Google launched a beta version of the Picasa Web Albums earlier in the week and I got invited to participate in the beta of the product. Picasa Web Albums is Picasa’s newest feature, designed to help users post and share their photos quickly and easily on the web.
Picasa has always had the ability to take you existing pictures and create html based or webpage slideshows but you needed to have a host where you could upload and display these pictures. I’ve been using Picasa since it became free with the Google acquisition and it has always worked great. Picasa is really my favorite program for managing my photo collections and it’s worked great for that purpose. I always used the ability to upload and print pictures directly from Picasa to Ofoto and other online digital photo printers.
The latest beta which as the Picasa Web Albums is exactly like the older (v2.0) of Picasa but the first thing I noticed that was different was the extra button in the bottom of the application named ‘Web Album’. Clicking that button allowed you to upload the selected pictures to the web and stored on Google’s servers. The first requirement is a Google account and you get 250MB of free storage space. For $25.00 per year, you can get a subscription to an additional 6GB of storage. While the fee is comparable to Flickr, the storage limit is something different. I have a Flickr Pro account and I essentially have unlimited storage capacity – The only restriction I have is a monthly upload bandwidth limit.
The user-interface is very simple and with a few simple clicks, you can upload your pictures directly to your Google Picasa Web Album site. One of the things that make Picasa stand apart from Flickr is that Picasa offers image manipulation ability while Flickr just offers hosting. In the past, I would export ‘fixed’ pictures from Picasa and upload them to Flickr or create web-pages out of Picasa to share with family and friends. Once you create an album, you can share it with friend and Picasa lets you email people to share the location of the album.
I took some pictures from my recent vacation in Hawaii and put them up using Picasa. The album interface is full of Ajax goodness like Flickr but there are a few subtle differences. A nice feature that I haven’t seen in Flick is the ability to ‘Download Album’ which allows you to download a complete album to your computer. Each album is also accessible and available as an RSS feed which is also pretty nice. It also appears that you can add a user as an RSS feed and see future uploads in your feed reader.
All in all, Picasa Web Albums is a pretty neat idea and a very simple, yet elegant interface. I didn’t see any Google Adsense ads on the site yet but I am sure that will come. Being a Picasa fanatic, I guess I’ll start using the Web Albums but I wish you could get the same result but my web host for storage. I know some of the hosted features of comments, etc wouldn’t work without the Google backend but I would live without those features of have that type of functionality still tied back to Google. Oh well – Time will tell and once the API opens up, people will come up with some pretty creative solutions.