Yahoo! Photos Really Sucks

My sister keeps her photos on Yahoo! Photos. This is unfortunate, because it's a bad photos service.

I don't know when Yahoo! lost its way (although my first guess would be when they got rid of me *  🙂, but they seem to spend their time now making things “flashy” instead of the “useful” and “intuitive” of the old days. Most recently, this manifested itself with a big screwup of their TV-listing sit.

With the current version of Y! Photos that debuted during the summer, they have perhaps added useful features, but in the process, made the site really inconvenient for its most basic use: it's difficult to view photos.

  1. When I click on an album, it shows an empty-album page for six seconds before populating the page with the pictures in the album. It's not showing an empty page, mind you, which would be a clear indication that something's not done yet, but rather a page showing an album containing no photos.

    Six seconds is a long time if you count it out — long enough to recognize that the album is empty and that you must have clicked on the wrong thing, and hit the back button. The first time I used it, it took me a while before I figured out what was going on. I thought my sister simply had no photos.

    (I should point out that I have 100 megabit fiber service at home; my ping time to Yahoo! image servers is 200ms.)

  2. When viewing a page of thumbnails (which are miniscule!), images that are “below the fold” (not visible on the screen until you scroll down) aren't loaded until you actually do scroll down. So, that means that you're guaranteed to have to wait again for images to load. It would make much more sense to let those images load while you're viewing the above-the-fold images.

    The only reason I can think of that they would have done this is to try to reduce the load on their servers/bandwidth. If someone views the top of a page of thumbnails but never bothers scrolling down to see more, those below-the-fold thumbnails won't have been fetched from Yahoo's servers. And even if someone does scroll down, waiting until they do scroll before fetching the images reduces the “burstiness” of the thumbnail accesses.

    I can understand the service/cost tradeoff in this decision, except for two things: it really degrades the service, and worst of all, they bypass the browser image cache. This means that every time I view her gallery to see whether there are more pictures, my computer has to re-fetch the thumbnails from Yahoo!'s servers. They'd gain MUCH more efficiency by leaving “it works well” alone and allowing my browser to cache the thumbnails: the next time I view the page, I'd have to fetch only the new thumbnails.

    This is nothing more than the dumb result of someone playing with new scripting toys and deciding that “cool” is somehow better than “useful.”

  3. When viewing a page of thumbnails, we all know that to view a larger version of the picture, you click on it. It's been this way since the Beginning of Time, and for a good reason. That every picture web site ever built does it this way is also a strong recommendation to continue doing it this way. However, clicking on a thumbnail in Yahoo! Photos does..... nothing. Nothing.

    (For the record, if you want to view an image, you must double click on it.)

  4. After double-clicking on an image to see a larger version, hitting the back button results in.... another six-second wait as all the thumbnails are again downloaded from Yahoo!.

    Every. Time. Every. Picture.

    Something is very sick at Yahoo for this to be considered an improvement over the old site.

  5. Yahoo! Photos has no RSS feed. If this were 1997 I'd understand, but it's beyond comprehension in 2006 how a major player like Yahoo! can offer a service like this without RSS support. Yahoo!, what are you thinking?

    This bring us back to why they do the stupid thumbnail loading: to save load/bandwidth on their image servers. Well, if I have to view the thumbnail gallery just to find out whether there's anything new, that's a lot of load on your servers. Simple RSS support to indicate whether there's anything new would mean I'd actually view the gallery only when there is something new.

  6. They remove the “.jpg” (or whatever) file-ending on images they serve, which makes right-click-and-save less convenient. It's possible that they did this on purpose, just to make something they somehow deem undesirable less convenient, but the rest of the site makes me inclined to believe that they just didn't think things through.

  7. The “larger version” they show upon double-clicking isn't really all that large for my tastes, but that's fine. I should be able to click on the photo for yet a larger version, or click on the “other sizes” link, or something? Yes? No.

    Something that should be so simple is now difficult: I have to click on the “Download” tab (which doesn't even look like a link), select a larger size, download to my computer, then view. I don't want to save a copy... I just want to see the thing! Geez.

  8. They are completely clueless about how to handle digital-image colors. Their resized versions strip all color-space information, thereby guaranteeing that at least some users will see the wrong colors. Guaranteeing.

    In their defense, I should point out that pretty much every other online photo site is similarly clueless, including Flickr and Google, and even ones targeting the professional photographer like PBase. [UPDATE: Flickr does not strip profiles!]

    They should all read this Introduction to Digital-Image Color Spaces.

Maybe the thinking that has gone into this product explains why Yahoo's stock is doing so poorly in absolute terms, and even worse when compared to others in the industry. Sigh. My future retirement is sitting in Yahoo stock.... maybe I am the stupid one.

