Must-see images from Sochi Olympics: Day 6

Shaun White crashing out of the medals and more from day 6 of the Sochi Olympics.

TIME Technologizer

Flickr Turns 10: The Rise, Fall and Revival of a Photo-Sharing Community

The Flickr homepage as it appeared in 2004, the year of the service's birth
The Flickr homepage as it appeared in 2004, the year of the service's birth Flickr

In 2004, Flickr helped create the modern web -- then almost got left behind by it.

If you happened to be at the O’Reilly Emerging Tech Conference in San Diego 10 years ago today, on February 10, 2004, you had the opportunity to witness a meaningful moment in the history of the web — though I doubt that anyone in attendance realized it at the time.

The creators of a Vancouver, B.C.-based startup called Ludicorp Research & Development were at the conference mostly in order to talk about the technology behind Game Neverending, an online virtual world they were building. But while they were there, they also unveiled their side project. It was a tool for sharing photos, and they called it Flickr.

Game Neverending
Art for Game Neverending, ‘s short-lived predecessor Flickr

What they showed that day wasn’t quite the Flickr that was soon to become a phenomenon. Instead, it was a service that melded chat rooms with real-time photo sharing. Features for less instantaneous communications quickly elbowed out the original concept, which got renamed FlickrLive and then disappeared entirely. (Game Neverending, meanwhile, never got out of beta.)

Founded by Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake, who were married at the time, Ludicorp didn’t invent photo sharing. Actually, Flickr arrived years after the first three big names in the category: Ofoto, Shutterfly and Snapfish, all of which debuted in 1999. But with those sites, the online sharing was a come-on for their real business, which was selling prints of digital photos. On Flickr, sharing wasn’t a loss leader. It was the whole idea.

Back in 2004, the sort of rich online environment for social interaction that Flickr and other newcomers were inventing was so new that people started talking about “Web 2.0,” a term that started out sounding futuristic but soon became redundant, since its influence was everywhere. No Web 2.0 site was more important than Flickr; it debuted just six days after Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his Harvard dorm room, and at first, it wasn’t clear that Butterfield and Fake’s photo-sharing site wasn’t the bigger deal. Even its name, with the missing final vowel, provided inspiration to countless other startups.

in its earliest, more chat room-like form Flickr

Earlier photo sites were mostly concerned with letting you put your pictures in front of friends and family. Flickr did that, too. But from the start, it was building a community of photo lovers around the world who wanted to share images with other photo lovers, as well as thousands of special interest sub-communities. It was about storytelling.

In the first few months after the service launched, it received updates more or less continuously, and got many of the features that would define it. Such as:

April 21: Photostreams, which let users peruse each others’ images in reverse-chronological order — a major shift from past photo-sharing sites, which always assumed that everybody was meticulously organizing photos into albums.

April 26: A version of the site designed for viewing on mobile phones. (From the get-go, Flickr catered to people who took pictures with their phones — one early user brought a camera phone into the delivery room to get pictures of her newborn onto Flickr A.S.A.P.)

May 9: Tags, which allowed members to attach relevant keywords to photos — their own, or other people’s– thereby creating a massive user-generated index of images that information architect Thomas Vander Wal famously called a “folksonomy.”

August 27: Favorites, which, like tags, helped users tell Flickr what was popular on the service.

These features didn’t just shape Flickr. They helped reshape the entire web, which was still figuring out how social applications should work. (At the time, Friendster, Facebook and MySpace were getting good buzz, but you couldn’t do much with them — Facebook didn’t even add photo-sharing capabilities until October 2005.)

Oh, yeah, one other thing happened to Flickr early on: It was bought by Yahoo in March of 2005, reportedly for a price around $35 million, as part of a Web 2.0 spending spree that also saw the venerable web giant pick up other pioneering sites such as bookmarking tool Delicious and event-lister Upcoming.

“When Yahoo first approached us eons ago, we were pretty skeptical,” explained Fake on Flickr’s community forum. “But after meeting the people on the Yahoo team and getting a picture of where they were going, we got religion. Maybe that’s too strong. We realized we were all eating at the same church potluck.”

