Friday, November 19, 2010

Is it Facebook vs. Flickr, or Both vs. Google?

An article on the PhotoShelter blog "What Google trends Says About Wedding & Stock Photography, and Photo Websites" proposes that a drop in Flickr ratings on Google Trends may be due to an increase in the popularity of Facebook for photo sharing. I disagree strongly with the article's conclusions.

The drop in Yahoo-owned Flickr status in competitor Google's trend ratings was probably more due to internal workings of the Google search engine to stop referring Google image search results over to their competitor's site Flickr. I've seen this firsthand in my Flickr statistics. I used to get nearly 30% of my Flickr views from Google search users, now I get close to zero. Meanwhile my Google hits on Panoramio have skyrocketed to over 5 million views on a handful of images.

Facebook's ratings on Goolge Trends also pummeted, so the same engineered obsolescence is probably true for Google's referral to anything over on Facebook, since Facebook is now emerging as a competitor for Google's dominance over Internet eyeballs. Facebook's drop in Google's ratings is far too precipitous to be attributed to a simple familiarity with Facebook's name, as proposed in the article.

The existing fight between Yahoo and Google has expanded to include Facebook, as demonstrated by Facebook's announcement this week of an email service that aspires consolodate messages from all sources. Google is simply taking prudent steps to minimize the extent to which their site promotes their competitors.

The bottom line for photographers? Flickr will remain strong with Yahoo search users, Google-friendly sites will dominate Google searches, and Facebook is an island unto itself, albeit a really big island that wants to aggregate all your content.

For the moment Flickr is a site with robust sharing photo sharing features but a rabid paranoia of all things external, including standard social media platforms, so it's dangerous to try to interact around Flickr photos (post external links and they reportedly may delete your account suddenly and unexpectedly). So Facebook appears to be the only major player with a viable solution friendly to social media integration at the moment. Although their tools for photographers seem a little lacking at the moment, their pool of app developers are working diligently to solve that problem for them.