Review: Picasaweb vs. Flickr

Now that I’ve successfully used most of the features on both and Picasaweb, I decided I would write a short review of the two services. The need for online photo storage is certainly a very real one, and different services have different objectives. Here’s a short breakdown.

Read more for the review.

Flickr (hereafter, flickr) is owned by Yahoo! and has been online for about 3 years now. Flickr is heavily AJAX based, and is very dynamic. Due to a very robust web API, there are many third party tools available to a user. Flickr gives each free user account an allotment of 200 public photos and 20MB of upload bandwidth per month. While you can upload more, only the most recent 200 photos will be visible to visitors. Both of these limits are extremely reachable.

Flickr offers “Pro” accounts, and these accounts have substantially more space. Uploads are increased to 2GB per month with unlimited storage. “Unlimited” is a tricky term, although I’ve never heard of a Pro user getting turned away for using too much disk space.

Flickr’s organization system is tag-based, akin to Gmail’s labeling system. Photos can be tagged an arbitrary number of times with aribtrary tags. In addition, they can belong to a “set.” A free account is given three sets and a pro account unlimited. Sets are a bit like the traditional “album.” While browsing by a user’s tags is fairly easy, it’s not easy to cycle through those photos.

In its lifespan, the flickr system has also matured and introduced some nice collaborative features. Users can create groups and these groups can host discussion and a photo pool. Users can be granted access to these groups – and the permissions are fairly granular, where an administrator can limit the people in the group, the number of photos in the pool, even the privacy of the content. All group photos come from an individual’s photostream.

As I mentioned before, there are many third party tools available to interact with Flickr. I have had luck with several tools thus far, although some have been hit-or-miss. While this is not flickr’s fault, I find that there are times it’s hard to upload large numbers of files. What I’ve really been missing is a free-as-in-beer iPhoto integration tool. There appears to be one, but it’s commercial. Yahoo has not thus far released their own official flickr tool, although I understand they do recommend Flickr Uploadr. Personally, I’ve had problems with the Windows version (it tells me that the images aren’t JPGs when, in fact, they are).

Security wise, each app using the API must be authorized by you before it can upload, which is a great feature.

Another fantastic feature of flickr is the the built-in feeds. Flickr offers an astounding number of feeds, including RSS, Atom, SQL, and many more. A cursory web search will reveal other dynamic feeds available. Using these feeds, it’s relatively easy to syndicate a photocast or even sync a remote site.

Flickr’s strength lies in its management tools. The fantastic “organizr” allows a user to perform amazing batch edits and manipulate their photos in virtually any way imaginable, complete with editing metadata and EXIF data. In addition, when logged in, you can often change titles, tags, descriptions, etc. inline, AJAX style, without reloading the page.

While flickr is a mature site, it has a serious drawback – it’s not familiar feeling to less technical people. My parents struggle to understand the tagging concept and don’t immediately understand how to locate certain pictures or types of pictures when I have nearly 1000 photos in my photostream.

Overall, flickr is a great service, and I am a Pro member.

Picasaweb may be one of the very few non-search Google applications not in a “beta test” phase. However, that’s because it’s in a “test” phase, which I have to assume is pre-beta test. That said, it should be remembered that Picasaweb, Google’s foray into online photo storage, is a newcomer to the field.

Picasaweb’s initial offering is 250MB, which Google claims will hold about 1000 photos at 1600 pixels. This would seem to indicate that Google may be degrading the JPGs or applying some sort of compression algorithm to your photos upon upload. Either way, You can certainly store more than Flickr’s 200 photos. By upgrading storage (a feature only available to US users, by the way!), your limit is raised to 6GB (actually 6394 MB). After uploading about 1000 photos so far, I’m still at 475 MB. Many have been compressed, since the default is compressed to 1600px.

Google has approached photo management differently and it shows. They have opted for a much simpler, albeit less powerful, interface. Instead of tags, which they’ve implemented in their own apps like Gmail, they’ve gone with albums. A photo belongs to one and only one album (though it can be copied to other albums). While this means I can’t send someone a single link to look at “Friends in DC” and “Friends in FL” in one link, it does mean my mother can figure it out, and so can everyone else.

Google has released a new version of their image management software [[|Picasa]] which integrates “web albums” and makes it drop dead easy to create or add to albums on Picasaweb. The tool is extremely simple and very quickly formats/resizes/uploads images. Google has also released a Mac bundle with two great tools. First, the Picasa Web Uploader. It’s a very simple drag-and-drop upload tool. The second part is an iPhoto add-on, a great one, which makes integration with your web albums as simple as a photo export.

