money, technology

Whither Flickr?

Several months ago:

A friend then remarked that Flickr’s URLs were annoying (yes), and I added:

Well, Mat Honan at Gizmodo has made me feel a bit better about myself. Turns out, it’s probably not my fault. But I also now feel quite bad for Flickr and all of us who’ve been using it for so many years. As Mat portrays it, the post-acquisition Flickr history is a sad story of personality conflicts and crushing bureaucracy, one that turned a place on the internet that I loved going to into a ghost town—or a Potemkin village in which the activity of your Flickr friends, if they are active at all, are auto-postings done via Instagram or IFTTT. Who’s fault? It’s Yahoo! what done it.

Or not done it, as the story emphasizes—when opportunities to turn Flickr into something better, maybe bigger, came up, Yahoo just kind of stepped on the thing, placed its brand, it’s identity, it’s heavy bureaucratic Yahoo stamp on it.

Indeed, it was the first social network that I really engaged in. Yes, I did sign up for Friendster and added like eight pictures, and I might have a MySpace page that I never did anything with, so I’m actually not sure if I do have one. But Flickr was the one I invested in—and still invest in, paying for the Pro account so as not to lose the accumulated uploads and the comments and favorites and stats that have stuck to them like so many barnacles. Fortunately, there is the tiniest glimmer of hope at the end of the story that maybe Flickr will still be…something. I hope so, anyway.

Is the Flickr case a cautionary tale about what could happen to your startup when somebody bigger swallows it up, which seems to be the preferred exit for many tech entrepreneurs these days? Or just a cautionary tale about how screwed up things at Yahoo can be, even outside the boardroom? (The answers are “yes”, and “sure, why not,” respectively.) Either way, Mat’s story is worth a look:
How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet

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journalism, money, San Francisco

A Note on the Bloomberg San Francisco Office

On Monday morning, I got to see a glimmer of Bloomberg’s San Francisco office. The office, on the second floor of a converted pier on the Embarcadero, was highlighted in August 2007 as the largest leasing deal to come along in San Francisco since the dot-com boom eight years earlier.

At the time, the media company rented 30,000 square feet at $100 per square foot (triple-net), while most office real estate at the time was about $50 per square foot. The deal nearly doubled Bloomberg’s footprint in the city as reporters and salespeople moved into a sleek waterfront place. Again, the Times:

The offices have floor-to-ceiling glass walls, natural lighting, operable windows, historic trusses and views of the bay, Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge. The development’s bayside history walk wraps around the building and boats will be able to pull up to the dock.

And, true, it’s all there–ferries docked below the desks, stunning bay views, and the lavatory is positively space-aged. One analyst suggested they got a great deal, saying:

“I feel anyone who has not locked up their space for the next couple of years should do so because rents are going higher,” she said. “In recent years, there has been a move to get away from fancy offices, particularly among the law firms. We seem to have passed that.”

What a long, strange trip it’s been. Eighteen months later, San Francisco, while not lacking for lawyers, might have fewer than expected after the collapse of Heller Ehrman and Thelen; and a casual glance at rental rates shows even for Class A office space as low as $25, suggesting that now might be the time to lock up space for the next couple of years.

***

I wish I had a photo of the Bloomberg office to show you. Scores of twinned screen Bloomberg terminals in long rows, all facing Treasure Island; a glass-walled conference room, full of more twin-screened terminals facing a pair of large screens embedded into the wall; a full, free cafe with coffee, juice, and cappuccino machines, fresh fruit, and rotating silver snack stands full of Kettle Chips and Swedish fish. This is the life, no? Still, during the hours I was there, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was in a supervillain’s lair, the control room from which a plot for global domination is hatched and executed. All that was missing was the classic Mercator projection map of the planet, outsized letters spelling SPECTRE, and, of course, Ernst Stavro Blofeld in one of his various guises, along with his fluffy cat.

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