What is Flickr

An interesting look at the question “What is Flickr“:

I?ve been trying for a week or so to figure out what flickr is. I mean I know it?s a photo sharing site, but what makes it so damn interesting? Then, last night, I finally figured it out: flickr is a MMORPG.

Really, it should have been obvious, since the site is literally a MMORPG (it?s built on the old Game Neverending code, which is why you?ll see files ending in .gne on flickr). And Ludicorp says as much on their homepage (?Groupware for Play. We?re building a better platform for real time interaction online.?), but for some reason I was tricked into thinking it was more like iPhoto crossed with Friendster than Ultima Online.

Why does this make flickr successful where Friendster, Orkut, et al fall flat? I believe it?s because flickr?s designers are among the first (I can?t think of others but they surely exist) who have grokked video game design and (more to the point) figured out how to translate it to the web. What does this mean? It means that, unlike say Zoto, which is just a tool for storing and sharing photos, flickr is inherently, down-to-its-bones about play. If you look at a list of the elements of a successful game, they are all present in flickr: a sense of space to explore, a range of challenges, a range of abilities which can succeed, the need for preparation and skill, a variable feedback system.