Carol Bartz signs the Microsoft-Yahoo! agreement on search in July 2009. Photo by Yodel Anecdotal on Flickr. Some rights reserved
It turns out that Flickr did not, after all, escape from the scythe now being swung among the Yahoo staff. (Well, at least it proves that Carol Bartz knows it exists.)
Comparing the staff list on the cached page content of Flickr staffers from Tuesday with that today, it seems that what was a 56-strong team has been trimmed by five – Tara Suan Kirchner, Joe Mud, Adrienne Bassett, Cris Stoddard, Jenn Vargas. (Thank you opendiff!) Although I'm hearing separately that six people in all have either been laid off or quit (one of the names on the "present" list is gone, we understand).
That's a 9% cut, deeper than the 4% that Carol Bartz announced across the organisation in her memo of Thursday.
So what's the thinking with Flickr? "I don't think Bartz 'gets' Flickr, but she understands it's a big deal in some circles," says one person with connections in the company. It has struggled through indifference from Terry Semel (who always wanted Yahoo to become a sort of Hollywood of the internet).
Even so Flickr does, we understand, "wash its face" financially – it's not a money hole by any means. And that means that if Bartz decides that it might as well be let go, or even more profitably sold off (we've separately heard a number of $500m as the price tag), then all those photos won't vanish into the internet ether.
Don't overlook the importance of email, we're told: Hotmail and Yahoo's email is immense (in May, one of Yahoo's directors talked about 275m users worldwide; Microsoft claims 360m active accounts (though the number of users will be smaller). The biggest - surprisingly big - worldwide number we've found for Gmail is 146m, from January. That shows that by any measure GMail is still pretty small compared to the big two – although significantly bigger even than a year ago.
We're hearing too that Yahoo does have a plan of sorts: try to create something social out of peoples' address books and integrate it all with the rest. But that remains largely handwaving.
Oh, the Flickr selloff thing? Well, there are two obvious candidates: Google and Microsoft. Google of course already has Picasa, but it could integrate Flickr (one way or another). And what a thing it would be for Google to take over a profitable company (or division) and keep it going as a profitable company (or division).
It might have to reckon with Microsoft, though, which is going to make a bigger push for the cloud in 2011, and already has that search tieup with Yahoo. Steve Ballmer could just poke his head around the door of Carol Bartz's office, say he happened to be passing by, as you do, and had she had any thoughts about Flickr?
Into Bartz's mouth we'll put Craig Gannell's comment from Twitter: "We know some of our products are prone to it, but we're working to ensure all Yahoo! products become visually rock solid."
To which Ballmer could reply "let me take that problem off your hands." Done deal. Win for Microsoft. Win for the users too? Or is Flickr better inside Yahoo, or as an independent company?