My friends at Yahoo-owned Flickr have just rolled out something very, very smart -- and potentially game-changing. They have released live meta-data about trends in the camera market based on what they are seeing in pictures uploaded at that popular photo-sharing site.
Why is this so smart? Because as I (and Tim) have been arguing for some time, web services are, among many other things, honey pots for data. Usage of such services throws off wonderfully rich data that is almost certainly of use to someone, but too often it is not captured and represented in a usable form.
Well, Flickr is now doing that with cameras. You can find out the most popular cameras, trends in camera use, trends in brands, and so on, all "thrown off" by people who are pursuing their own self-interest by participating in a giant market research project, otherwise known as photo-sharing. And the data itself is linked to Yahoo Shopping so you can, you know, find out more.
We are going to see a lot more of this, and, as I have said in a number of presentations recently, it won't be long before we see some software services companies make more money from ancillary data than from their application itself. Give the software away, so to speak, and sell the data. Its day is coming.
Now, is the implementation perfect? No. I want more raw market data, I want times & dates, and I want live-linkable images that are easily embedded in other sites. But is it a good start, and a sign of disruptive things to come in market research? You bet it is.