It doesn’t take much to know that at present Flickr rules the image sharing world. Discourse from long time users over Flickr adding video recently (and some time ago, complaints when Flickr finally integrated its login with Yahoo!), aside very few people have anything bad to say about the product. But that being said, often the underdogs sometimes try harder and are more willing to take risks and offer newer and cooler features in their attempts to catch up. And I wanted to see what if any affect this had on the picture sharing world. After all, most parents love having a nice and convenient way to share their photos with friends and/or relatives.
My first stop, and this weeks spotlight is on Google’s Picasa Web Albums. This extension to the Picasa photo library software that Google acquired in 2004 seemed like an excellent place to start. The Picasa software was tops in managing your photos, circa 2004, but has grown a bit long in the tooth and has fallen behind other competing products both online and off, with very little in the way of capabilities added with the exception of adding the Web Albums portion.
I was immediately put off and somewhat shocked at the 1GB space limit. Where they really serious? I mean sure virtually every photo sharing service offers some sort of "pro" upgrade that gives you additional functionality or the ability to upload more per month, but a flat 1GB of space for storage before having to purchase additional? You can purchase additional storage, but this is where things get a bit murky, because the space you purchase is "shared" between your Gmail and Picasa accou nts. I guess this is good for some people, but I have been using Gmail since 2004, and haven’t come anywhere near hitting that 6 GB storage limit, so I guess it really doesn’t matter that the space is shared, and conversely if I go over my 10 GB of purchased space, my Picasa account can actually use some of the excess Gmail space I have.
But things like photo albums are really meant to be cumulative over time, and in theory only grow over time.
As for the product itself, as like many Google products the interface is sparse, clean looking and in theory simple. I say in theory, because while there is not a lot of confusing additives, it is also not particularly intuitive or friendly. It is not difficult to figure out, but some of the interface choices (and the number of clicks to do virtually anything) can be annoying.
You don’t have much (read… ANY) control on how the album is displayed outside of choosing small, medium or large thumbnails. Some features like being able to pin the features onto a map, may appeal to some, but I don’t see any great appeal for this feature to make it worth storing pictures here over another site.
I also found the "slow" upload (upload large full sized photos instead of scaled back one) to be true to its word. It is slow. Painfully slow. So if you are planning to dump a lot up there, have something else planned to kill the time.
In the end, it is there. And if you happen to use Picasa anyway, and you already have a Google account, well it is there, and (for the first GB) it is free. But, I certainly wouldn’t "switch" to this service from something else. I’m really surprised, I expected the company that was smart enough to start the search engine ability to search images (or at least the first to make it easy) would make more of this service. But so far, that is not the case.