I’ve got a paid account to 3 of the bigger photo sharing sites out there. Every year I pay Flickr £16 for a pro account, £25 to Blipfoto and last year for the first time, I forked out approx £24 for an Awesome account on 500px.
Now, I don’t grudge these costs. With Flickr I get unlimited uploads which means I really use Flickr as unlimited storage for all my shots and over the years, Flickr has been pretty good to me in terms of exposure. I’ve had a fair few enquiries about using my pics after being found on Flickr so £16 isn’t a massive expense.
Blipfoto is the most expensive of the 3 and it’s the most restrictive but I don’t grudge it to Blipfoto at all. Paying for an account keeps the site ad free and the few extra features are nice even though I don’t really use them that much, but Blip is a friendly place and it’s nice to in some way support a site like that.
500px was the new kid on the block that exploded last year. Immediately I started using it I was pretty blown away by the whole look of the site, pictures just looked so much better over on 500px. It was a pretty slick website and after a couple of months I went for the “Awesome” account.
All was good until a recent update on 500px. Over the years I’ve seen Flickr change, but it’s been gradual, little bit at a time, nothing too drastic. Blipfoto has largely been kept the same over the years but again has had a programme to simple feature adding while retaining the look and feel of the site.
500px though went for big one, a full change of the site. From one day to the next the website I signed up for changed totally. What’s more, I don’t like it. I really don’t like it.
Facebook changed recently too, people spoke about it as if it was the end of the world and it was pretty subtle changes. Google too change regularly, they’ve overhauled everything recently, the old Gmail I’ve used for years changed overnight. So has Twitter, it’s website constantly making big changes but I’ve never uttered a word about any of these.
Any why? Because I don’t PAY to use any of them. They provide a FREE service that I choose to use. I can walk away at any time and it’s not cost me a penny. If I don’t like it I’m free to take myself elsewhere. It’s their baby and they can do what they like with it. Same goes for everyone who has their own website, you can do what the hell you like with it.
So what’s the issue with 500px? The issue quite simply is I had a paid account, I liked what I saw and on that basis I signed up to use 500px. Now with 3 months of paid for time left on my account they have changed the site, I don’t like it and I’m not going to continue using it. Had it been like this when I first signed up, I wouldn’t have paid for it.
And this brings us to the big question, do these sites have any right to make changes if they have paid subscribers? More so, do they have the right to make whole scale changes to the entire look and feel of a site with paid subscribers on board?
It’s a tricky balance, on one hand yes, of course we want websites to evolve and take account of new styles and technology, it’s one of the underlying building blocks of the internet. On the other hand, do we sign up for a product and have a right to expect it to remain largely unchanged while we pay for it?
It’s a tricky one.
For my part, I would expect a website to evolve but not totally change if I’ve paid for it. The look and feel of a site should remain and changes should be subtle and if they are not, the paying customers should have some say or even the ability to shut their account and be refunded the remaining outstanding credit if they feel strongly enough. The whole game changes as soon as you start asking for payment to use a site or offering a paid alternative.
If B&Q showed you a kitchen and you liked it so much you paid them to put it into your house, would you be happy if you got home to find they installed a different one because they liked that one better?