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Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK’s best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars.

Her personal blog is Chocolate and Vodka, and yes, she’s married to Kevin.

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Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is a freelance journalist and digital strategist with more than a decade of experience with the BBC and the Guardian. He has been a digital journalist since 1996 with experience in radio, television, print and the web. As a journalist, he uses blogs, social networks, Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to break news, to engage with audiences and tell the story behind the headlines in multiple media and on multiple platforms.

From 2009-2010, he was the digital research editor at The Guardian where he focused on evaluating and adapting digital innovations to support The Guardian’s world-class journalism. He joined The Guardian in September 2006 as their first blogs editor after 8 years with the BBC working across the web, television and radio. He joined the BBC in 1998 to become their first online journalist outside of the UK, working as the Washington correspondent for BBCNews.com.

And, yes, he’s married to Suw.

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Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Yahoo! Photos to close and delete photos

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

The news comes, via Thomas Vander Wal, that Yahoo! Photos is to close. I’m not a Yahoo! Photos user myself, but I think that this decision is wrong-headed and ill-conceived, in so many ways.

Thomas’ post is dated 7 July, and the email he had from Yahoo! Photos informs him that the service will close on 20 September 2007, at 9pm PDT. Assuming that Thomas didn’t miss an earlier email, that’s a little over two months’ notice - is that really enough time to notify all your users that you’re closing a service? Thomas says:

many of the people I know and run across that use Yahoo Photos rely on Yahoo Photos to always be there. They are often infrequent users. They like and love the service because it is relatively easy to use and “will always be there”. Many real people I know (you know the 95 percent of the people who do not live their life on the web) visit Yahoo Photos once or twice a year as it is where holiday, travel, or family reunion photos are stored. It would seem that this user base would need more than a year’s notice to get valuable notification that their digital heirlooms are going to be gone, toast, destroyed, etc. in a few short months.

I think it’s rather optimistic to think that everyone who’s going to be affected by this will find out in time to take action.

But let’s dig a little deeper, and go beyond the looming deadline to take a look at Yahoo! Photo’s help pages concerning the closure.

Yahoo! is giving people three “options if [they] want to keep [their] photos”. (I find the language here more than a little alarming as to me it implies that the default view is that people won’t want to keep their photos, and I’d bet money on that not being true.)

1. You can move your photos to Flickr, Kodak Gallery, Shutterfly, Snapfish or Photobucket. You can only move your photos to one service, and once they’ve been moved, options 2 and 3 become unavailable to you.

2. You can download your photos, but you can only download them one at a time. There’s no bulk download, so if you have a lot of photos you’re in for a tedious ride. Again, Yahoo!’s underlying assumption seems to be that people aren’t interested in keeping all their photos: “for many of you it won’t take much time to download your favorites”, as if your favourites are the only photos that matter.

3. You can buy an archive CD, but only if you’re a New Yahoo! Photos user. Yahoo! have partnered with Englaze to offer a price of $6.95 for 700mb of photos. Why not use DVDs, I wonder? They’ll take a lot more data than a CD and surely the aim here is to help users, not screw them? Although old Yahoo! Photos users have to either download one by one, or move services, so maybe screwing users isn’t that big of a deal for them.

You can choose all three options, if you qualify for the CD of course, and if you have few enough photos that downloading them one by one doesn’t cause you to tear your hair out.

Digging deeper into Yahoo!’s help pages causes further concern. Maybe this is just me being a bit sensitive to language, but if I were a Yahoo! Photos user, I’d want to know exactly what this means:

How long do I have to make a decision about what to do with my photos?

You will have until September 20, 2007 at 9 p.m. PDT to make a decision about your photos.

Of course, we encourage you to decide sooner rather than later, to avoid the last-minute rush. All users who choose to move to another service will be added to the queue for that service. So the sooner you make the decision, the sooner you’ll be have access to your photos at their new home.