One amazing feature of Picasaweb is the fact that, should an author make an album fully public, you can click “Download to Picasa” and download the entire album in ONE CLICK. This is a great feature I’d like to see in other online tools. This only works in Windows, and it sems that Picasa registers a new VFS so your browser understands the picasa:// directive.

Picasaweb has far fewer features than flickr. There are no groups, there’s no sharing or discussion beyond photo commenting, and there are no EXIF manipulation tools. Beyond some simple rearragement tools, all the work needs to be done on the client, and changes must be re-uploaded.

In the end, flickr and Picasaweb provide different things and a comparison isn’t as apropos as you’d think. Picasa integrates with your current tools (Picasa on Win and Linux, iPhoto on Mac) and creates a simple interface to share and organize your photos. Flickr’s strength comes from its thriving Web 2.0 community and collaboration and search. If you are seeking a place to store your online photos, either service will likely serve you perfectly well.

Ultimately, I have chosen Picasa because Flickr’s interface is just too clunky for quickly accessing specific photos when you have a large number of photos in your photostream. However, I still use flickr, and fairly avidly, because the communities are great and the number of photos is simply astounding. It comes down to the fact that Picasaweb is a personal experience and flickr is a group one, and what I’m looking for for my photos is a simple way to show them to my family.

33 Replies to “Review: Picasaweb vs. Flickr”

  1. Why do you use the term compression, when it’s really about resizing or rescaling (downscaling)? You even say resize correctly, when you talk about what Picasa the program does before uploading the images.

  2. You should try out Yahoo Photos. It may not be 100% as intuitive as Flickr, but it gives you unlimited space for free, and the interface is generally not bad at all.

  3. You said: “While flickr is a mature site, it has a serious drawback – it’s not familiar feeling to less technical people. My parents struggle to understand the tagging concept and don’t immediately understand how to locate certain pictures or types of pictures when I have nearly 1000 photos in my photostream. “

    #1 “it’s not familiar feeling to less technical people.” (i.e. your parents) Here, Google wins because it simply does so much less. There’s not much to learn, because there’s not much there. Being “familiar’ is easy when there is so little to become familiar with.

    #2 “My parents struggle to understand the tagging concept and don’t immediately understand how to locate certain pictures or types of pictures when I have nearly 1000 photos in my photostream. “

    You’re folks don’t need to now diddly about taging (that’s your job). They can just enter a search term like “Snuffy” or “June Picnic” and Flickr’s search engine will scan your tags, titles and descriptions for that term. Finding 4 pix of my Dog Harley out of over 600 photos is a snap on Flickr. Picasa offers no way to find a particular photo other than to manually browse through the albums. When it comes to finding photos on a specific topic, Flickr wipes the floor with Picasa.

    Picasa is good as a “Me” tool where it’s all about me sharing my photos via a dead simple (and very limited) user interface. The ability to easily email a link to your sets, an album or a specific photo via the “Share” button is a great feature of Picasa, plus I like that any album can be viewed with three sizes of thumbnails. Very nice.

    Flickr is a “We” tool, where I might share a family album (via a private group) that other family members contribute to. On my Flickr home page, the latest pictures from my family, friends and contacts appear. And, of course, there are the many, many groups on Flickr. It’s amazing and a whole different concept from Picasa.

    I agree that the Flickr user interface is more complex than necessary, though part of that stems from the fact that it is much, much, much more fully featured than the present iteration of Picasa. Speaking of user interface, people unfamilar with the practice of comment spamming may be perplexed as to why they must type text from a funny looking grahic into a box before they can post a comment here. Tell us why (briefly). Think of mom and dad when you develop.

    Incidentally, I sprung for the iPhoto Flickr plugin available at: and it’s worth the $21 I paid many times over. You can view my photostream at

  4. Well I am going to try picasaweb now and see how it goes…. It only lets you have 500 per album, and we will see how many photos it will allow!

    Thx for writing this

  5. I totally agree with your analysis. Personnally I manage my photos on my laptop with Picasa (easy to organize, easy to find photos and the new feature Tag with Google Earth feature is really cool) but I share them with Flickr.

    I tried PicasaWeb but I found it too poor (in particular it doesn’t read the tags embedded in jpeg files, even they are entered via Picasa). Whereas Flickr automatically extract them from the photos and add them to its own tag system.


  6. As a Flickr Pro, I use it extensively but may I make another suggestion? Try (yes, there are 3 o’s) Zooomr is tagged as a Flickr killer but I doubt it. Same uploading features, you can geotag your pics, create sets and sharing as well. Limited but absolutley worth a look. I’m a pro there as well. Enjoy!

  7. I just cast a glance at Zooomr and indeed it looks promising : geotagging is already included and moreover it supports several languages (I am French and the most part of my familly is scared of english websites).

    But the project is just starting so for the moment I will keep Flickr.

