The race to build a following online in the early days of the Internet caused many companies to give away their services. Their goal was something like the old saying, “we’ll make it up in volume.” It was a good model for the winners, but it destroyed many of their competition.  In an effort to not be eliminated, or maybe just to finally cash in on their huge user base, one of the early web success stories, Flickr, is changing their model.

The service, purchased by professional photo hosting service SmugMug, confirmed that it will no longer offer 1 terabyte (TB) of free storage. Users on the free tier will now be limited to 1,000 photos. Yes, I got an email today from Flickr (which I have used since it started) that while they are still offering a free version of their service, they are now limiting you to hosting just 1,000 files on their servers without paying. (see right)

As I mentioned, I have been using Flickr since the beginning and that means I have posted over 10,000 pictures (above) and videos to Flickr. I was a paying member for quite some time but when they increased the storage (1 terabyte) on the free account a few years back, I canceled the paid account.

Now, it appears that I will have to decide if their service is worth the $35 annual fee to have unlimited storage. Was all this part of the plan? Give users a large storage and have them feel dependent on you for storing your precious (and not-so precious) memories? What do you do with all those photos? Do you burn them to disk (my laptop doesn’t even have a drive anymore) or do you just forget about them… trust that Facebook will have your important things?

In the end, it is a wake-up call that anyone storing your digital properties has the ability to hold them hostage. I am not sure what I will do. Do I add another nick in the death-from-1,000-paper-cuts and pay the fee? Do I do something else?  Thoughts?

by Chris Doelle