Facebook recently announced the appointment of photojournalist Teru Kuwayama as its Photo Community Liason in an effort to “make sure that the interests of photographers are represented in everything from feature development on the technical side to the terms of service on the legal side,” according to PDN. The move is notable because although photos are the dominant “sticky” feature of the site, Facebook has historically had a somewhat rocky relationship with the medium (e.g. stripping of metadata, slippery terms and conditions, banning of breast feeding photos while allowing violent content, etc) while storing a staggering 250 billion photos – the largest repository of images on the planet.
But the appointment of a professional photographer shouldn’t necessarily signal a change in focus for the site. Facebook is a consumer social network. It’s not a Flickr, Getty Images nor PhotoShelter.
Kuwayama declined comment, but here are a few changes we would love to see in 2014.
1. Attribution & Copyright Notices
Allow content creators to specify copyright and derivatives (like Creative Commons). Flickr has done it for years in a social media setting and it has worked to elevate awareness of intellectual property rights. If Facebook does it, other social networks will follow.
2. End the Stripping of Metadata
You opted into the Facebook T&C thereby relinquishing your DMCA right to stripping metadata, but let’s put that aside for a moment. Photo metadata serves an important functional purpose of providing caption, contact and copyright information. It’s true that metadata can also bloat a photo file significantly, so very long captions might be out of the question. But what’s the harm in having contact and copyright information travel with the image?
3. Disallow Downloading of images
If a goal of the social network is to keep people within the walled garden, why allow users to download images? With a maximum image size of over 2000 pixels, Facebook images are large enough to allow content thieves to grab an use photos without permission.
4. Improve the Organization of Albums
Apple realized that people take a lot of photos and a flat album hierarchy doesn’t work well, therefore iOS7 introduced the concept of collections that are time and geographically aware. Facebook should do the same to allow aggregation by year, tags, people and places.
A few changes to Photos will make it not only more useful, but more inline with attribution-friendly (and legally and morally correct) practices.