Near as I can tell from the Trackback traffic at the Flickr blog, news that Yahoo has bought the company was not just the worst kept secret in recent history: It is also the most buzzed about story in the blog-o-sphere since … well, ever.
So, here is my question: Why?
Not that I have anything against Stewart, Caterina, et al., over at Flickr. Far from it — I’m quite fond of the Flickr founders, perhaps inordinately so, as a number of people have said here in chiding me for writing so regularly and glowingly on the subject of the company.
But what I’m really asking is why do so many people care about a small acquisition in a marketplace that most people demonstrably still don’t know exists (social networks in photo sharing)?
Channeling the ‘sphere, here are my answers:
- It is a coming of financial age event. An emerging marketplace becomes different once someone gets bought for more than chump change. Sure, Bloglines got bought a while back, but I doubt it was for a significant percentage of what Stewart & Caterina (and their angel investors) just got. Put another way, this business will no longer be the same now that people know you can make money in it. It will bring in more VCs, and it will bring in more MBAs, neither of which “old-timers” (i.e. people who arrived in 2003) are thrilled about.
- It is a Netscape event. In much the same way that Netscape’s IPO back in the summer of 1995 unleashed a paroxysm in dot-com markets, there are some who feel like the Yahoo/Flickr tie-up will unleash something similar. There are VCs queued up around the block with angel investments they’d like to, ahem, monetize, and they are now going to eagerly try to do so.
- Transparent organizations are different. People felt like they had a relationship with the Flickr founders, courtesy of Stewart/Caterina blogging & conference attendence. Now that they have sold the company to Yahoo some Flickr fans feel disgruntled, like their sister got married without asking permission.
I’m sure there are other answers, including frothiness and faddishness, that explain some of the fascination, but I have to confess I’m at least as interested in the larger social network’s response to this event as I am by the purchase of social network Flickr itself.