If I had to choose one internet tool to take on my deserted island (the one with high speed fiber of course), easily it would be flickr.

Often chalked up for dead, passe, not hip, and overshadowed by FacebookGram, I cannot help but revel that a service started in 2004 not only still exists but has not really lost any functionality (ask anyone about a Google service that has yanked the rug under them).

Yeah people have “moved” on from flickr to other services, but I keep my photo heart with flickr. I’m not here to convince anyone of anything, just to marvel at this long run.

The blog title refers to this image, at 122,000 views perhaps the 3rd highest one in my flickr account.

What Can We Do With Flickr?
What Can We Do With Flickr? flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

Before answering, What Can We Do With Flickr in 2021, I am self obliged to have Peabody activate the time machine.

Me and Flickr

Flickr was launched in February 2004, in web years that’s like maybe the Devonian era. My “people” page affirms I joined in March 2004. I am rusty on how I found out about it, but my blog trail indicates I was interesting in what was then called “photoblogging” a topic I presented on at the April 20-24 TCC Online Conference. The talk was called “Publish and Build Communities Around Digital Images” but was centered more on photo sites called BuzzNet (now just some kind of celebrity rag) and FotoLog (now again just some kind of web site full of the same kinds of stories on other web sites, pretty much ad click bait stuff).

Back then they were sites where you could create free accounts and share photos with some community features. Fotolog I recall had an international flavor, I think it might have been started in South America.

I centered the activities for this talk on BuzzNet, largely because I was using as examples the way a photography teacher at Mesa Community College was using it. Flickr was just an extra tool mentioned in the links, likely because I was still trying to figure it out. I did blog on April 14, 2004 about this presentation and the sum mention of flickr was a closing toss away

And if you are into this stuff, check out Flickr


Where is my flickr origin point? Flickr makes it much easier than the Big Popular One to find your own photos. One of the nifty things about flickr is its organization via “Camera Roll” where you can find your own photos by using left side navigation for year, then month. I can find photos I posted for any date going back to March 29, 2004.

That’s when this one went up as my first flickr photo, a selfie as a rule follower. The first few include stuff in Arizona a hike in the Superstition Mountains, a digitized copy of an old film photo photo of Antelope Canyon, some signs from Jerome.

The uploads are sporadic until November, when I traveled to New Zealand (there’s an album of like 70 photos), and get pretty frequent then on.

What Can You Do With Flickr (circa 2006)

That desk image abuve was part of a 2006 presentation for the K12 Online Conference called “I Didn’t Know You Could Do That with Free Web Tools” yep right in the hyper height of Web 2.0 exuberance. I had somehow embedded the various portions of the “presentation” of these tools in the tools themselves, talking about YouTube in YouTube, a “tag” based presentation in del.icio.us (now dead)… anyhow, the one I feel worked best was the one above, What Can We Do With Flickr? where the original image in 2006 and still in 2021… functions the same.

Yes, flickr notes offered a way to annotate (or have annotated by visitors) an image… in 2006, this was the concept people are just discovering. The notes I concocted for the image of messy items on my desk used them as metaphors for my answers, each one leading to another flickr photo that expanded on the note.

So the pen on a notebook led to a flickr “post” on storytelling with photos, the note over the map led to info on geotagging photo locations, the pocket radio led to a discussion of “syndication” of photos (using them to post to blogs, dynamic flickr badges (killed with Flash), the computer mouse to a set of examples using flickr to do presentations.

I still think this was rather clever. I always aimed to present in web tools I was talking about, not slides with pictures of the tools- if it’s a talk about the web, then the presentation comes from there.

Ah, I have drifted down my own memory dusting of what seemed clever back then

What Can You Do With Flickr in 2021?

Pretty much what I raved about in 2006. They did tags early on. Before they were things with # stuffed in front. They implemented Creative Commons licensing early. I won’t bug ya with the beauty of machine tags, but go dig for them.

Two things in the “now” (for future readers, this September 2021) triggered this trip. This tweet by Beck Tench reminded me about the forgotten features of Flickr Galleries

I had totally forgotten about them, but what a still useful concept- with Galleries you curate other flickr user’s photos to your own collection. I had also forgotten I made one a long time ago, about a rather surprising topic. They are almost like playlists for photos. And it’s not something you find in other supposedly “better” photo tools. Pfffft.

I trade comments with long time colleague/friend Wes Fryer in that other photo platform that is most popular now. He’s regularly posting picture of his grilling and cooking efforts, with detailed captions often with hyperlinks you cannot even click on (Instagram only pretends to be part of the World Wide Web)

I post there sometimes too my cooking efforts, and on a recent one about squash soup, Wes replied asking when I was going to start a recipe blog.

I have not yet replied, but since I had already a number of photos in flickr with recipes/captions for my cooking attempts, I was able to put them easily into a flickr album.


Albums are a useful way to organize photos into meaningful topics, for specific events, travel trips, etc.. I keep regular updates to one that tracks which of my photos have gotten re-used. I’ve put them to use for presentations even. There are even lesser known features like collections (flickr does not even provide a menu link to your collections) that are like an album of albums (e.g. I have one for all my albums of daily photos).

Oh yes, I can actually search (and find) my own photos in flickr, rather than what instagram does not provide (how do you find your own past images in Instagram? scroll, scroll, scroll).

And now to drop the geek mic, let’s talk about the flickr API. It has been the thing that let’s any developer build web tools, apps, services, that leverage all the stuff in flickr. Someone else likely knows better than me how long there has been a public API, the oldest changelog I found was 2010 but the WayBack Machine shows the API page sitting there in August 2004. My hunch was it was there from the start.

Maybe the first example I was aware of or at least I thought was a great example was Spell With Flickr -once at but no more http://metaatem.net/word. You entered a word in the field, and the code hit the flickr API to return block images of each letter. I used it a LOT:

Spell With Flickr
Spell With Flickr flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

The developer, Eric Kastner still has a flickr account, and I found an image reflecting the spike on his web site when it went popular– the date there suggests February 2005. Ah there is confirmation, and even the source code in GitHub. I recall having thoughts at one time to seeing if I could get it to work on my domain.

I was able to do quite a few things leveraging the flickr API, all of these still function despite being duct tape coded together like 10-15 years ago

Oh yeah, flickr even lets me see the stats on my API Keys. The CC Helper is not going to break any servers, but peak use of 250 calls in a week represent more people using it than just me.

Histogram of api calls in the last year, with red peaks of 247 calls in a week

The Tiny Hit Factor




Yes, I have succumbed over years to the convenience, immediacy of Instagram. Easy to post, easy to quickly se what people you follow are doing.

But bleepity bleep bleep why the **** can’t a URL in a caption me an active link? Do we not know that Instagram leverages the web protocols but refutes the basic (it’s not really a right but I wish it were) capability to connect to any other thing on the web? And does anyone find it odd how hard it is to even find your own past photos without making it scroll-orama?

It’s that hit of attention that the platform does well. It makes us crave more.

What can we I do with flickr in 2021? Not only a lot of what was there long ago, but more than the other popular platforms. I am staying true to a service that has done me well since 2004.

Featured Image:

What Can We Do With Flickr?
What Can We Do With Flickr? flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as @cogdog@cosocial.ca


    1. Thanks Matt,

      I feel less alone here! And you have been at it a long time. Favorite title is “Flickr is for quality photos, Instagram is for bad photos” … aka “Dont Crop my Beautiful Photos into Tiny Square Pixelated Stamps”

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