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London Bombings Push Photo Sharing Front And Center

Populist photojournalism took a bow on photo-sharing sites after Thursday's terrorist attacks.
While the news of Thursday's terrorist attacks in London spread through the traditional news media's Web sites and the newer blogosphere, populist photojournalism took a bow on photo-sharing sites such as Yahoo's new acquisition, Flickr.

Within moments after the four explosions shook London's transportation system -- killing over 50 and wounding hundreds more -- users began pooling photographs on Flickr, a photo-sharing site and service that lets people tag pictures with comments and labels.

The surge in traffic caught Flickr at the end of a shift of its operations from a co-hosting service in Canada to Yahoo's own data center.

"We've had twice as much traffic since yesterday compared to a normal weekday," said Caterina Fake, a co-founder of Flickr, which was purchased by Yahoo in March 2005, for an undisclosed sum.

On Flickr, users can post photos for sharing from personal computers or via camera phones, then tag the pictures with descriptions or labels. Among the most popular tags in the last 24 hours are ones covering the London blasts, such as "londonbombings" and "bombings." One so-called "pool" of pictures, now dubbed the "7/7 Community," sports over 700 images.

Although some of the shots are grabs from commercial Web sites or even snaps of television screens, the majority are amateur photos, some taken with camera phones. Many are of barricades and police, but some are striking. Several have been viewed thousands of times, while one image of people evacuating a subway car has been seen over 62,000 times.

"One of the things that really made sharing possible was our adding tags last year," said Fake. "Prior to that you would have to depend on someone linking to photos from an outside source."

Flickr arose from blogging, said Fake -- she and her co-founder Stuart Butterfield are both avid bloggers, and before that, delved into the personal publishing world with their own Web sites -- and the London experience shows that heritage.

"I think this is just part of the continuum of personal publishing and user-contributed content," said Fake. "These photographs were contributed by regular people.

"One of the things that's really changing is that people are much more trusting of the Net, and the people there, than most give credit for," Fake said.

Flickr's Web site and service is free, although a beefed up version called Flickr Pro costs $25 per year for a 2GB per month upload allowance and unlimited storage.

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