One of Facebook’s killer feature, especially in the early days when it was still struggling to get traction, is Facebook photos. The feature, at first, was significantly poorer when compared to photo hosting and sharing services at the time, yet Facebook now has more photos than all dedicated services put together and then some.
Key to the success was the social nature of the Photos feature, people could be tagged, notifying the ones in the photos and their friends and uploading a photo became a social event.
If Google wants to challenge Facebook with Google+, which it’s not acknowledging but is nonetheless true, a great photo experience is a must.
Google already owns Picasa, and Panoramio, but those are hardly compelling from a social web point of view. And neither has gotten much love from Google, most likely because of the relatively small number of people using them.
Picasa doesn’t get too much credit or face time in Google+
The emphasis on separating Picasa from Google+ Photos, even though they’re basically the same service now, may be intentional and it may be a good thing, but it does have some disadvantages if you’re a Picasa user already.
One obvious disadvantage is that there is no way of going to Picasa from Google+. While you’ll be able to view all of your albums, if you want to use Picasa Web, you’ll have to go to the site yourself, there’s no link, no button, nothing on Google+.
Advantages for Picasa users
That said, if you’re a Picasa user, you’ll want to get a Google+ account regardless if you plan to use it or not for one very simple reason, it essentially upgrades you to virtually unlimited storage.
If you have a Google+ account, all images up to 2048 x 2048 pixels are stored for free and won’t eat up your allotted 1 GB of free storage. This means that if you can make a slight compromise and limit your photos to ‘only’ 2048 pixels, you will never run out of space.
Google+ Photos still needs some work
There are a few annoying quirks with Google+ Photos at the moment. For example, you can’t share an individual photo from an album, it’s all or nothing. What’s more, you can’t +1 a photo from the lightbox viewer if you’re browsing someone else’s photos.
Both issues may be linked to Google’s very clear emphasis on privacy. Still, there are probably ways Google could have made it possible to share a photo from album and still leave the rest of them private. And a +1 button on already public or semi-public photos is a no-brainer.
More editing options, filters and Picknik integration would be great
Google+ Photos does offer some very basic editing options, you can adjust the colors of a pic and even add some effects to it. It’s likely that Google will add more tools along the way, a solid set of filters could make Google+ a very clear competitor to the Instagrams of the world, thanks to the mobile integration and Instant Upload.
A link to Picknik, Google’s online photo editing app, which offers a lot more options would probably be useful as well.
All these issues can be easily fixed by Google and it may even be a good idea to leave some features out, at least for one. On the one hand, the developers can focus on the core tasks, Google+ is still in a very early beta stage. What’s more, a bloated product is not going to attract new users and Google needs to play it extra safe with Google+.
Already though, Google+ Photos offers all that Facebook has, including the great tagging feature, and more. The one thing that it doesn’t have though, probably the most important, is 750 million users.