Give me a Flickr with better architecture.
November 15, 2011 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Flickr is perfectly fine, but I hate that it switches up photo URLs/servers, so photos I post on my blog turn into 'photo not available.' Since that's what I mainly use it for, it's getting to be a pain. What do I switch to?

I've got enough hacking skills to do whatever, on a technical level (including hack together some S3-based sync thingy), but is there another site similar to Flickr that will just keep photos where they are and not mess up, as Flickr is failing to do?

Nice to haves: full size photos archived. Not much else matters. If there's an interface, it better not be terrible. Don't put me too far from the URL for a raw 640px wide image.

(note: full-size means 500px doesn't cut it. Plus, like SmugMug, it's annoyingly portfolio-oriented. I'm looking more for a photostream and good organization for the thousands of photos that will end up there.)
posted by tmcw to Computers & Internet (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
but I hate that it switches up photo URLs/servers

I like flickr photos on my blog all the time, and I have never ever found this to be the case. Are you using the "official" share code from their menus, or just right-clicking/firebugging and grabbing a url?
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:02 PM on November 15, 2011

"like" = "link"
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:02 PM on November 15, 2011

Flickr has an API. You can query an image by ID and get a current URL any time you want. This is what I use on my personal site. See my javascript.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 6:02 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

A sample url I embedded my blog looks like this:

I have never had one problem with these urls.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:04 PM on November 15, 2011

You can never assume, unless you're running the show, that an image hosting system will never change resource location on you. Maybe FooImageService hasn't changed since their inception, but tomorrow they're going to roll out some scalability changes that will alter externally facing URLs. If you don't want to have to change three hundred blog updates when your image host makes a resource location scheme change, you'll need to slip something between the two. Something that can map a persistent identifier to an actual URL.

tylerkaraszewski's comment looks to be worth checking into. If Flickr provides an API to map an image ID to an actual URL, then you just need a mechanism to do that work.
posted by secret about box at 6:11 PM on November 15, 2011

Response by poster: Hmm, interesting. I'll see if the results are different with using the 'official' share code: I've used URLs similar to what you (drjimmy) use, and in big cases, like this page, they've permanently become 'not available' guys - and that URL points to - pretty much the same format, just a different 'farm' that it's off of.
You can never assume, unless you're running the show, that an image hosting system will never change resource location on you.
Yes and no: Flickr's 'share' options are just HTML with direct references to images. They've certainly implied that these should stay working for longer than a month or two - or they would be an awkward situation of providing the functionality at all.
posted by tmcw at 6:15 PM on November 15, 2011

What blogging platform are you using? What are its image management settings? Whenever I've had flickr image not available issues it has tended to be a problem with the blog side of things rather than the flickr side.
posted by infini at 6:24 PM on November 15, 2011

What I'm saying is that you want to determine what is and is not considered "public API", to stretch the term. Direct image links like the links smell like implementation details that you shouldn't rely on. If the service publishes special sharing URLs, and say they should work, that sounds reasonable to use. A quick glance at the share URL format suggests it is an ID/set mapping of some sort.
posted by secret about box at 6:24 PM on November 15, 2011

Just a thought, but using the replace feature on flickr breaks direct links.
posted by Lorin at 6:24 PM on November 15, 2011

Dumb, dumb question, but are these photos disappearing as they fall into Flickr's 200-photo free account limit?
posted by box at 6:25 PM on November 15, 2011

Okay, the Flickr account linked in your profile is Pro, so probably not.
posted by box at 6:28 PM on November 15, 2011

for what its worth, i have pictures from flickr on my blog in posts that are six years old, with urls that now just redirect to the actual location of the image because that pre-dates their current farmN scheme. you may have something else going on. no 'photo is unavailable' things that i have spotted.
posted by jimw at 6:36 PM on November 15, 2011

Response by poster:
What blogging platform are you using? What are its image management settings?
I'm using Jekyll, which is more or less like editing HTML directly. I can rule it out as a culprit. And, this is not using replace, or after changing privacy settings - both of which break links, and reasonably so. This is more like uploading a photo, embedding it in a post, and it breaking four days later.

The social sharing stuff that Flickr offers includes direct links, which you copy & paste. I haven't been able to find anything more officially sanctioned than that, and hitting a JSONP API for every image would be a bit intense - it's already annoying to be reliant on a separate image provider.
posted by tmcw at 6:55 PM on November 15, 2011

I've been using phtobucket for years and years, I have old crap on it that I think are there since 2004 and they never budged. I have a crapton of images too, yet I never worried about my size limit. :/
It's true that I am digital imaging literate so I never post uncompressed photos that are several thousand pixels high & wide like many people do on Flickr and just hope trust it to autosize it away tough, so maybe a less careful user might hit the limitations, I sincerely don't know. I've had Photobucket auto-resize some of my huge scans and stuff in the past but I can't remember running into that since years.

