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Flickr launches Places, extended social networking next?

Flickr's got some new stuff. Check it out, it's neat.

Flickr has finally gotten around to rolling out their new Places feature. We got a note about it appearing sometime midday yesterday, but the service hadn't gone live yet until early today. Essentially it's a profile page for locations, letting you dig deep into both local photographers, and pictures taken around landmarks that have been matched up either by name, or geotags. Anytime people add their photos with the correct geography (something that's done through Flickr's organizer tool), the most recent shots will appear on the page. Each places page also links up with other Yahoo services like Yahoo Weather, to show you what the local time and temperature is alongside a more detailed map.

Flickr's new places pages are like little profiles for every place on Earth. CNET Networks

Speaking of maps, Flickr has tweaked them, too. Instead of browsing locations with a series of pink dots like it used to, it's now a smattering of the latest tags that show up where the shot was taken. There's also a new shuffle button that refreshes the page with new content. Any time you click a tag, a small series of photos called the "ribbon" pops up below, letting you play the most recent or interesting shots just like a slide show. The move appears, in part to direct people towards the new city pages, as viewed photos in the map are small thumbnails. Personally, I preferred the old style, as you could zoom down to a city level and pick out shots by location. While you can still do that by using the integrated search tool, gone is the exploratory mode with zooming features that made it a more compelling way to browse.

While the updates may be small, the new places pages seem to me to be the early stages of more advanced user profiles on the service. Flickr's current user profiles haven't changed much since the service launched, and the new setup seems like a much cleaner way to layout the same types of information you'll find on user pages like photostreams, groups and tags. While the old profiles aren't necessarily limited, to me it seems like the next logical step toward adding some additional networking and sharing features.