Back a long time ago, when the Web was a much smaller place, I had the opportunity to ask Stewart Butterfield (one of the founders of Flickr) whether my photos would be safe with Flickr in the aftermath of the Yahoo takeover. He assured me that as long as he had anything to say about it, Flickr would put its users first and would (for instance) keep linked-to photos visible even if, for instance, the account owner died, or left Flickr.
That was, of course, a long time ago, before Stewart left Yahoo/Flickr. And businesses change direction; they can’t be trammelled by previous executives’ pledges. At the same time, as Mike Arrington notes, Flickr’s current policy of closing access to the accounts of former paying customers is not just a matter of Yahoo’s balance sheet. The perception that Flickr was a web-friendly service underlies a large part of its standing as a good neighbour on the Web. By withholding photos from the Web, Flickr injures both the Web of which it’s supposed to be a pillar and its own reputation.
And the warning that it’s time to make sure that you have back-up copies of everything you’ve ever uploaded to Flickr may be increasingly urgent.