November 22, 2006

Flickr Launches Camera Finder in Conjunction with Yahoo! Shopping

Posted in Excellence, flickr, webshots at 1:19 am by mj

Flickr recently launched Camera Finder, a “joint” effort with Yahoo! Shopping. Another sign that Flickr is being (slowly) integrated into the Yahoo! Family. Good coverage by Mashable and Paul Kedrosky.

I like what they’ve done. Their camera finder is everything that Webshots’ Photo Gear Guide should have been (two years ago), but wasn’t…and won’t be.

A little history: Webshots’ Photo Gear Guide (or “Tech Guide”) was the first effort at integrating into CNET, a mere months after being acquired. It had a sordid history, and it could have been much better than it is. It’s now been mostly abandoned (which explains some of the empty content for editors who’ve left CNET).

Anyhow, some observations:

First, Webshots’ Photo Gear Guide is butt ugly (and I don’t mean the butt of Grace Park). It’s a nauseating mix of yellow and grey and red. Even two years ago before our new header, it was still pretty sickening to look at. It tried to have the look of a CNET property, with the cobranding of a Webshots property. Which is what half the pages really are (more on that in a bit).

By contrast, Flickr’s Camera Finder pages look exactly like any other Flickr page. The same prominent colors (even in the graphs!). The same kind of navigation.

Second, there is no original content on Webshots’ Photo Gear Guide. All the editors stuff and specs come from CNET Reviews, which is fine. But most of the links send you off to cobranded pages that aren’t even hosted by Webshots (and are even uglier–and now still have the old Webshots header). There is absolutely nothing to tie that content into the Webshots community. Nothing.

Flickr’s Camera Finder, on the other hand, has graphs of the popularity of cameras over time within the Flickr community. When you drill down into the cameras, you see photo search results of Flickr photos taken with each camera, sortable in several dimensions. It feels like another way to browse Flickr photos, and also a way to compare cameras.

Finally, Camera Finder makes you feel like you’re actually learning something. With PGG, you get editor reviews and specs and “best buys” based on price vs performance tradeoffs. All well and good, and I have no doubt that CNET’s reviewers do a better job than Yahoo’s Shopping editors.

But–because you’re not engaged within the Webshots community, you don’t really know how accurate those reviews are, or which camera is probably right for you. By utilizing Flickr’s community, you get a much better sense of not only the quality of photos produced by a camera, but also what kind of photographers are using which models. Find people like yourself. See what they’re using.

Of course, Webshots did not detect cameras two years ago (we do now, and it’s on every photo page unless the owner chooses not to display that information). I seem to recall that Nick and Narendra’s vision for the photo gear guide was exactly what Flickr produced. If you answer the question, “Why did it never quite materialize?” you’ll probably find the core of what’s been missing at Webshots the last several years.

With that said, I’m not sure Flickr’s Camera Finder will see significantly more page views than Webshots’ Photo Gear Guide. It’s very much a niche audience, that likely sees surges during the holiday season and maybe again in late spring. One way to counter this is to meaningfully link to the data from photo and member pages.

It will probably generate more revenue for Yahoo!, since they’re linking directly to Yahoo! Shopping and Yahoo! will get a cut of any sales (unlike CNET). Which partly explains why they put more effort into getting it right.

Anyway, a thumbs-up from me. The more you can leverage the interaction and personal choices made by your members, the better your community will be.

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