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Flickr, the longtime, online photo-sharing community that has changed hands a few times in its 14-year history, has been acquired by SmugMug, the independent photo-sharing and storage company.

USA Today first reported the news on Friday afternoon, and a visit to my own Flickr page brought up a large banner announcing the change. “We’re all shooting for the same thing,” the announcement read. “A place where perspective is shared, not forced. A place where photographers belong.”

Flickr, which was started by Vancouver, B.C.-based Ludicorp in 2004, was acquired by Yahoo in 2005. The site became part of Verizon in 2017 (and then its subsidiary Oath) when that company acquired Yahoo for $4.5 billion.

Along the way, with the rise of new social media channels, including Facebook and the photo-dominant Instagram, it’s always seemed like Flickr could disappear at any moment. Yahoo was widely criticized for letting a pioneering idea languish for years. This Gizmodo piece from 2012 was making the rounds again on Friday after SmugMug’s announcement.

As someone with 20,000 images on the platform after 12 years of membership, it’s always been a terrifying possibility for me to comprehend losing those images or having to go through some painstaking process of migrating them to another platform. But I stuck around, uploading and hoping for eventual change which would reinvigorate the site.

SmugMug said Flickr will continue to operate separately and CEO Don MacAskill told USA Today he’s committed to breathing new life into what the newspaper called a faded social networking pioneer.

“Flickr is an amazing community, full of some of the world’s most passionate photographers,” MacAskill said. “It’s a fantastic product and a beloved brand, supplying tens of billions of photos to hundreds of millions of people around the world. Flickr has survived through thick-and-thin and is core to the entire fabric of the internet.”

In its own blog post, the Flickr team said it was “very excited” about the move.

“After nearly 14 years at Yahoo and Oath, we’re moving to a smaller, more photography-focused family, which we think will be great for Flickr and for you,” Flickr said. “SmugMug is dedicated to photography and to photographers, and has been since 2002.”

While terms of the deal were not disclosed, here are a couple key answers for users from a FAQ shared by both companies:

  • What will happen to my Flickr account? What will happen to my Smugmug account? Absolutely nothing. Flickr and SmugMug will continue to operate separately, just as both have been. Your SmugMug and Flickr accounts will remain separate and independent for the foreseeable future. Both Flickr and SmugMug users will continue to log in with their current credentials and you will have the same experience you are used to. If things do change in the future for Flickr, we’ll be as transparent as possible about the process and give you as much notice as we can about the issues that will matter to you.
  • Will anything happen to my photos? Will they be moved? No, you’ll still be able to access your photos as you do currently and they’ll retain the same Flickr or SmugMug URL as always. Over time, we’ll be migrating Flickr onto SmugMug’s technology infrastructure, and your Flickr photos will move as a part of this migration — but the photos themselves will remain on Flickr.

No immediate changes are planned and free Flickr accounts will remain in place. Pricing for pro Flickr accounts will also remain unchanged, SmugMug said. Flickr users will also be required to accept SmugMug’s terms of service.

Kevin Lisota, GeekWire’s resident photography professional, said that he’s hosted a professional photo website on SmugMug for many years.

“I’ve been an on-and-off user of Flickr, though recently I’ve not participated there,” Lisota said. “Flickr has languished for years under Yahoo, and after Verizon bought Yahoo, my confidence in Flickr staying around dwindled. But SmugMug seems like a great home. If they eventually tie the two together, I’d love to have seamless integration between my SmugMug site and what I share to Flickr.”

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