Flickr changes image URLs with some glitches


Old URL:
photos23.flickr.com

New URL:
static.flickr.com/23

Just this week I started getting problems with Flickr images that were embedded in my own sites. I got a “red cross” instead of a picture. When I checked the image URLs that I was using and the ones that Flickr currently uses, I saw they had changed, and the transition was not flawless (at that point).

Where each image used to reside on one of the photosXX.flickr.com servers, they now have the URL http://static.flickr.com/XX/… (with the same server id XX). Apparently in some cases, the image URLs were not automatically redirected to the new address, which caused the crosses. Some Flickr users were complaining about the same problem on the Flickr forums.

While I am writing this, more and more URLs start working again, i.e. there is an automatic redirection to the correct URL. But basically this 1 month old explanation of the Flickr image URLs has to be updated:

http://photos{server-id}.flickr.com/{id}_{secret}_[mstb].jpg becomes
http://static.flickr.com/{server-id}/{id}_{secret}_[mstb].jpg

FLICKR STORAGE HISTORY
In the early days of Flickr, the images were stored on separate servers: photos1 was 69.90.111.71, photos2 was 69.90.111.72, …, situated in Vancouver, BC (Canada): probably adding 1 storage server at a time while the gigabytes were pouring in. After the move to Yahoo (Sunnyvale, CA) in July of this year, all photoXX DNS names were changed to point to the same 68.142.213.135 IP address – or storage1.flickr.vip.mud.yahoo.com.

Today, instead of maintaining the 33 DNS entries, they opted for working with 1 domain name static.flickr.com and let the load balancing/cache distribution (analyze.forret.com shows there is a “X-Cache = HIT” HTTP header that is a caching directive) decide from which server the image should be grabbed. You can actually get an idea by this little hack:

  • photos1: “storage3.flickr.mud” shown on the ‘home’ page
  • photos2: “storage5.flickr.mud”
  • photos3: “storage3.flickr.mud”
  • photos4: “storage7.flickr.mud”
  • photos5: “storage4.flickr.mud”

A total of 8 storage servers, I’m guessing.

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1 thought on “Flickr changes image URLs with some glitches”

  1. actually, the glitches were that some browsers (IE, to be specific) refused to go and get the new URLs, redirection or no redirection, until users actually emptied their cache.

    –john allspaw

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