as still images, said spokeswoman Terrell Karlsten Neilson. The hope is to populate the site with "authentic" videos, not clips from last night's TV shows, and Yahoo will police the site for violations of the terms of service, added Flickr product manager Shanan Delp..

The company wants to reproduce some of the success of Flickr's photo work not just as a repository of imagery, but also as a way for like-minded folk to form communities. Just as Flickr lets people share photos in groups devoted to One example appears to be emerging among beta testers: the fridget, a video taken from an inside-the-refrigerator perspective as somebody (or even a dog) opens the fridge and peers in.

Only those with "pro" subscriptions will be able to publish videos, but as with photos, those with free Flickr accounts and the public will be able to watch them. The site will support videos in AVI, MPEG, and MOV formats, showing them with a Flash player but storing the original, too. Existing upload tools will work with video, too.

I see Flickr's incremental evolution as likely to succeed, as long as "succeed" is defined relatively narrowly as making Flickr users more active, loyal, or engaged. And after all, Yahoo can reuse the technology it's put together for its Yahoo video site, so design and deployment expenses were likely minimized. It might even coax some folks to spend $25 a year on a pro account, which means revenue for Yahoo.

But as the non-award-winning director of several "authentic" videos of my child that last over 90 seconds, I suspect the 90-second cutoff could be a common problem.

A Flickr video is handled just like a photo, except that there are playback controls. Thumbnail images can play the videos in miniature.
A Flickr video is handled just like a photo, except that there are playback controls. Thumbnail images can play the videos in miniature. Josh Lowensohn/CNET Networks

Yahoo says the company thought carefully about the issue. Most people shoot video clips less than a minute long, so 90 seconds should be "a really comfortable time," Neilson said.

Although Google's YouTube can handle longer clips--up to 10 minutes for regular users--Yahoo believes it doesn't compete. "People aren't using YouTube to share their personal short-form video clips," Neilson said. I beg to differ--take a look at a YouTube search for "daughter's first steps"--but she's probably right that YouTube has a much broader usage model.

A benefit of the time limit is that it should help curtail pirated TV content. "Ninety seconds helps us define that rebroadcasting commercial content is not what this site is for," said Neilson said.

Will Yahoo users and members be confused whether to head to or Flickr? Yahoo believes not.

" is all about broadcast...Flickr is more about personal, authentic video clips," Nielson said. Think Barack Obama for and Flickr for the clip of your niece, she said.

Tech Culture
About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.


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