Things did go well at first under Yahoo ownership. Flickr’s greatest days of glory may have come in the first couple of years after the acquisition: It just kept getting new features, and grew massive as the photo-taking masses flooded in. (Including me: I joined in August 2005.)

photos in 2007, organized by “interestingness.” Flickr

Still, even as Flickr boomed, it didn’t sit at the center of Yahoo’s social strategy. From the very beginning, its creators had envisioned it becoming a multipurpose platform for sharing and collaboration, and talked about it adding features like video and music. But except for video, which arrived in 2008, Flickr didn’t venture very far beyond its roots. Yahoo conducted its broader-based forays into social networking elsewhere, such as with Yahoo 360°, a service, dense with features, which seemed to have everything except a soul.

In 2008, both Fake and Butterfield left Yahoo. (As he departed, Butterfield earned additional fame by writing the best resignation letter of all time.) Flickr continued without them, but didn’t exactly flourish — because Yahoo itself wasn’t flourishing. The company knew that it was engaging in an epic battle with Google, but didn’t seem to be able to articulate to anyone, including itself, what that meant for it and its properties. As it burned through CEOs like the world’s unluckiest gambler, Flickr began to fester.

It wasn’t that opportunity wasn’t there, just that others seized it. Facebook became by far the most popular way to share photos for people who didn’t consider themselves serious photographers. YouTube owned user-generated video, period. Instagram established itself as the preeminent phone-based social network for shutterbugs. Dropbox rethought how photos, and everything else, could be stored online.

By early 2011, when Yahoo was busy thinning out the herd of services it had created or acquired — including Delicious, another legend of Web 2.0 — there were ugly rumors that it might shutter or sell Flickr. They turned out to be spurious, but the fact that anyone took them seriously was a sign of its decline.

In May 2012, Gizmodo’s Mat Honan wrote a long, despairing piece called “How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet.” As that title suggests, it felt like an obituary — certainly for Flickr, and maybe for Yahoo, too. Honan did contemplate the possibility of the photo-sharing service reversing its fortunes, but concluded that it seemed unlikely.

And who could blame him? On the web, once something flounders, the chances of it restoring itself to some semblance of relevance are slim. (Just ask the people currently in charge of Friendster and MySpace.)

But Flickr, it turns out, is not dead — not yet. A couple of months after Honan’s obit, jaws all over Silicon Valley crashed to the floor when Yahoo lured iconic Google executive-engineer Marissa Mayer to be its new CEO. Intuitively, it seemed possible that she might care more about Flickr than her immediate predecessors had. On behalf of the entire Internet, a Flickr fan named Sean Bonner even launched a site called Dear Marissa Mayer with one simple request: “Please make Flickr awesome again.”

And in the Mayer regime, Flickr has indeed snapped out of its long slumber. Yahoo has released nicely-done apps for iPhone and Android, bringing the service into the modern mobile era. It also unveiled a much more contemporary-feeling redesign and started offering a terabyte of space for free — a mammoth amount of space even by current standards.

in 2014 Flickr

With the 1TB upgrade, Flickr now lets everybody see all their photos, rather than hiding all but the most recent 200 ones, as it had long done for non-paying customers. For me, at least, rediscovering hundreds of images I’d forgotten I’d uploaded in the first place reminded me why I’d been drawn to Flickr in the first place.

Not everybody loves the new Flickr — there’s even a Flickr group dedicated to complaining about it. But as with any product, the fact that it inspires passion is ultimately a good sign. It’s apathy that’s deadly.

The service’s new vision is the old Flickr vision, retooled for 2014 and beyond. “When we think about the competitive landscape, yes, there are a lot of photo services out there,” says Markus Spiering, Flickr’s head of product. “But Flickr is Flickr. Our goal and our strategy is to build the best possible photo product in the world. What we are building is something that helps users with their photos really holistically.”

That means more features, which means more engineers. “We scaled up the team,” says Spiering. “We grew, just in 2013 alone, more than 140 percent, with a lot of new talent.” Hiring, he says, has been particularly focused on Flickr’s mobile incarnation. (The top four cameras used by Flickr photographers are all iPhones.)

This image uploaded by NASA may be the most popular Flickr photo of all time, with more than 5.5 million views so far. NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Even with more resources, Flickr can never again be what it once was: the undisputed leader in photo sharing. Along with Facebook and a bevy of other ways to put a picture on the web, it has to contend with the existence of Google+, which, with its particularly sophisticated photo-related features, feels a bit like what Flickr might have evolved into if it had never stopped aggressively expanding its horizons. (Perhaps not coincidentally, G+ honcho Bradley Horowitz is an ex-Yahoo who helped bring Flickr into the fold when he was at the company.)

