In early February, in the midst of Microsoft's surprise bid to acquire Yahoo, I wrote about Yahoo's Flickr Video coming soon. It's been a long time coming. I first asked Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake about a Flickr video service in December 2005.
After spending a few hours at the Flickr fourth anniversary party in San Francisco on Saturday night, the "coming soon" line was uttered by various Yahoo people, including Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield. Upon further investigation, it appears that "coming soon" means that Flickr Video will debut in beta next month.
Flickr, which was acquired by Yahoo in March 2005, defined the concept of photo sharing, but has been slow to extend the service into the video world. In the meantime, Google's YouTube has become the primary destination for video sharing, capturing one out of every three of the online videos in the U.S., according to comScore Media Metrix. Fox Interactive Media (MySpace) accounted for 6 percent of the nearly 10 billion videos viewed online in the U.S. in January. Yahoo sites, Yahoo Video, claimed 3.2 percent of video viewing.
Flickr Video will not replace Yahoo Video, unlike Yahoo Photos, which was folded into Flickr. The audience for Flickr is different, Kakul Srivastava, director of product management at Flickr, told me. She used the term "authenticity" to convey the esprit de corps of the Flickr photo community, which numbers more than 23 million contributors.
Flickr has been a pure photo site since its inception. Adding video into the mix has to be done in a way acceptable to the community. In other words, launching a Video service primarily to compete more with YouTube would turn the community off. It has to appeal, in an "authentic" way, to the Flickr community.
While YouTube has a large share of market, video is growing fast on the Web. The problem for Yahoo is that many Flickr members, like myself, have gone to other places to share videos. Winning them back is going to be a challenge. We'll find out next month if all the time spent figuring out how to bring video to Flickr has been worthwhile.
See also: TechCrunch.