Flickr: The Once and Future Photo Phenom

Photography enthusiasts are no doubt aware of Flickr, the online community where millions of people share and embed personal photos. The popular site is where you can find images of everything from insect portraits to college hoops.

Once the undisputed king of photo sharing, Flickr would fall into years of decline. But in recent months, the site seems to have regained its mojo.

Almost certainly the best

Describing itself as “almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world,” Flickr has two stated goals: to help us make our photos available to those who matter to us, and to help us find new ways of organizing photos and video.

Flickr dates back to 2004 when it was launched by a Canadian company called Ludicorp. The site became immensely popular with bloggers in its early days. Yahoo acquired the site in 2005 and, by some accounts, ruined a good thing over the years amidst the rise of sites like Facebook and Instagram. (If you can stand the gore, read Gizmodo’s Flickr story that describes how Yahoo “bought it and murdered it and screwed itself out of relevance along the way.”)

Imagine millions of images

Despite the harsh criticisms, Yahoo deserves credit for the resurgence of Flickr in recent months. Some observers have credited new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer for listening to the clamor to save Flickr after she took the helm of the search engine that’s trying to become more of a player in the search space.

Early this year, Yahoo announced that Flickr photos are now showing up in Yahoo image searches. In the announcement blog post, Yahoo said that tens of millions of photos are now ours to reuse and repost under Creative Commons terms.

This came on the heels of a rave review in Mashable of Flickr’s updated iPhone app that comes with 15 photo filters and is integrated with Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare; in addition, the app enabled Facebook uploads for the first time. Another strong review of the iOS app came from Wired, which followed up two months later with the story titled, “Flickr is Back, Letting Us Go Home Again.”

In a similar vein, the New York Times Bits blog declared that as Facebook and Instagram face their own challenges, “Flickr Has the Opportunity to Become the Next Flickr” – the place where we all go to share beautiful images online.

So what are your thoughts about Flickr? Do you think it’s “almost certainly the best” site for sharing images, or does it still have a way to go? If it’s not the best, which photo community do you prefer? We’d love to hear your thoughts.