  8. Good review! I have both but find the Picasa software a great “front end” for easy photo editing and organization. However the lack of EXIF integration in Picasa is a real concern as it is clear that this will remain the dominant “open-source” tagging method. I would also like to use Picasa to upload into Flickr. Compression also degrades the quality of pics in downloaded Picasa Albums.

    Advantage Flickr!

  9. A very nice review. I agree that Picasa Web Albums is much more accessible to non-technical people, as most of the people I share photos with are. Flickr has great features and community, but I am doing my sharing with Picasa Web Albums. My family doesn’t want to search on tags or any of that stuff. They just want to click on the Zoo Trip album, and browse the pictures.

    Picasa Web does preserve metadata such as Tags and Captions. I can Tag photos, upload them to Web Albums, and then download them to another computer with my metadata intact. Captions entered as IPTC data are displayed on Web Albums already. It is probably just a matter of time until Google updates Picasa Web to read Tags.

    Finally, I want to address your point on compressing the size of pictures when they are being uploaded to Web Albums. When you click the Web Albums upload button in Picasa, in addition to which Album you want to upload to and so, there is the option of what size you want your photos compressed to. There are three options, with it defaulting to 1600. You can also select No Compression/Original Size.

    I have tried Yahoo Photo Beta. It is nice, and does have unlimited free storage. Zooomr is always very slow for me, and some of the concepts they use still don’t make sense to me, such as Lightbox. I have tried many of the other options suggested here as well, but I keep on coming back to Picasa Web Albums for its ease of use, integration with Picasa, clean display, simple and intuitive UI for my non-computer friends and family, and its AD free, even with the free 250mb. As I said, I enjoy and use Flickr as well, but I use it more from a hobbyist prospective.

  10. I started with flickr as the images can be directly embedded in postings, unlike Picasaweb.

    However I pretty soon hit the limit to the number of sets I could declare, and then found that the organizr tool was rather buggy.

    Picasaweb may be in test, and I can’t embed my images, but at least the basics work quickly, intuitively, and without pain. Good enough for me.


  11. I had a lot of trouble uploading big batches of pics to flickr. I am a pro user and still have the acct, but I use picasa because of the one click feature you speak of. as someone who ocassionally gets drunk and takes 177 pics in a night, flickr is just too difficult to negotiate with a hangover…. and I don’t have the patience for the individual uplaod of everything in flik’r. But I think this review was spot on.

  12. Finally if it is a question of storing/sharing unlimited number of photos should we use Yahoo photos ?. Doest Yahoo photos alter/compress the original resolution of photos ?.
    Any free service available which can do this for me ?

  13. I hated and left Yahoo Photos when they decided to forbid me from downloading my own pictures in their original resolutions.

    However, thanks to Flickr and possibly PicasaWeb, and of course competition from Google in general, the guys at Yahoo! have woke up… and now, not only do they return the photos to us, they have renovated Yahoo! Photos altogether and give us unlimited space.

    On top of that, the new interface just feels real cool, with the dancing hamsters, pretty intelligent Tray and other visually appealing AJAX features.

    Well done, Yahoo! You have won back one Yahoo! Photos user, after many years, although I hope you can be trusted for good this time.

    I never thought that anything from Yahoo! could be better than Google, but I guess Yahoo! Photos is the tip of the iceberg?

  14. Yeah Right. Yahoo photos kicked us in our back all right. I am jumping out from the yahoo bandwagon to picasa. It is easy to use. I cannot trust flickr since it is run by yahoo and they will spam my email .

  15. Picasa does not allow for enough privacy of your photos. All that one needs is your url to see your album – ‘unlisted’ or not. What if you send an ‘unlisted’ URL to your friend who then forwards it to someone else who you didn’t want to be able to see the album ?

    That way, flickr has given an additional level of privacy – one where you can restrict viewership to those flickr ids that YOU choose. They have to log in and see it. In addition to that, flick has the ‘unlisted’ and public options that picasa offers.

    Would picasa add that level of privacy in the future ?

  16. Unfortunately Yahoo is killing off Yahoo Photos in favour of Flickr and are not accepting any more members. If Yahoo Photos was such a great site, what’s the logic in such a decision???

  17. Flickr limits the number of photos you can share, though allowed to create albums and collections of albums, you can only share One album. You cannot copy the URL addresses and put them into an e-mail. You must use their programs to send your pictures. If you pay for the expanded service, be warned it is a NON-REFUNDABLE commitment. All you get is additional storage space when you pay more and you still can’t share more than the 200 pictures or one album. Their on-line help is not helpful or friendly. Picasa has much more free memory and allows you to copy the URL addresses into an e-mail so you can share as many albums as you want. Picasa does not have all the fancy printing options, like photobooks, but you can do that with another program, like my publisher or snapfish, or shutterfly.