“Added to the queue”? How long is it going to take people to have their photos moved over? And what happens if you do get stuck in the “last-minute rush”? Oh, wait, we get that answer over on another help page:

Be patient…the move can take several days or even weeks depending upon how many other users are in front of you in the queue.

I’m getting the feeling that this is going to be a sub-par experience for anyone moving their photos.

But hey, it’s ok, because Yahoo! get to blame the other services for any delays:

How long will it take you to transfer my photos to another service?

The move itself should not take long at all, it depends more upon the number of users ahead of you in the queue to be moved.

After you’ve opted to move to another service, you’ll be added to a move queue managed by that service. The queue will be managed on a first come, first served basis. When they get to your Yahoo! Photos account, they will copy your original resolution photos into the account you identified on their service and send you an email when the move is complete.

Although if it all goes wrong - and goshdarn, data transfer never goes wrong, right? - Yahoo! will be there to sort it all out. Or not.

What can I do if I have issues with transferring my photos or my transfer fails?

Each of these services should be able to successfully transfer all your photos and will be responsible for all issues once that transfer occurs. So if you encounter issues with your new account you should contact them directly.

But if you’ve received emails that some of your photos failed to make the move or that the service was unable to move your photo collection, then it’s likely due to more complicated data issues with your account. Any failures that are specific to a user’s account will be reported to Yahoo!

In these cases, the best alternative may be to download your favorites or purchase an archive CD (for users of the New Yahoo! Photos only).

I am presuming the lock that Yahoo! will put on your account once transfer has been initiated will be lifted if transfer fails, because if not, how will users be able to download their “favourites” or buy an archive CD? Of course, I’ve presumed before and been wrong.

Finally, if you’ve been using any of your Yahoo! Photos in any other Yahoo! products, then you need to know that:

Yahoo! Photos features in these services will all be going away soon, which means your photos will no longer be accessible from these services. And your photos will definitely not be available from these other services (or anywhere else on the Web for that matter) after Yahoo! Photos closes and all remaining photos are deleted and no longer accessible.

Oh dear god. They’ve really buried the lead here. Let’s just read that again, with some emphasis added:

Yahoo! Photos features in these services will all be going away soon, which means your photos will no longer be accessible from these services. And your photos will definitely not be available from these other services (or anywhere else on the Web for that matter) after Yahoo! Photos closes and all remaining photos are deleted and no longer accessible.

This was my big unanswered question. What will happen to the photos that haven’t been transferred before 20 Sept 2007? Answer: They will be deleted. Yes, that’s right, you’ve got two months to get your stuff, and then it’s toast.

This is absolutely astonishing. User’s stuff should be sacred - giving people just over two months to find out that their photos are going to be deleted is absurd. As Thomas said, people put their trust in companies like Yahoo!, who’ve been around for years, to still be around for years to come and this is a massive betrayal of that trust.

If a service has to be closed - and I recognise that from time to time, that’s inevitable - then it has to be done in a thoughtful, careful way. A staged process would be the best way to deal with such an eventuality, where uploading is closed first, followed by a period during which people can download, transfer or archive their images before the site is ‘fossilised’. But there should be a lot more time in between the emails warning people and the cessation of uploading. Deleting people’s photos should be verboten. (And that’s not just about the importance of users’ data, but also about the wider issue of causing linkrot, which is something that responsible service providers try to avoid.)

Is there even a good reason for Yahoo! to be closing Yahoo! Photos? Yes, it’s true that they bought Flickr, but Thomas points out that these two services have different userbases:

Having similar service running allows for one to be innovative and test the waters, while keeping one a safe resource that is familiar to the many who want stability over fresh and innovative. Companies must understand these two groups of people exist and are not fully interchangeable (er, make that they are rarely interchangeable). Innovation takes experimentation and time. Once things are found to work within the groups accepting innovation the work becomes really tough with the integration and use testing with the people who are not change friendly (normally a much larger part of an organization’s base).

