There's huge excitement out there on Flickr’s announcement today that it meshes with Yahoo maps to enable geotagging of photos. In other words, you can show the world, on a Yahoo map, where a Flickr photograph was taken. Flickr’s video introducing it is very slick, and I look forward to trying it. But there are issues, if not downright problems.

Thomas Hawk, Chief Evangelist for photo-sharing rival Zooomr, nails it in a long and generous piece about Flickr’s new toy:

Of course all of this business with geotagging (and not just at Flickr) raises a serious point that must be considered as well. In the past I've been critical of the fact that I've felt that my text tags have been locked into Flickr. This is not by Flickr design of course, they just have different priorities right now over building tag export tools etc. But the fact remains that I cannot get my tags out of Flickr and have them exported to another application. My frustration in the past has been due to the fact that I've spent hours and hours of time tagging photos and have not had an easy path to get this metadata out of Flickr. Geotagging of course is an even larger investment in time. With over 6,000 photos on Flickr now I'd probably want some pretty serious guarantee that my text and geotags would in fact be portable at some point before investing the amount of time necessary to commit to geotagging at Flickr.

This is almost a deal-breaker, for me. It took Flickr a long time to deal with metadata embedded in images, but once it did so, it did so well (unlike lots of other photo-sharing software). How long before it reads geotags embedded in image files?

This is important because it means that one need only insert the metadata once into an image. The sure way to avoid Hawk’s fear of his tags being locked into Flickr is not to use Flickr to put the tags in the image in the first place. (Of course this does not help to recover tags inserted by other users, but that’s another story.)

I admit that I am highly sensitised to the whole business of image metadata because I have been banging that particular drum since shortly after I arrived at my place of work more than five years ago. So to receive an email this very morning asking me to upload a bunch of photos to a site with no search facilities and to “please ensure the information section is filled in (along with titles rather than numbers for the pictures)” rather suggests that absolutely nothing has got through to anyone.

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