San Francisco -- Yahoo-owned Flickr, late last week unveiled its “radically revamped” mobile video-sharing site that makes the popular website more social and easier to use on the move. The improved version, in addition to some improvements to the mobile site’s user interface, the update adds video playback capability now available Apple iPhone and iPod Touch handsets users and offers the capability to upload or download videos from their mobile phones.
Flickr embedded video capability to m.flickr.com early this year, and while users could upload short videos from their cell phones, they could not actually watch them from their mobile devices -- something previously missing from the Flickr mobile experience.
Currently, the revamped offering has been available in beta to select iPhone users since October and is now available to all iPhone and iPod Touch users since last week, but support for additional handsets will be quickly expanded to other “smartphones” equipped with Opera or Firefox mobile browsers for surfing the Internet with streaming capabilities will be added in the coming weeks, Flickr said.
“Now we are expanding the experience to any smartphone devices that supports browsers like Webkit, Firefox Mobile, and Opera Mobile,” according to a Yahoo blog post.
A powerful mobile experience is a must for the photo-sharing site, especially now as innumerable camera-equipped mobile devices become ubiquitous. Almost every person carries around personal photos and short videos on their phones, and the folks at Flickr are eager to make it easier for more people to share these things online.
And similarly the interface improvements themselves are numerous. There is a new menu structure that gives better visibility to the site’s social features, like recent activity of your contacts and the latest entries in the “Interestingness” pool of photos from the entire community. The upgrade also includes a renewed interface that simplifies access to photo albums, and allows users to add contacts, favorite images, and change your privacy and permission settings from their phones, Flickr said.
“The modifications are significantly in line with the re-dressing Flickr gave to its standard front-door in September of this year.”
Flickr mobile is being tailored for Nokia N series mobile telephones as well as “Google phones” based on the open-source Android operating platform backed by the Internet search powerhouse.
“More and more of our members are approaching to Flickr on mobile devices, and this is an acknowledgment of that change,”" Flickr senior product manager Shanan Delp said while discussing the changes at the Yahoo-owned website.
The number of mobile users visiting Flickr has increased by 50 percent this year and Delp anticipates that trend to accelerate. Early this year, Flickr started allowing users with “Pro” accounts upload videos to the globally popular photo-sharing website.
“We have also added a bunch of new capabilities, like letting you add contacts, favorite images, and change your privacy and permission settings all while you are out walking the dog,” Flickr general manager Kakul Srivastava said in a statement.
Flickr does come with a price for video sharing and extra features. The Flickr mobile enhancements allows those members, who pay a 25 dollar fee to upgrade from free accounts, upload or download videos from smart phones and exchange text comments with people they allow to view the snippets.
Any Flickr user can watch videos at the website provided that whoever uploaded the material grants them access.
Yahoo Video technology was put to work at Flickr to allow “progressive downloading” of video files to mobile devices as opposed to real-time streaming that does not require digitized data to be stored in handsets.
“We think that is the developing standard as best way to deliver these files to phones or computers,” Delp said of progressive downloads of video.
Also, Delp says, the web experience is core to Yahoo’s philosophy.
“We are a company that produces and presents good webapps,” he says. “This approach is universal, not proprietary. And it is easier for us to support more browsers.”
Flickr mobile features a main page with tabs that enables users to easily check image updates and feedback from friends, as well empowering them to do most of the things they could if they were visiting the website from desktop computers.
“We want our members to think of this as an infinite feedback loop where they take pictures, share them with friends instantly and hear back immediately,” Delp said.
“It is almost like lifecasting -- sharing whatever you see in the world instantaneously.”
The company asserts that it eventually intends on opening up the video transcoder platform for use by independent publishers and developers.
But, for now, let us enjoy the elegant, high-quality mobile video experience that does not use Flash. Bravo!