It would have seemed the smart move to be mindful that Flickr is the innovation platform and Photos is the stable use platform. The two groups of use are needed. Those in the perpetual beta and innovation platform are likely to jump to something new and different if the innovation gets stale. The stable platform users often are surprised and start looking to move when there is too much change.

I agree with Thomas that Yahoo! Photos and Flickr users are not interchangable - to treat the former group as expendable is pure foolishness. It’s not like there aren’t business models to experiment with for Yahoo! Photos, so is it really necessary to close it?

Whilst this closure is at first not going to affect Yahoo!’s international users, they should get out whilst the going’s good. I see no way that Yahoo! Photos won’t be closing their international sites, so I find it absurd that they are still allowing people to sign up and upload photos to the UK site. But then, I find the whole thing absurd.

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23 Responses to “Yahoo! Photos to close and delete photos”

  1. Rachel Clarke Says:

    They first started moving over a month ago and had quite a few problems to start off with until they upgraded hardware and scripts to make it easier. The staff of Flickr have been pretty good at solving problems, fixing things, reversing where appropriate (can’t say anything about the other sites) but there are still people getting stuff stuck for a while

    The biggest issues have been with communications - users were not taking time to look at the options and the language led them to just go to Flickr, which has very different functionality, so there is a lot of anxiety and barriers to using the site. Two main issues are understanding how to let friends and family who are not Flickr registered see the photos and also email photos out.

    Agree with you about the staged process - that would have helped. Far more time is going to be needed to get everyone across.

  2. Edna Says:

    I am (or was!) a Yahoo photo album user and I never got ANY e-mail notification of the closure. It was pure dumb luck that I found out about it, downloaded my photos to my computer, and then uploaded them to another free service of my choice. I agree that it is absolutely ridiculous to give people either ZERO notice (as was the case with me) or 8 weeks notice. What if someone is on a world cruise, on total bedrest with a difficult pregnancy, in the Peace Corps, or something else for 8 weeks, and they come home to find their precious, irreplaceable photos GONE! See, this is why I changed my main e-mail addy to Google’s gmail ages ago and now have changed my photos over, too: Yahoo is NOT user-friendly AT ALL. I’m over it!

  3. Mizfun Says:

    I’m a heavy user of yahoo photos and have 35 very full albums, I didn’t get any email either about the close down. Just found out about it today. Where do I start! thats 8yrs worth of pictures!

  4. nam Says:

    Hi Mizfun,

    you can transfer photos to snapfish.com by using the link mentioned below. I moved my 1500 pics to snapfish in just 5 mins. May be this will help you.

    Snapfish is also free site to upload photos, but you need to order at least one photo in a year to keep the account alive.

    http://www.snapfish.com/yahoophotos

    Hope it helps you.

  5. mizfun Says:

    Thank you Nam. That will be helpful, I’ll try that now. I’m baffled though, they say we can move to Kodak and I am already a Kodak gallery user and I can’t seem to find the link to move to Kodak anywwhere on the Yahoo website. Can anyone help with that?

  6. Pillendijk Says:

    It didn’t work. All my pictures are still on “My Photos”. I want to delete the lot. Yahoo told me they had transferred them all to Flickr from where I could delete them. The photos have not been transfered. Yahoo help is no help:-(

  7. chandan Says:

    I did’t get any mail from yahoo regarding photo transfer and I lost all photos which i collected in last 5-6 years. Even After sending mail to yahoo and flickr there is no help provided to recover it .
    Please let me know any solution to recover those photos.

