"Photography helps people to see."— Berenice Abbott
When I became a member of Canadian-built Flickr in 2005, the community's self-managed groups were part of the big attraction. Many of us met people with similar photography styles or interests and Flickr helped us to easily form public or members-only groups. We'd create regular photo missions, challenges and themes for our group's members; often helping each other to improve our photography technique. I formed a group with two other photographers I'd never met in person that focused on "colour photos of white objects." Through Flickr, photography became a daily hobby again, and I saw the world's beauty every day through the eyes of other members.
Community. Creativity. Groups. Ties. History. Friendship. Friendly competition. Variety ... these are the things that bind us together and bring us back. After a while, Flickr isn't primarily about photography, it's about sharing and connecting through photos and stories.
With Marissa Meyer at Yahoo's helm, Flickr has been given some much-needed love. It was languishing as innovative upstarts like Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest took market share. The Flickr makeover has been great: increased storage space, better UI in some cases (with some serious glitches still to be solved), a real app for uploading and browsing, etc. However, the revamped Groups function is very difficult to find on the site's menus and I wonder if new members will even realize it exists.
As of mid-2013, Flickr had ~87 million users and Instagram had over ~150 million users. With Flickr's changed interface and Instagram's addition of advertising, the platform that builds the most robust and delightful community tools and spaces will no doubt win. I use both Flickr and Instagram, but I'm rooting for Flickr!