How a Limitless Internet Binds Us

The new constraints in our digital world

Colin Horgan


Credit: liulolo/Getty Images

OnOn May 20, 2013, then Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer told the world her company was changing the photo-sharing site Flickr. “Since 2005, Flickr has become synonymous with inspiring imagery,” Mayer wrote on the company blog, adding that, “when it comes to photography, technology and its limits shouldn’t hinder the experience.”

So, Mayer continued, the company was offering each of its users one terabyte of free storage space. “That’s enough for a lifetime of photos — more than 500,000 original, full-resolution, pixel-perfect, brilliant photos,” she wrote. “Flickr users will never have to worry about running out of space.” Not only was Flickr offering what seemed like unlimited space, Mayer went on, but also an entirely new user experience. The site was now a “photostream” that gave users “a vivid and endlessly scrolling gallery,” so that people could easily see what their friends “are posting and what they’re saying about your photos.”

Flickr, in other words, tilted toward a social media platform — of unlimited photos, unlimited space, and a suggestion of unlimited possibilities.

Mayer’s data plan for Flickr (which has since been reversed under new management) was in keeping with a long-standing idea, at the time, that the more we live our lives…