    Regards,

  8. Katy Elliott Says:

    Moved all of my 560 precious photos to Flickr, having no idea i could download them all or move them to another site apart from Flickr! Then 2 months on i find out that i now either have to PAY for the Pro account or 360 of my photos will be gone very very soon! I can’t pay as i am only 17 and there is no longer any time to pay as they get deleted tomorrow! i also cant download 360 photos one by one as i will never get any sleep and i simply dont have the time as i have a baby to look after! I trusted Yahoo! Photos assuming they would never close and now some of my most precious photos are about to be deleted! some are extremely important and senitmental as they are of my daughter’s twin who died not long after she was born! ARGH STUPID YAHOO AND FLICKR!! I COULD RING THEIR NECKS! WHY DID YAHOO! PHOTOS HAVE TO CLOSE?! its not fair!! why couldnt Yahoo just stay the same instead of mucking everyone about!!!!

  9. louanne Says:

    looks like this is an ongoing post. i am one of those infrequent users of yahoo photos, uploading only when i needed to print something. but since i lost everything on my previous hard drive, i was checking it today to see what i had on yahoo photos, but lo and behold, they have all been deleted. i never log into my yahoo email, and when i did, found ONE notification in august about the deletion. it sure looks like they did not do much to tell everybody about this. couldn’t they have inserted some blurb when you had to update your old school flickr ID to the newfangled yahoo one? i’m definitely quite peeved about this whole thing

  10. venkatesh Says:

    how can i remove photos in my photo AND ATTACHMENTS PHOTOS .iam waiting for u response

  11. Suresh Khadotra Says:

    Well, I too never received a message, can somebody suggest a remedy. I did begged yahoo through email but i dont think they are going to respond, faith has been shattered… i had been a yahoo photo use from past 7 years……. If u people get a clue how to recover …. plzzzzzzzzz do inform me

  12. saira Says:

    I had around 150 pictures in my account and i also i never received any notification anybody can help me what to do now to get my pics back.

    Best

  13. Anonymous Says:

    please martinyourlove@yahoo.co.uk is my email address . i am pleading to yahoo..please help me transfer all my photos from yahoo to flickr

  14. Suw Says:

    To those people asking for help. I’m really sorry that you’re having problems, but I’m not in a position to help. I can only report what’s happened. I do wish you good luck in getting things sorted, though.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Help me too

    I had around 100 pictures in my account about_bas@yahoo.com and i also i never received any notification anybody can help me what to do now to get my pics back. i am pleading to yahoo.please help me transfer all my photos from yahoo to flickr Plese

    about_bas@yahoo.com

  16. VJay Says:

    Guys,

    Please let me also know if there is anyway to recover the photos from Yahoo Photos, i lost many of my photos there. From now on my sincere advice to everyone is Old is Gold, hardcopy is the best.

    Vijay

  17. Kate Says:

    I never got the message either that Yahoo photos was shutting down and lost my photos from my year in Turkey. I am devastated.

    Are they irretrievably lost and actually deleted?

    Kate

  18. che Says:

    I will like to recover my lost photos from yahoo.com

  19. Sowmya Says:

    I have not received any notification from Yahoo regarding the shutdown. I came back from my native after my maternity leave and I could not see any of the photos. I had more than 1000 photos for past 5 years. I’m going to sue Yahoo for deleting the photos without my knowledge.

  20. tiju Says:

    pls i want to reciver my snaps from yahoo photos..pls help

  21. Strange Attractor » Blog Archive » Yahoo! behaving badly. Again. Says:

    [...] July 2007, Yahoo! gave users of it’s Yahoo! Photos service just three months to retrieve their pictures before closing the service and deleting all of the unclaimed images. As recently as December 2008, [...]

  22. Jess Says:

    I’m shocked and royally pissed off that I was not notified about my photo’s being deleted by yahoo. I had collected pictures from friends and family from 2003 - 2007 and they’re all gone. I’ve emailed yahoo numerous times and get some dumbass telling me there’s nothing they can do. Does anyone know how you’d go about restoring these pics, is it even possible?

  23. Suw Charman-Anderson Says:

    As far as I’m aware, it’s all done and dusted now. :( If anyone finds a way of getting Yahoo to resurrect old photos, do let us all know, but many people have been bitten by this and so far I’ve heard no happy endings.