Launched in 2004 and later acquired by Yahoo, Flickr is an image (and recently video) hosting website that allows users to post, share, and comment on each other's content. These photos are organized by user-submitted tags, which generate emergent folksonomies of thematically linked photos. Users can also create photo pools, which allow others to submit images into publicly available repositories. Notably, the site also allows for Creative Commons licensing support in its service, allowing creators to share certain rights for usage of their photos with others. As of late 2007, the site hosts over two billion images.
Some relatively outdated statistics suggest that, by 2005, the site had acquired 775,000 registered users, though judging by Flickr's growth in the 2 years since then, this number is likely no longer accurate. Furthermore, data on how this user base is distributed worldwide remains unclear. However, Flickr has been notably used by activists to compile and publicize events. Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody details the role played by Flickr in circulating photos of political protests in Belarus (p. 167). Similarly, Flickr users organized onsite protests against Microsoft's attempted buyout of Yahoo in 2008.
Users can choose to release their work under any of the available Creative Commons licenses.
Flickr has also published its shapefile dataset online, waiving all copyright restrictions via the CC0 public domain waiver. A shapefile is a file containing shapes mathematically generated by thousands of Flickr geotagged photos of particular neighborhoods, countries, and continents. Shapefile data has been used to reverse-engineer maps with user generated longitude and latitude coordinates that are then demarcated by Where-On-Earth IDs, "unique numeric identifiers that correspond to the hierarchy of places where a photo was taken: the neighbourhood, the town, the county, and so on up to the continent."
Jon Phillips, who worked closely with Flickr on CC integration, commented that open licensing was useful in "providing an interface with the rest of the world and the blogosphere without having to ask permission. It provided, in short, a clear path to usage."
On releasing its shapefile dataset via the CC0 public domain waiver, Flickr gives the following reasons:
- We want people (developers, researchers and anyone else who wants to play) to find new and interesting ways to use the shapefiles and we recognize that, in many cases, this means having access to the entire dataset.
- We want people to feel both comfortable and confident using this data in their projects and so we opted for a public domain license so no one would have to spend their time wondering about the issue of licensing. We also think the work that the Creative Commons crew is doing is valuable and important and so we chose to release the shapefiles under the CC0 waiver as a show of support.
- We want people to create their own shapefiles and to share them so that other people (including us!) can find interesting ways to use them. We’re pretty sure there’s something to this “shapefile stuff” even if we can’t always put our finger on it so if publishing the dataset will encourage others to do the same then we’re happy to do so.
Some collections from Creative Commmons affiliates give a good sense of the type of material collected: