Back in 2009, Yahoo’s venerable and popular Flickr photo-sharing service released an iPhone app. It was a decent enough first try. But it’s hardly changed since — even though nearly everything else about taking, sharing and viewing photos with an iPhone has changed a lot in the interim. (iPhone owners have phones which take radically better snapshots than they did three years ago, and thanks to apps such as Instagram, they do more with them.)
Today, Yahoo is releasing an all-new free version of Flickr’s iPhone incarnation. The app — which I got a sneak peek at earlier this week — has many more features and feels far more up-to-date than its predecessor. But it’s not a reimagination of what Flickr should be; instead, it offers more of the familiar desktop-browser version of the service, scaled down to fit on a phone.
The app now has an interface designed for more addictive browsing: You swipe up and down to peruse the photo streams of various people, and left and right to step through a particular person’s images. “Flip around” a photo and you can see its EXIF data, such as the type of camera which took it; rotate it into landscape orientation, and it expands to fill the screen.
The section that pulls together photos from all over Flickr which have been identified by an algorithm as being “interesting” now formats them in a Pinterest-like justified view, neatly arranging multiple pictures on each line. And discussions associated with Flickr groups — here’s one on Canon SLR cameras — now show up in the app, making it a place to share photographic knowledge as well as photographs.
Features for taking photos have been thoroughly modernized: You can now apply Instagram-esque filters and use editing tools to crop and otherwise tweak your images before you upload them. Aviary — the same company which powers Twitter’s new filters — worked with Yahoo on these capabilities.
For now, this new Flickr is available only on the iPhone, although the browser version of the service is getting some updates as well, including a streamlined interface and a justified view for Interesting photos, which looks like the one in the iOS app. Yahoo is also working on an iPad version and an update for the Android edition.
Last may, Mat Honan wrote a sad and compelling story for Gizmodo about Flickr’s decline, fall and general failure to matter as much in the mobile era as it once did on the desktop. He pointed out that the iOS version was only the 64th most popular photo app for iOS and wrote “today, it all seems too late.” The new version won’t miraculously turn the service into the iPhone phenomenon it might have been. Still, if you ever loved Flickr, this much more ambitious mobile manifestation should remind you why you were smitten with it in the first place.