More About Picasa Web Albums

Forgive me if this sounds especially arrogant or offends anyone, but I think I should be asked to join Google as the project lead for Picasa Web Albums, because I am really let down by what exists today and I think that I might be able to write something better myself with a week’s worth of programming and a server running PHP5.

Google has always been a “release now, update frequently later” kind of company, and I respect that. It’s cooler, as a user, to get something today and slowly and unexpectedly watch features trickle in, but Picasa Web Albums is a disaster right now. Read more for the details.

Okay, maybe “a disaster” is a little extreme. But it has lots of major problems, and they are all over the place. The problems pervade the entire app, and make it really hard to use effectively. But mostly, you can boil it down to this: it doesn’t scale, period.

Let’s examine. I currently have 52 albums in my collection, and the front page now takes about 2 second to load just the front page, which would be a bear over dial up (which my father still uses). On top of that, it has to load at least 52 thumbnails just to go from album to album. That’s a pretty slow experience.

The second problem is organization, and a simple feature could fix the first problem as well – galleries. Or subfolders. Or albums within albums, whatever you want to call it. This simple, logical ability would make Picasaweb incredibly more usable because not only could I group the front page, but it would make much more sense! This has to happen soon! Really, it has to. Not ONE other major photo app displays a thumbnails from every album, gallery, set, etc on the user’s front page. Know why? Because it’s a bad, ineffcient idea, the page loads incredibly slowly, and it makes navigating your photostream clunky.

I get the “simple user interface reaches the largest crowd” thing. But a photo collection of any size becomes a pain in the neck with Picasaweb. Quickly.

Next is the incredibly weak let-down that is tagging. I love the concept. And Google did one thing right: tagging is non-obtrusive but searchable. Unfortunately, not only is the implemention [[|bug-ridden]], but it’s impossible and impractical to tag all of your photos, because they must be done one by one. Hey Googlers, if you’re going to give us a feature, at least make it worthwhile. Do yourselves a favor, go sign up for a Flickr account, upload 1000 photos, and check out the Organizr. You already have a nice little Ajax interface for adding comments to all the photos in an album. You’ve got the Gmail apply tags to multiple conversations thing down. You’ve gotta iron this out. Seriously. Tagging is both painful and useless as is.

After all the work Google has done in all of their apps to rid us of the concept of folders and favorites in favor of “starring,” how is it that we cannot “star” a photo yet to indicate its one of our favorites? Seriously, where is the consistency? I almost wonder if any of the dev team has ever used another Google app. Google makes their online apps incredibly consistent – from Docs and Spreadsheets to Gmail to Maps to Checkout to Groups it all feels the same. Picasaweb is mostly there, but lacks so much of what could be.

I haven’t even touched on so much of what else should be there: password-protected albums, allowing others to “star” your photos and you to “star” others’ photos, a view count, a way to make some photos in an album private, and many more.

I have spent a lot of time moving from Flickr to Picasaweb, but these guys are going to have to kick it into high gear if they want to retain me as a customer in the future. Otherwise, I’m going back to Flickr or over to smugmug.

9 Replies to “More About Picasa Web Albums”

  1. Picasa Web Albums has such great potential, but the lack of sub-albums and their horrible tagging implementation really makes me wonder. They certainly have some of the best programming talent in the world, but perhaps they have less talented dudes working on their Web Album product. They really need to improve the quality of some of their products in 2007.

  2. I would also like to be able to edit some html…or at least add some…like the Google Analytics script.

    Page count is basic…c’mon Googlers. I am pushing 200 albums and want this thing to purr.


  3. The lack of sub-albums or folders or whatever, makes picasa web albums totally unusable. Having 50 albums on the front page is a nightmare. How hard could this feature possibly be for them to add? I’d switch all my online photos to it without hesitation if they just add this feature. I don’t understand how they could not support this. It’s so basic. I could go on all day about it. I can’t comprehend it.

  4. I think you’ve pointed out the main problems that if fixed will make it a fantastic photo site. It’s currently integrated really well with Picasa, allowing you to add tags in bulk on your computer before uploading, but I agree that it needs to work as well online.

    One thing I’d add is in the same vein as the thumbnails on the front page: multiple pages inside an album. I have one that contains 400 photos (a holiday in Vietnam) that my parents just can’t view due to their dial up connection. It would make sense to have an option to either view all, or view in groups or 10, 20, 50, 100 etc (a la Google image search and a thousand other sites)

  5. Seems that there has been no development in Picasa web over 1,5 years. Still the same serious flaws: no subfolders, no view count etc.

    Google wake up!

  6. Me too – the lack of sub-albums a serious shortcoming, Google!

    The other thing I want to mention – be wary of the photo tweaking features of Picasa. I know they are easy to use and look pretty good on a PC monitor, but large format prints can be seriously prejuduced or for that matter, displaying your work on a Full HD TV. Those little fixes can add some rather horrible artifacts at these magnifications. The native images come out well, but anything more than tiny careful tweaks can practically ruin your pic.

    TIP – view your work on your monitor using the “Actual Size” button Picasa provided in the lower right hand corner of the Image Editing screen. You can check the artifacts before spending money on printing.

  7. I agree. A monkey would see the need for subfolders. It’s kind of central to the whole idea of using a computer nowadays. Every other program I know of supports it. I cannot imagine that it is such a programming feat to include this feature. I’m bamboozled.

  8. Subfolders work so well with Picasa3 (and you can sort it 4 different ways) and totally absent on picasa web albums is sure idiocy. Almost all photo sharing web sites allow at least 2 levels of albums/subalbums or gallery/albums or collections/albums or albums/sections or whatever you want to call the folder/subfolders. The one reason I am not interested in online photo sharing is simply because NO site gets it right. Some sites, like is pretty nice but they don’t have a full screen slideshow. But they allow frames (and many other things) so you can embed your site into frames or iframes if you so want to do so. Picasa web albums does this too. And they have a full screen slideshow. But no folders/subfolders.

    Then there is smugmug. Nice slide show. Nice flexibility. folder/subfolders? check. oops, you can’t embed it in frames though–it breaks out of any attempt to frame it.

    There is is Phanfare. Really nice full screen slide show. Some flexibility in pro version. folder/subfolders? Check (called albums/sections). But you can’t embed it in frames either–it breaks out of any attempt to frame it.

    The perfect photo sharing site should:

    allow 3 levels of folder/subfolders. This will cover just about any contingency or organizing scheme.
    allow the use of frames/iframes and other kinds of web page embedding for your own web site
    Have a full screen slideshow option
    Have flexibile picture displays that fill up the users screen and not limited to an idiot 800×600 pixel size (fixed). Just see how Picasa3 works and how the user can use the available screen by resizing it. All sites should do this–it’s not hard using basic javascript much less PHP, etc.. It should use the available space in the users browsers (which varies depending on add-ons, browser brand, etc).
    Must allow video as well as pictures in the slide show sequence (many do)
    Have uploaders that work in the background (and don’t abort until done!)
    Allow users to download an executable slide show (phanfare does this quite well)

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