Flickr – becoming more about controlling you.

Last year I vigorously complained that Flickr was routinely featuring photographers who were blatant Contact Collectors. This was made patently clear in the 2015 selections for “Flickr’s Top-25 Photos in 2015” where many of the featured photos were from accounts with more the 50,000 follows and followed.

This years annual feature is called “Top Flickr Photos from 2016“. While Flickr has finally taken action against many contact collectors an odd pattern to those featured was noted again this year. This is what Flickr says they used to determine the selections for 2015:

To compile this list, we started with an algorithm that calculates a combination of social and engagement metrics, e.g. how often the photo had been faved and viewed. To avoid the results being merely a popularity contest, the selection also involved curation by Flickr staff.

This is what they said for this year selections (2016):

We’ve compiled this list based on a number of engagement and community factors. The photos were scored by an algorithm that calculates a combination of social and interactive elements, including how often the photo had been faved and viewed, among numerous others.

To most those two statements say essentially the same thing. So how did the stats of these two groups end up being so different? In 2015 most of the top images only have on average 200,000 views. Yet in 2016 most of the featured images have about 2,000,000 views. That’s a ten fold difference!

The difference this year is Flickr’s implementation of the new Feed. In the feed many users are confronted with non-contact images provided by Flickr (Featured and Recommended). This is what Staff have said about these images that get pushed to users.

There are two types of Recommendations at present. Those based on your interests. This is dynamic and based on your use of the site.

Then there are several hundred Featured Photographers that Flickr staff has selected based on our subjective view of interesting photography. We show a selection of photos from these photographers in various places on the site. Historically this has been to new account holders who sign up and haven’t yet followed anyone. We recommend that new members follow the Featured Photographers because we think those folks would be interesting. We also keep the list current, so if people take a Flickr break, they will be removed. We want to be sure new members of the community still have fresh content.

In the new feed, the recommendations are a blend of the two types, with the first being the most frequent type of recommendation if you’re not new to the site.


Research has shown that this year’s selections for Top Photos were drawn from accounts that Flickr staff had selected for featuring across Flickr and in particular the winning images had been featured or recommended in the feeds*! A single day as a recommended photo offers on average 200,000** views!! Without being selected by staff for being included as a featured or recommended photo an image had no chance of being selected by the algorithm since, as admitted by staff, views are a major factor in selection.

  • * verified by research
  • ** verified by queries

So not only do users have to worry about other users gaming Explore and Search but also Staff gaming other aspects of the site. 🙂


3 thoughts on “Flickr – becoming more about controlling you.”

  1. My paranoia could really kick in here. Add the ‘bug’ (where photos are shown in group submissions are time stamped 4, 6, or even 14 hours ago at time of submission) to the ‘recommended’ and I begin to wonder if the time has come for Flickr to come clean and tell us that they don’t want submissions from us average guys.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make a good point. Flickr in a desperate bid to exert control over what gets viewed on Flickr risks alienating the very people that are the core of the site.

      Don’t get me wrong… I am glad they feature curated works as they often do in the blogs. However, the Top 25 is being advertised as a selection of the top photos as measured by community interaction; however, Flickr is giving their curated works an unfair advantage by featuring those works in people’s feeds.


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