Picture this

This morning’s Observer column

Flickr is a classic Web 2.0 story. In the first place, it was an unintended outcome of another project. Its co-founders, Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake, were designing Game Neverending, a massive multi-player online game, and realised that they would need a photo-sharing module. In the end, the photo-sharing took on a life of its own and the gaming project was quietly shelved. Secondly, it required no complex technical infrastructure, and could be marketed virally as users began to circulate Flickr links in email and instant messages.

Flickr’s designers also displayed a shrewd grasp of the essence of Web 2.0 thinking – namely that the big rewards come from making it easy for other developers to hook into your stuff. So they were quick to publish the application programming interface (API), the technical details other programmers needed to link into Flickr’s databases. This then made it easy for bloggers and users of social networking sites to create links to their Flickr ‘photostreams’. The results are clear for all to see. On 12 November last year, Flickr images passed the 2 billion mark. At present, between three and five million photographs are uploaded to the service every day…