In case you missed this, TechCrunch posted this story today about what happens when Flickr deletes an account. Flickr Pro user Mirco Wilhelm was unable to log onto his account yesterday. When he inquired about the issue, he was informed that Flickr had accidentally flushed his entire Flickr Pro account — that’s over 4,000 pictures and 5 years of history.

Robin Wauters writes in the post:

Apparently Wilhelm reported a Flickr user with an account that held ‘obviously stolen material’ to the company last weekend, but a staff member erroneously incinerated his account instead of the culprit’s.

I’ve never been a big Flickr user, but I had always assumed a simple click of the button couldn’t delete an account and its content altogether, rather than simply deactivate it.

It never occurred to me that a team member could just wipe out accounts without the means to reactivate them if it turned out to be a mistake.

And what about backups for Christ’s sake?

The entire post is a good read. Read through the comments as well. They’re a great read also.

Flickr is the online posting service of many an iPhoneographer, including myself and Life In LoFi. It’s ubiquitous — linked into just about every major service and photo app. The community on Flickr is unrivaled, even by Facebook. Flickr is essentially the biggest social network for photographers.

This raises some interesting questions about Flickr. Yahoo! is on pretty shaky ground right now financially and are purging or closing down many of their unprofitable units. As a part of Yahoo!, how does this effect the long-term outlook for Flickr? If anything happens to Yahoo!, what happens to our photographs on Flickr?

In this instance, it’s probably very unlikely that Flickr will disappear overnight without any warning at all. In the past, Yahoo! has been very good about giving multiple notices of service changes or closures. It would still be a huge pain, though, to have to download and migrate all of our images to a new host. In that instance, we lose all of the invaluable connections, the comments, the groups that our photographs have been collecting over time.

My first thoughts about this post when I heard about it were “What about backups? Surely there has to be backups, right?” One would think that Yahoo! would keep multiple redundant backups somewhere in case of a catastrophic server crash. Apparently not. If they are unable to restore a single wiped account, how safe are our images from a true catastrophic server failure like the one that hit the T-Mobile SideKick servers a couple of years ago?

This isn’t meant to cause a panic. At this time, I’ve heard nothing about any changes at Flickr. And if Yahoo! were to shed the unit, odds are that it would sell for quite a chunk of change before getting closed down. I’m proceeding like my photos are safe for the time being.

Love it or hate it, currently, there is nothing that is as big, easy and omnipresent as Flickr. I don’t have any recommendations of other photo hosting sites with the presence, power and community that Flickr has. This story serves as another reminder that no matter how much we take for granted our stuff in the cloud will be safe, we don’t really know who’s protecting our data or how safe it actually is.

Do you use another photo hosting service besides Flickr? Let us know and share your experiences in the comments below.



Thank you, Stacy Anderson, for the heads up on this post.