*I was one of the first Yahoo! employees (#192) and happily toiled there for eight years until HR cut me lose because they didn't like that I telecommuted from Kyoto.

All 8 comments so far, oldest first...

FWIW, #3 was the first thing that I complained about when asked to preview the new Photos way back when. While I understood their rationale, I still believe they’re completely wrong about it.

I’m a bit surprised bythe 6 second delay. I’d try to verify it myself, but I know only one person who uses Y! Photos and I’ve already seen her pictures.


Oh, I do like how you manage to rub in the 100mbit fiber. 🙂

— comment by Jeremy Zawodny on December 11th, 2006 at 1:37am JST (17 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

(I work for flickr)

I’m pretty sure Flickr doesn’t strip color profiles from thumbnails, for exactly this reason. If it’s borked, it’s a regression.

— comment by Cal on December 12th, 2006 at 1:20am JST (17 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

Umm – Is there even a logical reason for the *existence* of Yahoo photos as a separate entity from the brilliant and popular Flickr, which everybody (including many Google people) use happily? It’s one of the areas where Yahoo shines above Google, but I can’t help but wonder if the plan is to fold Flickr into Yahoo photos which would be terrible.

I hope Yahoo does not make the same mistake it has made working to rebrand things as “Yahoo” when they should be following the “if it’s not broke do not fix it” rule and folding Yahoo photos into Flickr, which would help users with a better service and help Yahoo by consolidating redundant services.

— comment by Joseph Hunkins on December 12th, 2006 at 1:51am JST (17 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

To Cal: Wow, you’re right! Flickr did strip profiles when I checked perhaps two months ago, but looking back now, profiles are preserved on all thumbnails. That’s excellent. Well, the next step would be to auto-convert all resizes to sRGB if it’s not already there, and add an sRGB profile. (See this article on digital image color spaces). Of course, you wouldn’t auto-convert the original, but if it’s not sRGB or doesn’t have a profile, perhaps note that somehow so that the user knows that they might get different colors when viewing it.

To Joseph: when Y! bought Flickr, they had something like 11 million users (so I seem to remember reading somewhere). Just dumping them over to Flickr would have clearly been a mistake, but geez, I didn’t think they’d actively work on making Y! Photos suck. Maybe they’re trying to drive people away from Y! Photos, hoping that they’ll end up at Flickr? 🙂

— comment by Jeffrey Friedl on December 12th, 2006 at 8:33am JST (17 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

I just scanned through about 1000 party photos in the new yahoo photos (to find pictures of me and folks that I know). It was much faster than doing the same scan in the old y! photos for previous years’ party photos. So, it’s faster at this, at least.

The interface is awful – I couldn’t really figure out how to do anything with it, though i eventually figured out the double click bit. I have no idea what the “tray” where you can drag images is for (i would have liked to be able to store images there, and download them all at once). It really saddens me when people at large companies like this design sites that are clearly unusable (same for Y! TV).

The weird thing is that some people like these sort of interfaces.


— comment by Andrew S on December 15th, 2006 at 5:59pm JST (17 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

OMG – you are so on target! The new Yahoo photos sucks big time. The loading issue, as you described, is pure BS and a waste of time. Also, this tray bit, the “view all my photos” default (pure BS – do you really want to wait for 4000 photos to load?? I don’t but I have to when this assinine feature is activated). I think that Yahoo reconfigured the photos page to squeeze in advertising which the old Yahoo album system (which was way easier to use and superior) did not have. I can’t believe many of the stupid blunders Yahoo has made of late. With products like Yahoo Answers which caters to people with IQ’s below 70, Yahoo is begging to be obsolete in a decade or less. I’m just waiting for them to molest the calendar feature and then it’s sianara to Yahoo. What idiots.

— comment by Ron Thomski on March 23rd, 2007 at 1:41pm JST (17 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Also, one last thing. I don’t know about you, but the new Yahoo photos takes all my photos out of order when I upload (I like the photos in chrono order, but Yahoo basically shuffles the deck and the are all out of order). So I manually put them in order online and then order prints, and – hold on to your seat – they always arrive from the lab all out of order! This NEVER happened with the old Yahoo Photos. This compnay is run my idiots. Glad I sold the loser stock at $35.

— comment by Ron Thomski on March 23rd, 2007 at 1:44pm JST (17 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Ron, for prints, consider Adorama. I ordered a bunch of wedding photos for my brother, and then some huge reprints (all on the high-quality Endura Supra Luster paper). The image upload and order flow is remarkably smooth and clueful, almost to a shocking degree.

— comment by Jeffrey Friedl on March 23rd, 2007 at 2:34pm JST (17 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink
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