  18. Are you crazy? There is *no* limit of Flickr’s paid photos, only the free version, which limits you to 200. You can share as many photos as you’d like, you can create as many “sets” and “collections” as you’d like once paid, even the free version lets you do three. You do NOT need Flickr software for anything – even editing photos, and you absolutely can share a URL via email. Your payment for Flickr, like Google and most other services, is non-refundable.

    Snapfish SUCKS and requires users to register just to see your photos, and I used Shutterfly for prints once and the quality sucked. I think you’re nuts or attempting to troll us.

  19. Flickr sucks…I reached my limit and so there was a bunch of photos that was put on “storage” aacdg to them and the only way I’ll be able to view them is when I deleted the most recent ones… But that was not the case…I deleted my recently posted photos…and was still not able to view the old ones… I was told to wait for a week for the photos to re-upload but that passed and nothing happened…So, I emailed them again and was told…all my photos are gone and the problem was blamed on me- for they said I deleted all of ’em!!! I mean, seriously?! How can I possibly delete photos that I cannot even view and thus, unable to select to be deleted!!! And why would I delete photos that I am trying to retrieve?!?!

  20. I think the current Flickr (May 09) is a mess—at least in terms of slideshows. The simple act of arranging your photos in a specific order is an ordeal, which even Flickr Support admitted in a reply to me was “sucky.” And I hated the way the slideshow operated: no manual advancing of slides, descriptions up in a corner (with unneeded info always displayed),etc. And if I wanted to use the home page as my slideshow, only the first screen would display them at a decent size. So I looked into Picasa and found it to be highly superior to Flickr in these particular areas. Flickr’s got the name-brand that automatically attracts new users. To all of them I say, check out Picasa too!

  21. Saying the tools, I wrote a image viewing program (Windows) which can access both picasa and flickr on your computer just like viewing the images on your local machine. You can also create album, upload photo, rename photo or delete photos just the same as on your local machine. It is a freeware. Try if you like.

  22. Haifeng Chen:

    Saying the tools, I wrote a image viewing program (Windows) which can access both picasa and flickr on your computer just like viewing the images on your local machine. You can also create album, upload photo, rename photo or delete photos just the same as on your local machine. It is a freeware. Try if you like.

    You can download from

  23. i really appreciate this. i’ve been going back ad forth for days. my main concern – above all else – is how simple it will be for my family and friends to access my album. i’m not so into sharing…:)

  24. Hi Elle B,

    I had wasted lot of my time using Flickr, Picasa, and a few other sites. I say waste not because I had trouble using it (since I am a techie, and I like messing around with new features etc.) –but because after I uploaded the photos I had to call my not-too-tech-savvy family members and walk them through some tedious process. That frustrated both me and them!

    In my case, I scanned some old photos and wanted my dad and one of my aunt and uncle to comment on those photos; not to blog for the world to see, but for me (and our family) so that we keep bit of our family history.

    I recently landed on something called and man…. I am spellbound. It had exactly what I wanted.

    In fact, it used to be that I take most of the photos I upload them too. Ideally my wife wanted help me by doing the selecting and uploading (I literally take 100s each month) so that my job is just to shoot. With she is more than happy to do the selection/upload/organizing part. Actually, in her own words, “organizing is so intuitive in this thing that I don’t have to think much”. Also, when in doubt, she “hides” photos that are not great, and later we sit together and “unhide” it after doing some minor photoshop adjustments.

    Also, some of my friends are okay to signup to see the photos, but most of my non-tech-savvy users that I send to just wanted a link and click on it, add annotation and be done with it. This (like most sites) offered me both.

    I have a feeling, is what you may be looking for.

    Oh one another thing, I was able to do side-by-side shooting condition comparison of all the photos in a given set (they call it film-roll). This helps me understand how to use my camera better –and which setting is the best for a given situation, etc. Actually, I learned a lot about how to make the best use of my 5D using this site!.

    Best of luck… let me know if you (or anyone) finds something even better than this. I would like to give it a try.

  25. Does anyone else have a account? I put a boatload of photos there about 8 months ago and I haven’t been able to load the site for a couple weeks now. I’m beginning to think that it was a fraudulent site. It was free and offered unlimited storage, but it is still an annoying situation. Has anyone else had a similar experience?

  26. I tried out Flickr free, and found that when people were using the “next” arrows to go from one full frame pic to the next, ads were popping up IN PLACE OF THE PHOTOS! Some were very photo-like, so that you think it is one of the member’s photos for a couple of seconds. Really just a horrible thing to do. I get that they have to have ads, but I have never seen anything this intrusive. Deleted the account.

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