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.