Flickr finally makes it easier to search and sort through photos

The Yahoo-owned photo-sharing service is adding new features to help it compete against high-profile rivals like Facebook, Dropbox and Google.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
3 min read

Flickr has added new ways to search for photos. Yahoo

Yahoo wants to get more people using Flickr, its photo-sharing and storage service. To help it achieve that goal, the company has finally added features to the more than 10-year-old service that make it easier for people to manage and search for photos.

The company on Thursday said users can now find photos more quickly, whether you uploaded the picture yourself or you're seeking something special from one of the site's other 100 million users. One new search filter lets users search by colors in a photo, such as a pink sunset.

The updates are the latest example of Flickr -- and its parent company Yahoo -- trying to regain its former glory. Yahoo bought the service in 2004 for roughly $25 million, but the product "languished" under Yahoo, CEO Marissa Mayer said in 2013, a year after she joined company. The company faces competition from more-dominant players in the photo-sharing market, including Amazon, Apple, Dropbox Facebook and Google.

"How do we make Flickr relevant again?" Bernardo Hernandez, Flickr's vice president, asked in November. The answer, he said, lay in part by turning Flickr into a place to store all -- not just some -- of the photos you take. In February, Flickr unveiled a feature called Camera Roll, which lets users easily browse their entire library of photos chronologically. The service gives every user a terabyte of space, enough for about 500,000 photos.

One new filter lets you search by color. Yahoo

That kind of capacity begs for better search and management features. The company said image recognition technology makes it easier to find photos even if you didn't provide extra information when you uploaded them. People can also search by photo orientation -- either portrait or landscape -- or by date and keywords, so you can find specific photos from, say, Halloween 2012.

"The more photos we take, the harder the problem becomes," said Andrew Stadlen, Flickr's director of product management, who led the development of the new search tools. Before releasing the enhancements, the product team put the service through the ultimate test: they put it in front of Mayer, who had spent the bulk of her 13 years at Google in charge of search user experience.

Mayer tried to stump the product by searching for different holidays, like Easter or Christmas, to see if only generic pictures of Easter eggs or Christmas trees popped up, instead of family photos. She was pleasantly surprised to find a picture of shoes she was given as a Christmas gift one year, said Stadlen.

The company also introduced new features for sorting photos. Now, when a user uploads a batch of new images, Flickr's Magic View technology will automatically categorize the pictures by what's in them. It can group together shots of animals, or black and white photos. It can also group screenshots.

The company on Thursday is also releasing new versions of its mobile apps for Apple's iPhone and iPad, and devices running Android, Google's mobile operating system. Not all the new features will available for the mobile apps yet. The ability to search by color, for example, is only available on the Web version of the service.

Separately, a Yahoo spokeswoman on Thursday confirmed Hernandez had left the company for personal reasons. Recode earlier reported the news.

Updated, 2:59 p.m. PT: Adds news of Hernandez's departure from the company.