Is 500px the Flickr alternative I've been waiting for?


TL;DR Flickr is old news, give 500px a whirl. It's easy to write-off Flickr. For starters its owned by Yahoo, the fledging silicone valley grandpa that can't seem to make a good decision to save its life. It hasn't had a major update since I started using it years ago, showing it's age quiet a bit. Flickr has [tooltip title="aside from one crappy iOS app"]no mobile presence[/tooltip] to speak of while most photo sharing sites have embraced the phone. As for social, the integration is ugly, clunky and dumb.

I recently tried to sell my girlfriend on the service as a replacement for Picasa, which is now part of Google+ and that grotesque mess of a service. She signed up and uploaded some pictures. "Great, now what?" she asks. I honestly didn't have an answer for her. Browsing the public galleries is a nightmare. Finding friends isn't a worthwhile task. Do you know where to find a users profile on the site? Good luck on that Easter egg hunt. The experience was clunky and un-fun. It felt more like going to class than opening a door into photography heaven.

Before I bash Flickr anymore, I have to admit that I once loved the site, and it still holds a dear place in my heart. Consistency is Flickr's strength, and having a strong, robust [tooltip title="application programming interface"]API[/tooltip] has proven to be it's best asset. In Flickr's app directory there are hundreds of programs and plugins to extend the service even further. In OS X Mountain Lion, Apple has integrated Flickr right into the operating system, giving users one click uploads. Even without Yahoo's attention, the service's features have continued to expand thanks to a very supportive community.

In two days my Flickr Pro account will expire, and I'll need to renew or leave. In the past this has been a pretty easy sell. I have 700 pictures on there, so if I want to keep them shared I need to keep the money flowing. But today something interesting happened that has thrown all of this off-balance.

I signed up for 500px some months ago and enjoyed what I saw. It's a community of very skilled photographers sharing pictures on a site that is both modern and functional. Photo's are large and meta data is right there crystal clear, not to mention the build in social features are everything you'd expect from a photo sharing site. At the time, it was only intended for the very best pictures taken. You were only permitted to upload 10 images a week with a free account. The overall feel of the site was geared toward professionals.

500px has always offered their version of a pro plan, the Awesome tier, that allows for unlimited uploads, but the included features of advanced portfolio designs and unlimited portfolio sets made it feel like something intended more for pro's than everyday photographers. The emphasis on the portfolios initially turned me away, along with the $50 a year price tag. Since my intent is to share my photographs with my family and friends more than random strangers, this didn't seem like the right path for me.

Today 500px announced a new paid plan, the Plus tier. It looks like the company has embraced the title of "Flickr alternative" and unveiled a $20 a year plan that includes unlimited uploads and sets, but not the portfolio additions of the top-tier plans. Visitor stats are also included at this new level, allowing you to get a better idea who is viewing your photos. The Plus plan undercuts Flickr's by $5 while keeping the quality as high if not higher.

One concern that I had in the past was the lack of widgets, gadgets and app to extent the service and make uploading photos as easy as possible. While the iPad app still leaves something to be desired in this department, the team seems dedicated to keeping up in this respect. The have released a Mac desktop uploader and Lightroom plugin, with an Aperture plugin on the way.

From where I'm sitting 500px looks like the best bet moving forward. I have all the storage I can eat along with a beautiful interface and peace of mind that the company is not owned and operated by Yahoo. I'm going to give it a try. I know I'll miss the built-in integration into hundreds of services that Flickr offers, but the trade-offs will be worth it.