Yahoo Photos closes, but not in China

Yahoo’s photo service closed for good on 18 October in favour of the Flickr photo sharing site, also owned by Yahoo. Users had been given some warning, and were given the option of transferring their photos to Flickr or to another photo-sharing site, or ordering a CD with all their images on it. Many users are annoyed by this move as it was possible to store a greater number of photos at Yahoo Photos without paying for a “Pro” account.

However, a separate Yahoo photos service is still up and running for users in China. Could this possibly be because Flickr is blocked in China?

If you try to visit the former Yahoo Photos homepage, you will be asked to log in to Yahoo if you aren’t already. You will then see a message saying that Yahoo Photos is closed. If you try to view a photo that used to be in a user’s album, you will either see the same message, or will see a message saying the account is locked. Yahoo albums included in Yahoo! 360 pages either show a broken image icon, or display the thumbnail which just takes the user to one of the messages described above when it is clicked. Yahoo are probably going to replace the photo function of Yahoo! 360 with Flickr at some point, but at the moment it looks quite bad.

Chinese user’s albums, however, are still up and running. There are hundreds of thousands of pages on Yahoo Photos China appears to be integrated with a blog and other features. However, if visitors are logged into non-Chinese Flickr accounts, when they try to view a China user’s gallery, they are redirected to the “Yahoo! Photos is now closed” message in their own locale, making it difficult to view photos belonging to Chinese users. If a photo page is accessed directly, by clicking it on a blog page or following a link from a search engine, it can be viewed, and the gallery browsed using “next” and “previous” links. Browsing top-level albums, however, is only possible after logging out of Yahoo. You can try it yourself by visiting any of the albums found by a Google search.

If anyone who doesn’t know otherwise tried to view a Chinese user’s Yahoo album, they would believe it had been closed down along with services in other countries. I don’t use any Yahoo services other than Flickr, yet they had remembered my details and took me to the “closed” message. Yahoo seem to think that people only ever view photos from people in their own country. Yet again, this is an example of corporations putting barriers between users in different parts of the world in what used to be the world-wide web, just as they are attempting to do with online radio.

Yahoo might not be entirely responsible for Flickr being blocked in China (although given their attitude towards it, they are not entirely blameless); but that doesn’t mean they have to prevent the rest of the world from viewing photos from China. And the very fact that they have a separate photo service for China shows that they are accepting that Flickr will not be usable from that country for the foreseeable future.

I am going to re-think my own use of Flickr, and may well return to hosting all my photos myself. I’m not happy with Yahoo’s business practices. But also, the closing of Yahoo Photos – a popular site that hosted around 2 billion photos – shows that if you rely on a particular external service, you can never be sure that the service won’t change significantly or even disappear completely. Instead of paying for a Flickr Pro account, perhaps my money would be better spent on increased web hosting capacity. At least my site is visible to visitors from every country. I suppose it could always fall victim to state censorship, but not to arbitrary segregation by a commercial company.

As a footnote, I should add that obviously I can’t test Yahoo sites and accounts in combinations of every locale. So please let me know if there are any other Yahoo Photos sites up and running, or if you notice any restrictions placed on Yahoo users from a particular country.

One response to “Yahoo Photos closes, but not in China”

  1. My Ghillie » Yahoo Photos closes, but not in China Pingback

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