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!

Picasaweb … I got that one wrong then!

Just over a month ago I wrote a piece “What’s the future for Picasaweb?” – I managed to get that one spectacularly wrong, didn’t I!

Some things were clear, Photos was going to be spun out of Google+ and I assumed the link between Google+ and Picasaweb would be broken at that stage. I should have thought the other way round, shouldn’t I!

With the launch yesterday of Google Photos it has become apparent that the future of Picasaweb is … Google Photos. In all but name, they are one and the same thing but Google Photos has been optimised now, of course, for Mobile.

This morning I’ve tested from an Apple users perspective all the possible combinations of upload to Picasaweb, Google Drive and Auto-backup from Camera Roll (on my iPhone 4S which can’t have Google Photos installed on it as it’s running iOS 7… see previous post about Apple and “end-of-life”), and it has become clear that a new Workflow for iOS users wanting to share their photos is available and works very well.

Make sure your Google+ (or Google Photos) is set to Auto-backup and take a picture. Instantaneously that picture (in my case the one at the top of this post) will be sitting in your Google Photos app,  it will also within a minute be in Google Photos on the web (that’s the desktop link), and it will soon arrive in your Google Drive <GooglePhotos> folder as well.

You then have a few tools in the Google Photos app to do edits (or you could use Snapseed to do even more). Then from the Google Photos (or Snapseed) app on your mobile device you can share to twitter, Facebook, Google+,  iCloud Photo Sharing, Pocket, Flipboard, Flickr, Evernote, 500px, Tumblr, etc. etc.

So given the speed at which Auto-backup works, and as long as you have it switched on for both WiFi and Mobile Network (f you want to share away from a WiFi network), the Photo Sharing Workflow on your iPhone can now be “Snap using  device Camera and Share using Google Photos”.

NB You could of course have already been using Apple’s new Photos app, iCloud Photos and Photo Sharing where the sharing options are identical, but I wasn’t, and I’ve no intentions of doing so at the moment. You could also have been using IFTTT, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.

If you’re using a desktop browser there are less sharing options namely Google+, Facebook and Twitter, or … you can get a Shareable Link that you could put in an email or link to in a blogpost. Unfortunately, I don’t see an embed option, as yet, to allow you to publish an image from Google Photos into a blogpost – I hope that will follow. For the moment since Picasaweb and Google Photos are virtually one and the same thing, I can continue to use Picasaweb techniques for that use case!

In fact I’m sure the real heavy-lifting work has been done by making Drive and Photos a single image repository. Not all my Picasaweb images have been moved over to Drive … yet, but they are all accessible from Photos. The integration of Picasaweb and Photos has been achieved – presumably by re-directs. At some stage the message at the bottom of my Google Drive <Google Photos> folder –  “Stay tuned! Your older photos are coming soon” – will disappear and the integration will have been complete [EDIT 22/07/2015: This has now happened] and then (presumably) I will be advised that the Picasaweb interface is no longer available, but hopefully NOT before all the Picasaweb features have been added to Google Photos.

A couple of questions remain to be answered.

  1. What image quality should I be using – the default in the app has been set at “High Quality” which is correct for my iPhoneography and at 16Mp is much better than the original Free limit of 4Mp for storage, but do I want to set uploads to be “Original Quality” which would allow my unedited RAW files to be stored in Google Photos.
  2. What’s the place of the Google Desktop Uploader in my Workflow. This replaces the old Picasaweb Upload facility. I suspect I won’t use it – particularly since it also has Auto-backup and Sync features … a potential for just too many copies – but I do need to review whether it has a place in my Workflow. I suspect not, and I suspect I’ll continue using the Export to Google Drive/Picasaweb plugin(s) from Lightroom for this purpose. [I’ll return to both of these issues another day as they also relate to this recent post as well.]
  3. What should I do about all the duplicates that are now sitting in my Google Photos as a result of Auto-Backup and Google+ Sharing having caused two (or more copies) to have been made. I really need to sit down and work out whether I should do a one time job to sort this out.

So first impressions are good. I just need to make sure it works for me, and the way I work, before it gets my unqualified “thumbs up”.