An Interview with Flickr’s Eric Costello (Adaptive Path)

At User Experience Week, August 22-25 in Washington, D.C., Eric Costello will join us for a talk on the evolution of Flickr, the wildly successful photo sharing site that has become one of the most talked-about examples of the next generation of Web applications. Adaptive Path’s Jesse James Garrett recently talked with Eric about Flickr’s past, present, and future.

Jesse James Garrett: Give us a quick preview of what you’ll be talking about in D.C.

Eric Costello: I’m going to give a short history of Flickr, from its beginnings as a massively multiplayer online game called The Game Neverending, and slowly morphing over time into the Web app for photo sharing we now call Flickr. I think this will give some insight into the reason that Flickr works the way it does.


JJG: How old is Flickr now?

EC: We launched it in February of 2004, so it’s about a year and a half old. But it’s radically different now than it was at that time.

JJG: It’s pretty unusual for an application to change so radically in such a short period of time. What drove this rapid evolution of Flickr?

EC: That’s an interesting question. When we first launched Flickr, it was a Flash application that was mainly just a chat environment with real-time photo sharing. So it was quite limited in what you could do.

It wasn’t a photo sharing site, so much as it was a place where you could go to chat and talk about photos. But none of that activity was stored in any asynchronous way – there were no Web pages that hosted the conversations people were having about photos, it was all just real-time.

We wanted to extend that into the Web, so that everything that could be done in the Flash chat environment could be done on the site itself. User feedback also drove a lot of the decisions about features. We had user forums very early on and people told us what they wanted. (more…)