According to Spiering, today’s Flickr has more than 10 billion photos (vs. more than 250 billion on Facebook — but who ever said quantity trumps quality?). It hosts 1.8 million groups, which are being joined by 50,000 new members a day. (I’m partial to the ones devoted to FujiFilm’s X100S camera and Polaroids.) Fascinating things continue to happen there, such as a formerly unknown species of insect being identified based on its Flickr portrait.

In short, it’s a place with interesting photos and an interesting community of users, which is what made Flickr matter in the first place.

Don’t underestimate the community part. “You think about Flickr, and yes, it’s photos and to a certain percentage, it’s videos,” says Spiering. “But I do think primarily, it’s about people. It’s about people you initially don’t know who become really important parts of your life.” If Flickr ends up having the sort of second act that’s so rare on the web, it’ll be because Yahoo continues to give those people reason to believe in it all over again.

TIME Photos

Swept Off Your Feet: This Is What 80mph Winds Are Doing In England

Swept Off Your Feet: This Is What 80mph Winds Are Doing In England
A man floats in the air as he uses his jacket to catch gale force winds as a storm hits the seafront at Sennen Cove at the Western tip of Cornwall, UK, Feb. 8, 2014. Mark Hemsworth—London News Pictures/Zumapress

Severe storms in Britain are bringing in gales of up to 80mph as large swathes of the country are dealing with floods and seemingly endless downpours. It’s all part of the wettest January in England since 1766, and much of the country has been under water for weeks.

But some, it seems, are weathering the storm by enjoying themselves.

[The Daily Mail]


5 Easy Ways to View Photos on Your TV

You probably already have everything you need.

Whether you’re sharing photos from a recent trip or traveling down memory lane, it’s hard to do your pictures justice on your smartphone or camera’s small screen. So why not take advantage of the big screen you already have—your TV?

It’s easy and you probably already have everything you need. Check out the following options to start viewing your pictures and videos on your TV.

1. Use your smart TV or streaming media player’s Internet apps.

If you have a smart TV with Internet apps, you can use a photo viewing app on your TV to access images you’ve stored on the web. Select the app center on your TV—i.e. Samsung Smart Hub, Vizio Internet Apps, Panasonic Viera Connect or LG Smart TV to name a few. Each manufacturer has a unique name for its service. Streaming media players, like Roku, also have apps that let you view photos stored on the web.

Once you’re in the app section, select a photo sharing service app, like Picasa or Flickr. After logging in, you can choose to view your photos—individually or in a slideshow—or photos that others are sharing across the web.

For videos, you can use YouTube. Don’t want strangers viewing your videos? You can always choose to make them private when you upload them.

2. Connect your smartphone via HDMI.


If you purchased a high-end Android phone within the last two years, like the Samsung Galaxy S 4, HTC One Max or LG 2, your phone may have a micro HDMI out port. In that case, seeing your photos is a simple matter of connecting your phone to your TV with a micro-HDMI-to-HDMI cable. For a basic cable, we like the one from BlueRigger ($6.99 on Amazon). For phones that support MHL (a variation of HDMI that allows your phone to draw power and send video simultaneously), we like the one from Skiva ($7.99 on Amazon). Check with your phone manufacturer to see if your smartphone supports micro HDMI or HDMI MHL.

3. Connect your smartphone or tablet wirelessly.

If you purchased a TV or video game console (i.e. Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4) and a smartphone within the last few years, they most likely have a wireless technology called DLNA (you can check for your model on dlna.org).

If your smartphone and TV are made by the same manufacturer, there’s likely a setting called screen mirroring (or something similar) on both devices. This will enable you to see whatever is on your smartphone on your TV. If your devices are made by different manufacturers, you’ll need to enable DLNA (also sometimes called Wi-Fi Direct) on your TV and load a DLNA app on your smartphone. We like iMediaShare Personal (free for iOS and Android).

For those that have an Apple TV and iPhone or iPad, you can use the AirPlay feature to share your photos and pictures with your TV. Or, if you have a Roku box, Chromecast (YouTube videos only) or another streaming media player, you can load that player’s app on your smartphone or tablet for sharing.

4. Use your phone or camera’s memory card.


Pop the memory card out of your camera or smartphone and put it into the TV’s SD card reader. Most flat panel TVs have an SD card reader. If you’re not sure whether yours does, your owner’s manual will tell you. For phones, you’ll need a microSD-to-SD card adapter, like the one from SanDisk ($3.49 on Amazon). For most TVs, inserting an SD card will launch the photo viewer.

