This is probably the first thing that sparked my decision to leave Google for some (or all) of my online services, which are webmail, contacts, calendar, online photos, personal cloud, file hosting, and to a lesser extent, my search engine of choice. Click on any of the links at the bottom of this post to read about my transition of each of them.
I used to be a convinced Picasaweb user. This was mostly due to -at the time- the very large amount of free storage, low costs for additional storage, and an online interface that was better than the competition. I remember being impressed by the speed at which full-screen photos were loaded when you flicked through an album. I also loved the integration of EXIF data and geographical location information (effectively creating a map of where you’ve been).
This was then coupled to the (still) excellent Picasa desktop software, originally developed by Idealab’s Lifescape, from where you could upload your photos. However, the way you could decide which albums and photos to sync was confusing to me. I couldn’t get it to work just how I wanted. Either I synced all and only starred photos, or I could activate a ‘web sync’ feature which wasn’t very transparant. Then there was the option to explicitly create an album in Picasa, which you could then sync to the cloud. Anyway, it all wasn’t very intuitive, and I didn’t like it. It always felt like something that was slapped together and added on top of it. But apart from that, the Picasaweb service and Picasa software was excellent, while none of the competition came close. Of course, it helped that I was living in the Google ecosystem.
But with the arrival of Google+, slowly but surely Picasaweb was being eaten alive by it. Google first decided to use Picasaweb as the storage hub for photos in Google+. Next, it mirrored all albums in it’s social network, leaving you with two places where your photos were. Then, when Google upgraded it’s Contacts pictures to high resolution, each time I updated a contact’s picture, a separate album was created in my Picasaweb photo album collection ! I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what this was about, at one point thinking to blame my switch from an Android to a Windows Phone smartphone. So I asked the Internet, but the Internet didn’t know, leaving me to come up with an explanation of my own.
Before finally axing Picasaweb as it existed, Google redirected everyone to Google+ Photos, with an option to return to classic Picasaweb. This option is now gone, and the picasaweb subdomain sends you to Google+ Photos.
R.I.P. Apparently, you can still access the Picasaweb interface by using the following URL: https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/myphotos?noredirect=1
So there you are. If you want to host your pictures with your favourite service provider, Google, you have no choice but to host them in Google’s social network. In effect, Google now no longer has an online photo album service. “Sure it does”, I hear you say, “it’s just called Google+ Photos”. Fair enough, but I want a decoupled photo storage service. If I wanted that to exist inside a social network, I’d use Facebook. But I don’t, so Google cannot help me with that any longer.
Funny thing is, or to put salt in the wound, around the same time, the pricing plans for extra storage were changed as well. From $5/year to $10/month for exactly the same product. I’ll leave the math to you, but I can tell you that it’s more expensive.
Since in the meantime, I had switched from an Android phone to a Windows Phone one, and there was the prospect of moving my personal cloud and my file hosting/sharing service to SkyDrive, what better candidate than the latter ? SkyDrive now offered decent performance at an attractive price point ($10/year). It integrated three services into one (file hosting/sharing, personal document cloud (with office online editor!), and online photo albums), and has a straightforward synchronization. It just feels right.
TL;DR: Going about this migration or transfer is actually pretty easy thanks to the Dropbox-style functionality of SkyDrive. You share a photo album online, by simply copying the pictures in a separate folder under your Skydrive\Pictures folder. It’s obviously a bit more work, as you have to manually select files (unless you upload all your snaps unfiltered, then it’s easy).
The good thing is, if you had web sync enabled for your photo albums in Picasa, your local files will have synched any descriptions you might have put with the online photos. Very helpful (thank you, Google) if you have a lot of travel photos for example, which you annotated with all the places etc. which you undoubtedly have forgotten by now. Unfortunately, you do lose all comments of course, as this was a feature of Picasaweb, and can’t be saved in the image’s EXIF data. For me personally that wasn’t an issue with only a handful of comments.
Read my other posts about my online services switch from Google to Microsoft:
Moving webmail from Gmail to Outlook.com
Moving address book from Google Contacts to Microsoft People
Switching personal cloud service from Google Drive to SkyDrive
Moving file hosting service from Dropbox to SkyDrive
How Google is slowly losing me as a client to Microsoft
Switching search engines from Google to DuckDuckGo