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Flickr Video: Well done but short on time

After a few years of waiting, Flickr Video has finally arrived. It's well designed, in keeping with its Flickr photo heritage, but the 90-second limit on videos needs to be reconsidered.

After a few years of waiting, Flickr videos have finally arrived. As a long-time Flickr user, I have been wondering what took so long to add videos (more on Techmeme) to the service. In the meantime, YouTube managed to sprint way ahead, leaving Yahoo Video and the nascent Flickr Video in the dust.

Despite taking the gestation period of an elephant to appear, I like the Flickr Video experience, except for the limitation to 90 seconds of video. It's the video analog of Twitter, which limits users to 140 characters. It's a fine communications constraint, but it doesn't apply as easily to video content.

The addition of video content doesn't disrupt the simplicity and utility of Flickr. It offers the same privacy controls, user interface, licensing options, and comments, captions, tags, APIs, etc.

Flickr videos live along side photos

According to Kakul Srivastava, Flickr's director of product management, Flickr Video is intended to capture the "little moments of life." She told me that the goal was not to invent a new kind of video site or take on YouTube, but to focus on "authentic user-generated and personal content."

"It's not our desire to be biggest site. We are not going after the hour-long wedding videos," she said. "People are taking videos on still cameras and mobile devices, and they are not doing much in terms of sharing videos."

If you compare the number of people posting more commercial videos on sites like YouTube and Yahoo Video, people capturing the little moments is a huge unmet need and taps into existing behaviors, Srivastava added. Users can directly upload videos from their phones. She expects that the addition of video will bring in a new audience, although uploading videos is limited today to paying Flickr users.

"If it means being more conservative out of the gate, that's fine," Srivastava said. "We want to maintain consistency of the feel and experience on Flickr. We don't want to be the biggest video site day one, but the most interesting."

She explained the difference between Yahoo Video (which is the underlying technology for Flickr Video) and Flickr Video as follows: "Yahoo Video is about the broadcast experience, while Flickr is more personal content that you want to share with friends and family...and the world, but it's more personal and authentic." Yahoo will be patrolling Flickr Video and relying on the community to eliminate inappropriate and copyrighted content, she said.

Maintaining the differentiation will be difficult. Users are putting long and short videos on a variety of other sites, including new sites such as Seesmic and Qik. But, the Flickr experience has attracted 25 million active users, and they will appreciate the addition of video.

The 90-second limit on playing time and 150MB maximum file size for upload will encourage users to post their little moments, but it will also be a cause of frustration. For example, I did an interview with Srivastava with my Flip Video camera that was 156 seconds in length. To post it on Flickr I had to go through the pain of editing it, which I would rather avoid for shorter pieces. I expect that the Flickr team and community will think seriously about raising the limit on playing time.

Interview with Kakul Srivastava on Flickr Video--the shorter version:

Interview with Kakul Srivastava on Yahoo Video--the longer version: