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by Larry Magid

It’s been years since I paid much attention to Yahoo’s Flickr but, with the new Flickr 4.0, it’s a compelling service that I’m pretty excited about. In fact, I’m so excited that I’m now about 12,000 files into uploading my entire collection of nearly the nearly 50,000 photos on my hard drive. As I write, Flickr’s uploader is scanning folders on my Mac and uploading files. It also works on PCs of course and the Flickr mobile app will upload your phone’s photos too.

Massive storage

The importance of storing your photos in the cloud can’t be overstated. If something were to happen to you computer, you could replace the software, the hardware and any music files that you downloaded or ripped but there is no way to replace personal data unless it’s backed up. And having that data backed up in the same building as your computer isn’t sufficient because — if there was a fire or other disaster — everything in the building would be at risk. Giving away a terabyte of free photo storage is a big deal because it means I no longer have to pay my cloud storage provider for that service. I’ll still keep my Sugarsync and Dropbox accounts but I’ll use a lot less storage on those now that all of my photos are on Flickr. There are other services that upload photos, including iCloud, but I’m not aware of any that offer this much space for free.

Of course, Flickr lets you download the photos at their original full resolution.

Image recognition & search

In addition to storing all your photos, Flickr also uses image recognition software to analyze, tag and sort them. I don’t quite know how it does this, but I was looking for a picture of my dog Yuri. I typed “dog” in the search engine and up came his photos. When I typed “cat” I got pictures of our dearly departed cat who left us several years ago. A few years ago I went to a wedding and, sure enough, when I searched for wedding it automatically brought up those images even though I never tagged them as such (I guess it knows what weddings usually look like). All the pictures are still intact, which is more than I can say for that marriage. You can also look at your photos in a map view. I clicked on Berlin and there were the pictures I took when I was in that city. Another feature, called Magic View, divides your photos into categories such as animal, architecture, people, food, plant, etc. It can also identify people and objects or even objects by color. By default, pictures are sorted by date. Search will first find your photos and then find publicly available photos that meet your criteria.

The uploader (called “Uploadr”) will eliminate any duplicates and, by default everything is marked as private though you do have the option to share photos if you wish.

Overall, this is an extremely impressive upgrade. Probably the biggest in Flickr’s history making the tired old photo service up-to-date and ahead of the competition.

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