Inevitable? I really hope not!

Google Photos IconBack in November I posted on the inadequacies of the new Google Photos offering. Since then there have been a few improvements and some of the things that I was unhappy about then can be circumvented by adopting the “View on Web” approach, such as commenting on individual photos in albums.

However last week, perhaps the announcement that I had feared would one day come was made. Google are “retiring” Picasa and Picasa Web Albums. Let’s not focus on the suggestion that this is a forward-looking development – they use the phrase “moving on” to announce the killing-off of a much-loved friend – let’s just pause to reflect upon what this actually means for anyone who invests time and effort into using “free” infrastructure, provided by a large corporate. The significance of this announcement and others recently from Oxygen Cloud and Copy (Barracuda/Seagate) are that one should be very careful in choosing what IT cloud infrastructure you decide to use and also, and more importantly, be very mindful of what you should do if that infrastructure is taken away from you.

Now this “event” may turn out all right in the end. Google may actually make an API available for developers to upload images directly into Google Photos in the same way as Jeffrey Friedl did to allow photos to be uploaded from Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to Picasaweb. And yes, nothing has been lost in this case as all my Picasaweb photos and albums do appear in Google Photos. And yes, I can upload to Google Drive to the Google Photos folder, but somehow, as yet, it’s not as clean and straightforward a way of uploading the images to the cloud for onward sharing, as it had been.

Perhaps, I ought to use Apple’s iCloud – after all as I have a nearly 100% Apple IT ecosystem my investment should be safe there … shouldn’t it?. Or alternatively, perhaps I ought to use Adobe’s Creative Cloud storage – after all as I rely so heavily on their software – they’ll look after me … won’t they?

It’s just events like these that make me wonder whether I want to be reliant on a large corporate and ponder on whether there’s another way, and perhaps there might be … watch this space.

Another fine mess you’ve got me into

Google Photos IconOh! Wouldn’t it be nice if Google were to publish a road map, or better still a strategy of what they’re actually trying to achive with Picasaweb/Google+ photos/Google Photos.

The only sort of strategy (for users) we get is what they’re about to do, just before they do it! That doesn’t allow any users of their various services the time to assess whether they need to do anything themselves to make their continuing use of Google services worthwhile, or not. Of course Google will argue “what do you expect from a free service”, which is always a difficult one to counter, but peace, harmony and goodwill is always something good to foster in your user community.

So it appears that I’ve been doing rather a lot of posts on the subject of Google this year. First there was the question of which cloud storage solution you should use for your Photos. I discussed that in this post.  Prior to this there had been the changes to YouTube, and to Hangouts – including it’s spin-out from Google+ and into Google’s Business Apps division, and of course the announcements of the intention of splitting up Google+ into Streams and Photos.

I recognised that this could mean the demise of Picasaweb, something I quickly realised was probably not likely to be true but the issue of what Google Photos actually is, and how it fits into a photographer’s workflow is still not exactly clear as I wrote about here.

And now we have the announcement that Google is sunseting the Google+ Photos app, initially on Android, from August 1st. This has caused a lot of consternation and discussion because the wording of the announcement is just not very clear. Respected “insiders” who I respect and follow say “no panic, there’s nothing to worry about, nothing’s changing“, but still one’s left with the uncomfortable feeling

  • “what about me ?”
  • “how does it affect me ?”
  • “is my workflow affected in any way”?

We’re all different, we all use tools in slightly different ways, we all need to know the answers to a wide range of different questions. This is where Google could do themeselves a huge amount of good by publishing a road map with some detail to it – not just a statement of intent as the Google+ split was announced –  or better still a strategy, of where they are going, and what they hope to achieve – even if they don’t want to commit to timescales.

So we trawl the internet to try and piece stuff together, to surmise, nay guess, what’s going on. So even yesterday we have this post from which I extract the following …

“With the death of Google+ Photos, Google will be dropping from three Photo services down to two. Google Photos won’t entirely be taking over the duties of Google+ Photos, Picasa Web Albums will be covering some of the functionality, too. Yes that’s right, Google’s original internet photo service is still alive! Picasa will apparently be serving as the host for pictures shared during Google Hangouts chats. A letter went out to Google Apps administrators tell them to enable Picasa Web if they want to continue sharing photos over hangouts, and we’ve seen our personal accounts jump back and forth between Picasa and Google+ hosting as well. We guess then you make two of everything (or in this case three of everything) you have lots of options to fall back on when you kill one.”


… how chaotic can you get! Look at this as well on a Google+ Help page entitled “What’s happening to Google+ Photos“. Apparently if you want to see photos you’ve shared in Blogger (or Hangouts) you need to use Picasa Web Albums! But what about those of us who’ve been embedding Picasaweb images and albums in WordPress posts. [You have to do this because it’s the only API that’s available to developers !!!]  What a shambles. What a need for clear direction, so here it is, my attempt at writing Google’s Photos Application strategy (looking backwards as well as forewards).

  1. We need to buy a strong well respected Photos application with a web presence to complement our exisiting purchase of YouTube for videos. [Done – Picasa and Picasaweb brought into the Google fold]
  2. We need to find a way of counter-acting the growth of those pesky social media applications. Let’s call it Google+ and integrate Picasaweb into it. Better not switch-off the API though as there’s far too many people using it and we just don’t know what would happen if we did, so let’s just hide it. [Done – Google+ launched. Very pleased with ourselves. Cracked it! … or maybe not, photographers love it, but they’re about the only ones]
  3. We need to find a way of combining the power of (and information contained in) images with income generation. We need to decouple Photos from Google+. We can’t call it Picasaweb, lets’s just copy Apple and call it Photos! We also need to make it quite clear that Photos is a repository, not a social network so we’ll integrate it closely with Google Drive and make everyone happy by giving loads of free storage to make them feel happier. [Done – why is everyone confused though?]
  4. We need to have a simple desktop app to manage/edit images – we’ve also bought Snapseed, what about combining that with Picasa. Great idea, it (they) can upload directly into Google Photos. [TBA]
  5. Unfortunately people have been making comments about images ever since Picasaweb, so we need a way of preserving Comments, and of course Posts that appeared on Google+. Right … the answer is Streams, everything that has ever appeared in Google+, will now appear in a Stream pointing at an image in Google Photos. Now we’re getting somewhere … aren’t we? We can leave the Picasaweb comments where they are … can’t we? [TBA]
  6. But what about the API for Drive, Photos? Working on it … then we can officially retire the name – Picasaweb. [TBA]

Seen like this Google+ Photos was an aberation, an unnecessary step. They should have left Picasaweb unchanged and morphed it into Google Photos when they had the APIs ready.

Let’s hope I’m right!