Update: Flickr has extended the deadline to March 12. See below for more details.
Flickr, one of the best social media services of the 2000s, will begin mass deleting photos tomorrow, February 5. If you’d like to keep any of the photos that you uploaded to the service and maybe forgot about, now is the time. But you can’t wait any longer.
When Flickr was purchased by a company called SmugMug last year, Flickr announced that all free accounts would be limited to just 1,000 photos. You can purchase a Flickr Pro account for $50 a year, but with so many free and low-cost storage options available these days, it’s unclear why anyone would want to do that.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-click option to download all your photos from Flickr. But there are a couple of different ways to download your photos in bulk. You can download from the Camera Roll, which contains all your photos, in batches of 500. Or you can download from Albums, which contains photos you’ve placed into groups, in batches of 5,000.
How to download your Flickr photos using Camera Roll...
1) Log in to Flickr, mouse over “You,” and click on Camera Roll.
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2) Click on “Select All” from each date until you’ve selected about 500 photos in total. Unfortunately, there’s no way to automatically count.
3) Click on “Download” at the bottom of the screen.
4) Click on “Create Zip File.”
5) When your files are ready to download they’ll be available under the “FlickrMail” section, accessible through the bell icon in the upper right hand corner.
6) It could take a while for the photos to become available for download, depending on how big the photos are and how many you’ve selected. But once they’re ready, all you have to do is click “download zip file” and it will download the photos to your hard drive.
How to download your Flickr photos using Albums...
1) Log in to Flickr, mouse over “You,” and click on Albums.
2) Mouse over an album you want to download and click the download button.
3) Click “Create ZIP file”
4) When your files are ready to download they’ll be available under the “FlickrMail” section, accessible through the bell icon in the upper right hand corner.
5) It could take a while for the photos to become available for download, depending on how big the photos are and how many you’ve selected. But once they’re ready, all you have to do is click “download zip file” and it will download the photos to your hard drive.
One nice thing that SmugMug did was decide that all photos shared to the service under a Creative Commons license will remain active, even if the accounts that they came from had more than 1,000 photos. Thankfully, that means large institutional library and government accounts that offer images in the public domain will remain unaffected. But you can’t beat the system by changing the license to your photos now. The deadline was in November 2018.
Former Gizmodo writer Mat Honan probably wrote the best history of Flickr and the tragedy of its mismanagement. And if you, like me, joined Flickr in the mid-2000s, before places like Twitter and ubiquitous photo storage were the norm, it’s really sad to see what became of Flickr. But that’s the way it goes. And it’s a great reminder that nothing on the internet lasts forever.
People used to laugh when I said that even places like Facebook are perpetually 18 months away from being a ghost town, but I think more people understand that now. None of your content is safe from deletion. At least from the public sphere. You better believe that Facebook is going to hold on to your data for decades to come—and probably even sell that shit to your grandkids.
Update 5:20pm ET February 6: Flickr’s owner, SmugMug, has pushed back its own deadline. The company said its decision to postpone the mass deletion was “based on feedback from our members and complications some members experienced when downloading photos Monday,” USA Today reported.