You can make albums that are either private (you can link the individual images to be seen by others but they can't go in the folder and browse the rest of your stuff) or public, or passworded.
There are official link codes too but I always nab the image URL directly and it always worked fine.

I've started going on Tumblr yet I end up hosting my images on the good ol' bucket all the time because the former keeps shrinking down the images in the most annoying manner.

I greatly recommend if you ever end up giving up on Flickr.
posted by CelebrenIthil at 7:43 PM on November 15, 2011

Flickr is perfectly fine, but I hate that it switches up photo URLs/servers

Echoing that there is something you are doing wrong here. One of the biggest issues that FLickr put into its core when it started (and the main reason that you cannot change your user URL more than once) was to prevent link rot and the issues you are mentioning. It was a Very Big Deal when they were talking about this in the early days. The correct Flickr URLs do NOT change without the account holders input. The intention is that they would be permanent.

However, the following screw up URL's (by design):

Rotating an image.
Replacing an image
Making an image private (including limiting it to anything other than public)
Certain license changes (I think) change the URL to prevent certain violations continuing, but I'd have to check that.

So basically, unless you are picking the wrong URL somehow (although I'm not sure how) and aren't messing with the image after posting the links, I am at a loss as to why this is happening.
posted by Brockles at 7:59 PM on November 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

I agree that flickr shouldn't be giving you the problems you're having... but if you're still after an alternative, is great. I've been using them for years and have many terabytes of photos uploaded. Very easy to use.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:11 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been right-click grabbing URLs for three years on my blog and have never once had an image go missing.

Can you show us an example of a post that this happened to?
posted by davey_darling at 8:48 PM on November 15, 2011

like this page, they've permanently become 'not available' guys - and that URL points to - pretty much the same format, just a different 'farm' that it's off of.

Can you link to the original flickr page of that photo? Because as far as I can see, that photo doesn't exist. It was probably deleted or made private, etc.
posted by vacapinta at 9:02 PM on November 15, 2011

Nthing everyone else: Flickr URLs are designed to not change unless you do something to change them, which is why they have the "secret" in them. More information here:
posted by migurski at 12:24 AM on November 16, 2011

Response by poster: As far as examples (though I've fixed the others), my About page originally had This photo on it, but the URL changed and now I have the familiar currently unavailable message. I didn't change anything about the photo (it's an older photo and I have no reason to tag/privatize/whatever it). Recently the same has happened on a post that I have drafted: this photo was available at, but moved to with zero user interaction.
posted by tmcw at 12:25 AM on November 16, 2011

As long as you haven't had your account made restricted for any reason (the only thing I can think of that hasn't already been covered) I see no reason for that link to break. It is - quite definitely - not how flickr is supposed to work.

I appreciate that you are annoyed by this but if you can get the information together (including time lines) contacting the Help Forum or Help by Email (both from links at the bottom of the flickr page) may shed some light. This may be some kind of bug or it may be from some activity on your account you forgot about, or it may be something that needs awareness from Flickr's end.

If you get that fixed/resolved, then you'd not need an alternative, which is possibly the least effort on your part.
posted by Brockles at 5:38 AM on November 16, 2011

This photo:

Shows a 'taken on' date of 3 days ago - one day after it was posted, bizarrely. When are you saying that it moved server farms? Within the last three days? That is really unlikely (if everything is working as it should).

Are you absolutely sure you haven't replaced or modified it on the site (even with Picnik)? The data on the site suggests something happened to it the day after you uploaded it (ie after the photopage and initial URL was created).

I have seen weird time stamp issues before (often time zone related) so I wonder if that screws something up?
posted by Brockles at 5:43 AM on November 16, 2011

Response by poster: I thought I had this figured out - I was renaming photos on Flickr, and then Aperture, every time that I started it up, was renaming them back to the ugly photo names. Thanks, Aperture!

But, after realizing this problem and getting codes for images after Aperture has synced, images are still shuffling around. Possibly Aperture is just terribly irresponsible and randomly messing things up, or...
posted by tmcw at 7:58 PM on November 19, 2011

Aperture is controlling your flickr account? Well that then could be why it is being messed with from a user perspective (ie 'by you' but not actually BY you, if you know what I mean).
posted by Brockles at 2:42 PM on November 20, 2011

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