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The Good Guys Win One

This has been covered extensively already (Slashdot, boing boing, AP), but let me be the latest to congratulate the team at Ludicorp, makers of the wildly popular photo sharing service Flickr, on their acqusition by Yahoo, announced yesterday. This is special for me because I served as a member of Ludicorp's Board of Directors over the last year, and thus had the chance to watch closely (albeit from afar) as Stewart Butterfield, Caterina Fake, and the entire Flickr team built something out of nothing.

This is from a message that Stewart sent me 22 November 2003 (I don't think he'd mind this excerpt being posted). At the time, Ludicorp was focused on its social networking game, GNE.

So, I am back & there is not too much to report from NYC...

I would like to talk to you again though -- while there, I had what I think was a pretty awesome idea to leverage the software that we have right now -- maybe 4 weeks of additions and we could have a full blown instant photo sharing site with all kinds of awesome group and social networking capabilities (tentatively called 'Flicker').

For those of you who are software entrepreneurs, this probably sounds pretty familiar. "We have this great new idea! And we can do it in a month!" Goodness knows I've been down that path myself many, many times. The amazing thing was that, after a bit of thought and planning, Stewart and the team actually did it. Flickr went public as a beta site 20 February 2004 -- not much more than a month after work was started on it.

One of the most interesting aspects of being involved (in a small way) with Flickr has been to watch how the team took a space -- photo sharing -- that was considered played out and showed that it hadn't really been done right at all. Ofoto, Shutterfly, and the like had been around for a while, but they were conceived as mechanisms to enable photo print purchasing. Stewart and the team saw Flickr from the start as a open-architecture Web service. Every time they had a decision to make that involved greater or lesser degrees of openness, they chose more openness -- and those decisions led to the creation of an ecosystem around Flickr.

So what have we learned from Flickr? How about this?

Open API Web services + open data repositories = Web ecosystems
Or something like that. Stewart has been talking about this with vastly more authority.

On a more personal note, I couldn't be happier for Stewart, Caterina, and the entire Flickr team. They're smart, they've worked like hell to get where they are, and I can't think of a more deserving group of people. The good guys win one! Congratulations, Flickrites!

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