Flickr Breaks Browsing Experience – Injects Ads Into Search, Photostream

When it comes to the user experience, ads can readily be described as breaking websites. Ads can infect a user's computer with malware, they slow down websites, and they can increase the data usage on a user's mobile data plan.

When done wrong, ads can make for a shitty user experience, and that is certainly true of Flickr.

A few weeks back I noticed that Flickr was injecting ads into my searches. I would search for a term and then click on a result, and then Flickr would break the search experience by replacing the image I wanted to see with an ad for Adobe stock photos.

You can see the complete ad at left, and on the right is what you would see if you have Ad Block Plus running with Ghostery disabled.

For the past few weeks I have been seeing that ad in place of every image I found through search on Flickr, and I'm not the only one who is suffering.  I have also found a report from a user who had been shown the ad in the photostream for his photos:

Every time I try and view my own photos an ad pops up and won't go away. It is on every photo only on my own photostream.

I don't know how that user fixed the problem, but after Flickr broke my search experience I figured out that I could get around Flickr's roadblock by right-clicking on an image and opening the page in a new tab.

According to my sources, Flickr has been showing ads to free users for several years now, but I have missed seeing them until now because I was using an ad blocker.

I started seeing them again because either I have encountered a bug in Ghostery or Flickr has figured out how to disable ad blockers.

I spent this morning trying to get Ghostery to stop trusting Flickr and letting the site run its ad and tracking scripts, but no matter how many times I disable the trust button it was enabled again every time I refreshed the screen or visited a new page on Flickr.

This is not just a single user report; I found a user who is seeing the same thing in his photostream. That said, for all we know this might be a Ghostery defect.

But either way, Flickr is still breaking the user experience by inserting ads which block a user from seeing the photos they are looking for.

And the ads aren't just harassing users; they're also pointless.

Is a guy browsing his own photostream on Flickr really going to see the Adobe ad and decide, "hmm, I could have a better experience browsing Adobe's stock photo site"?

And more generally, do Flickr and Adobe really think Flickr's free users are interested in paying Adobe's prices for images? Don't they get that the average user is looking at the photos just to look at them and not to license or otherwise use them?

Harassing users isn't going to change that detail.

Relevant ads would have been the smart move here, or ads which don't block users from seeing the content they were looking for.

While I appreciate that Flickr is under a mandate to make more money, this is still a lose-lose situation. The user experience has been destroyed by irrelevant ads, and Adobe is wasting all of its ad dollars while only succeeding in making Flickr users hate Adobe and Flickr.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

8 Comments

  1. WAM1 November, 2016

    Unfortunately I am noticing the same problem, not with Flickr but with all the other online video content that I consume. The new Ghostery update has stopped blocking ads and so browsing the internet has become tedious and slow and annoying once more. I am about to stop using Ghostery since it really doesnt help me much anymore. Also, ghostery does not have any previous versions available anywhere for download (which further validates my suspicion that this move to stop blocking ads was intentionally on the part of Ghostery).

    It’s a real shame because it was such a good product while it lasted

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder1 November, 2016

      Ad Block Plus is still blocking ads for me in Chrome on Youtube and Vimeo.

      Reply
  2. Andrew Girdwood1 November, 2016

    I’m surprised you’re using an Ad Blocker. Do you disable it when you want to support creators and publishers? What’s your criteria?

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder1 November, 2016

      Ad blocking is part of basic web security now. It’s also how you improve your computer’s performance.

      And yes, I do unblock sites on occasion.

      Reply
  3. Hannah Steenbock2 November, 2016

    A few days ago, a large German newspaper blocked my access to it with a large banner asking me to turn off my Adblocker. (They also keep track of how many articles you read and cut you off after ten. Because I delete cookies on closing my browser, I couldn’t care less.)

    Today, it’s allowing me to read, but there is a level of distrust that wasn’t there before.

    I stayed away from their site for at least a week. That’s all they got for that banner. If they repeat this stuff, they’ll lose lots and lots of views. And I certainly won’t return after their next stunt of this calibre.

    Reply
  4. S. J. Pajonas2 November, 2016

    I’m glad I left Flickr a few years ago. They’ve continually made updates that suck. This is no surprise, unfortunately. 🙁

    Reply
  5. Remy Haan5 November, 2016

    Yahoo went in decline as company. Now they are sold. Flickr is a bit constructed the old fashioned way, it is more static and generates less motion compared to Google Photo’s and Instagram. They have more clicks that generate more money from advertisers. The commercial value of Flickr is that people loaded tons of pictures to it and now they are stuck and have no way to go elsewhere. That has to be turned into commercial advantage. It was too good to be true, 1 terabyte free space for everybody. Now the price comes.

    Don’t know if people remember Picasa. I had a few nice albums there and I could search and browse other peoples pictures. When Google bought it, the whole Picasa was killed. My Picasa albums are now in a sort of backup archive. I can still see them, but nobody else. I cann’t see anybody elses Picasa albums either, it’s all gone. You have to go to Google Photo’s and upload all your Picasa albums into it, to be seen or see other pictures.

    With this Picasa experience, I kept a backup of every album I uploaded to Flickr. The text underneath every picture I put that inside the picture using File Info in Photoshop. When you upload teh picture to Flickr, the text inside the picture automatically comes in the box underneath the picture. If things go bad with Flickr I don’t have to recreate all my albums. I can just upload them elsewhere when that elsewhere comes, all explaining text and numbering orders are saved. Then the deleting in Flickr comes. When I delete an album in what is left over of Picasa in present time, I see that my pictures go into a backup and stay there. If people start deleting their albums from Flickr I suppose they will somehow block that.

    Reply
  6. Sqwubsy7 November, 2016

    The upshot of this ill-conceived flickr/Adobe ad is that it makes me use flickr less and hate Adobe more.
    I don’t think this was the intention, but it’s the result.

    Reply

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