Yahoo's 1TB of Flickr storage may signal bigger cloud plans

With Flickr now offering users 1TB of free photo storage, Yahoo may just be getting started when it comes to cloud storage.

When Flickr announced its 1TB free storage giveaway on Monday, the company said it was offering you enough storage to "take a photo every hour for forty years" without filling up your allotment. Not content to wait four decades, hackers are already figuring out how to pack their Flickr storage with more than just photos and videos.

Two Github projects making the rounds on Hacker News Tuesday morning offer the ability to store any file type on Flick including documents, PDFs, and music files. Flickr currently allows only JPEG, GIF, and PNG uploads, as well as a variety of video formats including AVI, WMV, MPEG4, and OGG.

Read our hands-on with the revamped Flickr website

Both projects work in the same basic way: They take any file you want to upload and encode it into a PNG image file. That way Flickr believes you're uploading an image, even though you're actually uploading the latest Daft Punk album. The method appears to be working as of this writing, but don't count on turning Flickr into a mega-Dropbox just yet.

Being Github projects, these hacks require a modicum of technical know-how and a willingness to work on the command line. There's also no guarantee that your files will remain intact once they're on Flickr's servers. So while it's a neat idea, this is really just a "proof of concept" method for now.

There's also no guarantee this little hack won't be shut down by Yahoo in the near future, especially if it becomes a popular way to use Flickr. Even though the company is offering every single user 1TB of free storage, it's likely the company is counting on very few people being able to upload that many photos to Flickr. In a separate blog post on Monday, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said the new Flickr space has enough room to store 500,000 photos per user. Only the most hard core DSLR fan or photo pro would have even close to that amount of photos to upload.

So crazy, it just might work

Then again, attempts to turn Flickr into more than just 1TB of photo storage make you wonder if Yahoo has anything else planned for all that cloud space. There's certainly a desire from users to do more with it. Could Yahoo's 1TB Flickr space turn into a combined storage area with other Yahoo products, similar to what Google does with Gmail and Drive? Could a Dropbox-like product be in Yahoo's future?

Under Mayer, Yahoo is trying to rebuild itself into a more popular online destination and the company is desperate to attract users away from competitors like Google and Microsoft. A good way to start would be to entice users with a massive amount of cloud storage. Every major tech company is offering a so-called "Dropbox killer" these days, whether you're talking about Amazon's Cloud Drive, Apple's iCloud, Google Drive, or Microsoft's SkyDrive. Yahoo is really the only big gun not offering cloud storage, while its competitors offer, at most, 7GB of initial free storage to users.

In April, Yahoo tried to solve its cloud storage shortcomings by announcing Dropbox integration with Yahoo Mail. The new feature lets you store attachments in Dropbox and share Dropbox files via e-mail. But Dropbox integration feels more like a stopgap measure to bring Yahoo Mail in line with competitors like Gmail and Outlook that have Drive/SkyDrive integration built-in. A full-featured Yahoo Drive would be far more useful than the current Dropbox partnership, and a heck of a lot more interesting to users than buying a blogging platform for $1.1 billion.

The only question is whether Yahoo could handle the bandwidth demands when doling out that much free storage to its millions of users. It's one thing to hand out 1TB of free storage to 89 million Flickr users who will never be able to fill up their storage allotment. It's something else to let 200 million-plus people store 1TB of documents, photos, music, and video files in the cloud.

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Ian Paul

TechHive (US)
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