Overview: Over 3 billion images have been uploaded to flickr, an online community and photo hosting website that makes images easy to find and share.

Defined: Acquired from Ludicorp by Yahoo in March of 2005, flickr has established itself as the most popular place online to upload and share photos and images. Flickr is incredibly user friendly and offers users a free account with limited monthly uploads and photo sizes. For a reasonable annual fee, users can upload an unlimited amount of photos and videos for any resolution.

Once a user creates a basic personal account, they can provide as much or as little personal information as they wish to include in their personal profile and then begin uploading photos into their own ‘photostream.’ To better organize and share your photos, flickr allows users to create ‘sets’ or categories of your photos, ie ‘sports’, ‘summer pics’, ‘vacation photos’, etc. For any photo uploaded, users can also include specific ‘tags’ or keywords to better define the image, ie ‘New Zealand’, ‘spelunking’, ‘porcupines.’ These tags make it easy for anyone searching through photos on flickr to find relevant images, of course you can make your photos private in case you’d rather not share them.

If you are interested in sharing your photos, flickr makes it easy to email them, send them to specific groups of users on flickr, edit, order prints, and create any number of items like calendars, photo books, and mugs. Users can add descriptions or comments to photos and keep track of how many times they’ve been viewed by others as well. If you are worried about ownership of your photos, users can also set up creative commons licenses for their uploaded images.

One fascinating tool on flickr is the Places Project, an initiative that allows users to upload photos of specific places anywhere around the world to a map. The map is easily searchable for anyone seeking photos of specific countries, cities, or even more specific locations. All a user needs to do is select the photos they’d like on the map and drop them in:

flickr also makes it easy to add specific blocks of photos to your website, personal blog, facebook page, and more. Publish the 15 most popular photos on flickr, shots of your local town, or any other parameter you wish to define.

Business Applications: flickr has a number of useful business applications. For anyone in need of quality images for any purpose or subject, flickr makes it easy to find exactly what you need. Not only can flickr help you locate specific quality images, flickr can also be a great form of free marketing. Upload photos of your business, organization, sports league, or whatever else and use appropriate tags to help others find your images. Images on flickr can be seen by anyone on the internet, not just other users. flickr is a fantastic medium for showing off to the world, whether it be photos of your business’ unique company culture or shots of your latest used car inventory.

Recommendation: flickr is an excellent platform for finding and sharing personal photos as well as promoting your business. With minimal effort and time investment any company can provide the world a more personal and human representation of what their company is about. Especially for retail establishments like restaurants and membership organizations, flickr is the perfect pathway for easy promotion. Personally, I find flickr to be the best image hosting website on the net, it’s features and ease of use make this platform an essential site to become familiar with.