Can Orkut/Facebook kill Flickr?

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

(Vibhushan Waghmare co-founder of Pune-based marketing analytics startup, MQuotient, wrote this post, titled “Orkut – Facebook as Photo Sharing Sites” on his blog, and is reproduced here with permission.)

Orkut and Facebook are the most popular social networking sites in India. Photo sharing has been a prime feature for both these socio-nets. Often we find friends uploading albums with photos from their recent trip/vacation to some place or some events in their life. These updates are actively tracked among the friends’ network and commenting and tagging of photos is quite common.

Image representing Orkut as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Given this, I am surprised that neither of these two socio-nets has a feature of image search among the friends’ network and public photos on these sites.

Often when we are planning a trip or vacation to some place, we try to search online about the destination. I would always love to know if any of my connection on either Orkut or Facebook has been there and has put up any photos of the place. A friend’s word would always carry more credibility than the most authentic commercial profile page/wiki for the place. In fact, a few days back Orkut themselves had run an online ad campaign wherein they showed one animated user talking about the great trip/vacation he had and other asking him to upload photos from this trip/vacation on Orkut. So I am quite sure that photo sharing (especially of specific locations) is a big traffic booster for Orkut and Facebook.

Image representing Flickr as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

However right now there are no means to find out if there are any photos of interest available on these socio-nets to which I have access. I have to turn to proper photo-sharing networks like and try my luck with photos from some stranger with whom I might never be able to connect (Yahoo! sucks in all its social network efforts :) ). This one application can overnight convert Orkut and Facebook into a serious competitor for all photo-sharing sites like Flickr.

This image search facility should allow me to search for photos to which I have access on these socio-nets, i.e. photos from my friends or photos which have been made public purposefully by their owners. This search can be based on tags/album name or whichever image search technology is best suited. I am sure Google with its best search technologies will not have much of an issue in developing an image search for Orkut. Besides, Google maps/Google world should be integrated with Orkut and geo-tagging of photos should be allowed. It will only make image search more accurate when searching for photos of a specific location.

While privacy has always been a key concern for these socio-nets, and more so with photos, this search facility needs to be very particular in searching only among those photos to which the searcher’s account have access to. Facebook has the famous privacy bug still unresolved wherein if any of your friend comments on a photo from a Facebook user who is not your friend, you still get to see the entire album of photos of that person. Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor’s private photos from Facebook had leaked out once because of this bug, however still it remains unresolved. Wonder if it is now an intentional bug that Facebook wants to be alive to drive more page-views.

As a plain user of these socio-nets, I sense a need here for an application which can provide this image search facility. I hope some Product Manager from either Google of Facebook listens to this and evaluates the opportunity. But before that, what do you guys think of it? Is there an opportunity for building such an application for Orkut or Facebook?

About the author – Vibhushan Waghmare

Vibhushan is a co-founder of MQuotient, a Pune-based startup that uses cutting-edge quantitative analytics and mathematical modeling to build software products for marketing analytics, and in general deliver solutions for enterprise marketing challenges. Before co-founding MQuotient, Vibhushan was managing the Search product at Yahoo! India. He is an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad and an Electrical Engineer from REC, Nagpur. He has also held positions with Amdocs & Cognizant Technology Solutions. Check out his blog, his linked-in page, or his twitter page for more about him.

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7 thoughts on “Can Orkut/Facebook kill Flickr?

  1. This is like saying.. can the point and shoot digicam kill the DSLR?

    The two products are used for vastly different purposes. One is to see and share pics of your friends from a trip or party, while the other is mainly to showcase your (quality) photos and search other quality photos from other photo enthusiasts. One is for private sharing within personal networks, the other is for public sharing and content discovery. One is tied heavily to the social graph, the other is not.

  2. Difficult to dislodge flickr due to the loyalty it has built not only among the lay users, but also among pro photographers.

    Flickr being only focused on photos has some advantages
    * Simpler interface
    * Many ways to upload
    * Listening carefully to user needs

    Re. why the socials did not go for image search: Often this happens to due prioritization of product features. Social networks first had to focus on making the me-centric experience possible for users, and they possibly did not envision we’d go there and search for photos horizontally across their full database. The expectation is that you’d mainly browse photos among your friend networks.

    What would be cool is a social-flickr bridge widget which allows you to “publish” selected photos to a site like a flickr from within your Orkut/FB page. But they won’t do this, will they? In coming days, look for more integration of flickr with Y! ecosystem though.

  3. @Andy
    Agree that Flickr is for serious pro-photographers, and that Orkut/FB and Flickr are two different products. But for a regular social networking sites user in India, I doubt if anyone will have even a decent sized network on niche socio-net like Flickr. For photograph to serve as an additional medium of social networking, I would always prefer to have the facility on a site where I already have my primary social network. In such situation, enhancing the current photo-sharing facility on Orkut/FB can be of much value for regular users. Public photo content discovery is best served through regular image search on Google or Yahoo! Search. Yahoo! already includes Flickr images in their image search, Google can start by providing one on Orkut.

    Orkut/FB already have a good photo-sharing feature going on. Highly unlikely that they will divert traffic to external site like Flickr for photo-sharing.

  4. Orkut/FB will not kill Flickr. The photo-sharing features on social networking sites are primarily centered around sharing photos in a quick-n-dirty way with friends/people on the network. The features provided are not photo-centric, but merely designed to share media on the network. Text would be one, would be just an other. Sites like Flickr on the other hand have a very strong focus on how photos need to be shared and managed. There is control over picture resolution, copyright management, extensive grouping, tagging and pooling etc.

    Even if Orkut/FB decide to go the Flickr way and start adding features similar to ones offered by Flickr, they’d still be considered too specialized. Users on Orkut/FB, I presume just want to share photos and be done with it. A few people who might understand the potential might utilize it. It would definitely take away basic users off photo-sharing sites as they’d want to utilize the social network better to share their photos. On the other hand, if Flickr/photosharing sites keep innovating and continue to provide good photo-centric advanced features, they’ll stay miles ahead of what any user-centric social network.

  5. @Praveen
    Thats exactly what I said in my previous comment. For niche group of serious photo-enthusiasts, Flickr will continue to be best option, but for a very common regular user of internet (which forms majority in Indian scenario), these advanced features are a bit too advanced, and I wonder if they would appreciate the value given their pattern of usage. My guess is that photo-sharing on Orkut is a big drive for Orkut usage in India and if enhanced a bit, can give serious competition to Flickr in India.

  6. I think facebook / orkut have the opportunity to maim flickr should they choose to do so. Notwithstanding many comments above, from a lay end user perspective integration with many other aspects of social networking is far more of an asset than just the capabilities of photosharing per se.

    So if facebook/orkut decide to ramp up the feature set and promote it aggressively, I suspect flickr will find only the high end photoblogging segment left to itself. And the pressures to have paid accounts for anything more than the most rudimentary services could become high. Sure it could still continue to be operational and profitable in that context but it definitely risks substantially losing its dominance in terms of quantity (not quality) of photos shared and viewed.

    In summary, if facebook/myspace/orkut invested in photosharing promotion much more, I suspect flickr is destined to be a niche not a dominant player unless it pulls some rabbit out of the hat – one it hasn’t since its initial launch and success.

  7. Hi,
    I am currently using orkut and facebook i always choose orkut as my regular usage..
    Because orkut was really nice social site and this article giving me info about orkut so i really like it..

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