One of my favorite websites right now is the photo storage and display site Flickr (www.flickr.com). Yahoo bought the site, which originally started in Vancouver in 2004, on March 2005 for somewhere around $20 to $30 million dollars. Since then the search engine giant has struggled to figure out a way to monetize Flickr, as its monthly bandwidth and storage costs are incredibly high. While no fantastical scheme to make money from the free photo site has materialized the Yahoo / Flickr integration has provided one cool new feature, geotagging.
Tagging is the ability to add specialized bits of data to the photos that you upload to Flickr to make them easier to search. This data can include the type of camera you used to take the pictures, key words to describe the contents of the picture and the date and time the picture was taken. Geotagging allows the geographical data associated with a picture to be added to photos on Flickr, with the use of Yahoo Maps a massive worldwide online map. Just find where your picture was taken on the map and drag and drop it and then presto it's geotagged.
Now why would you want to geotag your photos? Well aside from making it easier for stalkers to track your real world movements, it's an interesting way to allow your friends, relatives and even yourself to interact with your photos. Want to see all the photos your daughter took during her trip to Cuba? Simply go to their Flickr account, pull up their map and you can see not only which photos were taken in Cuba but also where they were taken within a few feet. Want to see other people's photos that were taken at the same hostel that you stayed in Paris? Well simply pull up Paris and look at all user photos on the site for that specific area.
All joking about stalking aside Flickr does allow you to restrict access to both your photos and your map to only those people that you decide to allow into your circle of friends. As always you should be conscious of how much personal information you give out on the internet whether on Flickr or sites like MySpace (www.myspace.com) or Friendster (www.friendster.com).
Since launching the geotagging feature last week over three million pictures have been geotagged on Flickr. In Kelowna there are over 1,500 pictures already tagged, and more are being added every day. Pictures range from a couple's trip to Summerhill Winery, to weddings and even my girlfriend and I at the lake. Though I haven't yet found the photos of anyone I know through my random searching of Kelowna's map it's still a fascinating peak into the lives of those other people who either live in town or have visited for summer vacation.
While safety is always a concern when online the addition of geotagging to Flickr is a new and very cool tool for the photo website. A positive result of the multi-million dollar Yahoo buyout, the maps are one of the wave of cool new things appearing on the net. Now if only someone could figure out how to make money off of Flickr everything would be perfect.