What I’m Hoping to See in PicasaWeb 2.0

Google’s PicasaWeb program has been out for awhile now, it’s had a chance to sink in and get a little more popular. It hasn’t taken off like Flickr, but no one expected it to, since it’s not feature-packed enough to make it an actual competitor.

I’ve got close to 1GB of photos in my PicasaWeb account now, spread across 46 albums, and PicasaWeb is getting a little clunky now. So, Google, now that we’ve shipped and rolled out fairly well, it’s time to start talking about how to kick it up a notch.

PicasaWeb is in dire need of several features just to keep it usable. We all have our “this would be cool” features – mine is “public groups.” But there are some that are just plan necessary. Read on for more.

First and foremost, there simply has to be a way to create galleries into which you can put your albums. With 46 albums, the front page must load painfully slow on dial-up. Also, finding albums is getting hard. I would love to be able to set up a gallery called “Family” and put all of my family -related albums into that gallery. This is precisely how SmugMug works, and frankly, it’s superior to PicasaWeb. It’s going to very painful when I get to 100 albums to deliver a usable experience with the interface as is unless a step like this is taken.

Next, Google’s core competency is search. Google – listen to me – how hard can it be to add some arbitrary metadata and allow us to use tags? I mean, seriously, you already store a ton of EXIF data. Now, even assuming it’s just a big TEXT block in your database, there’s still room for data associated with a picture. We’ve got to be able to use tags to actually find photos. When I have 3000 photos across 50 albums, it will become very hard to find a particular photo. If I’m looking for a picture of someone, but I can’t remember when the picture was taken, it’s a LOT easier to search for their name than to scan all albums individually. Searching uploaded images that could conceivably have no associated data but a title of “IMG00449.jpg” is impossible without tags, and a service where we can’t use Google search is silly.

Lastly, another big one – we’ve got to be able to password protect directories. Maybe I have pictures I don’t want my grandmother to see. Simply making it “unlisted” is completely pointless. It’s hard to locate for friends and clumsy because anyone COULD stumble onto it. I’d much rather list it and require a password for entrance.

All three of these things are, in all likelihood, fairly simple to implement. The problem is more the interface for setting it up than the backend. Without these things, I’m afraid to say, PicasaWeb won’t scale. Certainly not for me. I figure with about 1 GB and 46 albums, I probably have about 6-9 months before the system becomes too clunky for me. And if Google can’t do something to make the PicasaWeb experience workable with large numbers of photos, I will be jumping ship for SmugMug.