I’ve been using Picasa Web as my primary photo sharing service but I’m strongly thinking of moving somewhere else. My biggest complaint with Picasa is that uploading and organizing photos is too much of a hassle. My secondary complaint is that it doesn’t integrate well with facebook. However, moving to another service is a hassle and I want to make sure I pick the right one. So I’m turning to the Internet was advice. Here are my criteria:
Ease of uploading from Linux and Android
Linux support is one place where Picasa falls short. There is no native Linux client for Picasa. The Windows client runs under WINE but there are limitations. For example, the facebook plugin doesn’t work under WINE. Additionally the desktop client is heavier weight than I would like. The fact that the desktop program and the online service have the same name makes finding help on the online service difficult. When I Google for Picasa, most of the results concern the desktop program not the online service.
This is another place where Picasa is lacking. Picasa requires every photo to be in an album. Each album cannot contain more than 1000 photos. There is only limited support for having a photo in multiple albums. While you can copy or move a photo between albums, changes made to the photo in one album will not be reflected in other albums. The concept that an item only lives in a single location is an unfortunate holdover from the organization of physical objects. (See David Weinberger’s Google talk .) GMail allows and encourages messages to be in folders. Why did Google design Picasa differently? I’ve only briefly used Flickr but its approach of placing all photos in a single stream and then allowing you to apply tags to them and/or assign them to sets seems like a better organizational model.
Part of the reason for storing photos online is to have a backup. I also want to see and want my friends to see the highest quality versions of my pictures. So I need a photo stored in the cloud to be an exact binary copy of the one on my camera. I don’t want the site to do any compression or make any other changes to the photos. This is one place where Picasa delivers. It has an option to upload and retain the original binary version of the photo. Note this is also a place where facebook falls short. While facebook has started retaining higher resolution versions of images, it still stores nothing close to the original resolution.
Easy Semi-private Sharing
I want to be able to easily share photos with friends and family without them being publically visible. Picasa does this well. It will generate a special URL that can be pasted into an email to give the recipients access to a group of photos that are not publically visible. There is no need for the recipients to sign in or even have a Google account. Requiring people to sign up for a new account to view pictures is simply too high of a barrier.
Creative Commons Support
I license most of my pictures under the Creative Commons and I need a photo-sharing service that supports Creative Commons licensing. There should be a standardize, machine and search engine readable way to indicate that a Creative Commons license applies. Note: I want something more sophisticated than having to manually add a note to an image’s text description.
I share my photo’s in the hope that they will be enjoyed and possibly reused. When I publicly share a photo under Creative Commons, I want it to be easy for others to find and use. These days, Google Images is the main way people search for images. Thus photos need to show up in Google Images under the relevant keywords. I imagine Picasa does a reasonably good job here since it’s run by Google. However, labeling and categorizing photos in Picasa is a hassle ( see above) so a site that has better support for labeling might do even better.
Facebook is the main way that people view and share photos these days. I don’t want facebook to be my only or primary means of sharing photos but I do want to be able to share my photos on facebook. I don’t want to have to upload photos from my hard drive to my primary photo sharing service and then to have to upload them again from my hard drive to facebook. Instead, I want a photo service that integrates well with facebook. There should be a way to directly copy images from the photo sharing service to facebook. I want the copied images to be fully integrated into facebook so that they can be commented on and tagged within facebook. I don’t want there to just be a link on facebook to another photo service with a note saying that I’ve uploaded new photos. On the other hand, it would be nice to have a link on facebook under the transferred image to the full resolution version at my primary photo sharing site.
I’m willing to pay for quality online photo sharing that fulfills my requirements and makes my life easier. However, since I’m not a professional photographer the amount I’m willing to pay for hosting is limited. Picasa was a reasonably good deal offering 25 GB of space for $5 a year. This space is also split between other Google products such as GMail and Google Docs/Drive in case you somehow exceed your GMail quota. I’m will to send more than $5 but not more than $100.
At this point, my default choice is Flickr though a Gizmodo article (http://gizmodo.com/5910223/how-yahoo-killed-flickr-and-lost-the-internet) predicting its demise gives me pause. Furthermore, given the cost of switching, I don’t want to choose a service lightly. Any and all recommendation would be appreciated.