5. Use a USB cable or flash drive.

Take the USB cable that came with your camera and use it to connect the camera to your TV’s USB port. Again, most flat panel TVs made over the last few years have a USB port. If your photos and videos are stored on your computer, you can copy them onto a USB flash drive and then insert the drive into your TV’s USB port. On most TVs, inserting the USB cable or flash drive will automatically launch the TV’s photo viewing app. From there, you can choose to view photos, videos or a combination of both. Manually scroll through or set your photos to music for a slideshow.

As you can see, there’s no reason to make everyone crowd around a tiny display when it’s so easy to share pictures on your big-screen TV.

This article was written by Suzanne Kantra and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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Evidence of War Crimes In Syria But No Prospect of Trials

A Free Syrian Army fighter offers evening prayers beside a damaged poster of Syria’s President Bashar Assad during heavy clashes with government forces in Aleppo, Syria, on Dec. 8, 2012. Narciso Contreras / AP

The trove of horrific photos that surfaced Monday purporting to document systematic torture, starvation and execution of prisoners by Syrian authorities is exactly the kind of evidence prosecutors look for when seeking to bring charges of crimes against humanity in international courts. Yet legal experts say any such trial is highly unlikely.

“The obvious route of justice here would be the International Criminal Court,” says Reed Brody, an expert on international justice at Human Rights Watch. The ICC was created in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2002 to prosecute exactly the kind of outrages the report lays out in the sort of chilling bureaucratic detail seen in previous war crime trials, from the prosecution of Nazi officers at Nuremberg onward. And even though Syria is not among the 122 nations that have made themselves accountable to the ICC its officials still could be referred to The Hague by a vote of the United Nations Security Council.

“And we believe obviously that that’s what should happen, considering the evidence that serious crimes have been committed in Syria,” Brody says. “The problem is the Russian nyet.”

As a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia can veto any action there. And as a backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Moscow has repeatedly blocked condemnations of human rights violations in the country — which would include appalling atrocities attributed to assorted rebel groups arrayed against the central government. The thwarted demands for justice included a letter signed by 58 nations a year ago to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC.

Russia – along with China, which frequently objects on principle to outside scrutiny of a state’s behavior toward its own people – also is in a position to prevent establishment of a U.N. court specifically devoted to prosecuting war crimes in Syria, as were established after wars in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and elsewhere.

There may be one other option: Under the legal concept of “universal jurisdiction,” courts in other nations sometimes prosecute severe human rights abuses. In 1998, Gen. Augusto Pinochet was arrested in Britain for a warrant issued in Spain charging the former Chilean ruler with torturing Spanish citizens while in power. “But this is also a long shot, because many countries that have universal jurisdiction legislation place conditions on its use,” says Yuval Shany, an expert on international law at Hebrew University Law School, where he is dean.

And then there’s the question of the strength of the evidence – some 55,000 photos showing 11,000 bodies, nearly 10 percent of the death toll of the entire war – first published by The Guardian and CNN. Would it help convict Assad, or other senior Syrian officials, if a case were brought?

“This is horizontal evidence of the crime base, as opposed to vertical evidence that links the people on top to the crime,” says Brody, who spoke en route to Senegal, where he is supporting the prosecution in a special court of Hissene Habre on charges of systematic torture and executions when he ruled Chad. “Obviously Assad didn’t kill any of these people, but at a certain point things become so overwhelming it becomes hard to imagine that the leader didn’t know about this.”

Shany was less confident. He did not question the veracity of the report, which was prepared by three highly respected experts on war crimes, nor its funding by Qatar, a Gulf state supporting rebels in the Syrian civil war. The problem, Shany says, is legal precedents emerging in recent judgments, specifically the 2012 acquittal on appeal of two Croatian generals earlier convicted of targeting Serb civilians by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

“It’s tough, and it’s becoming tougher” to convict senior officials for war crimes, says Shany. The Croatia case “raised the bar for command responsibility – from a negligence to an awareness standard.”

At the ICC, the only head of state convicted so far of war crimes is former Liberian President Charles Taylor, now serving a sentence of 50 years. But then, as incumbent Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has complained in his own trial, so far only Africans have faced prosecution before the ICC. That appears to be partly because so many African countries – 33 – have submitted themselves to its jurisdiction. But Shany says it may also reflect the “geopolitical reality” that African countries are less likely to have a protector on the Security Council.

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