20MB File Size Limits on Photo Sharing Sites are Stupid

20MB File Size Limits on Photo Sharing Sites are Stupid

I noticed today for the first time that Flickr has been resizing all of my photos that I upload to the site over 20MB. I’ve known that Flickr has had a 20MB size limit for a while and in the back of my mind always sort of wondered why my photos over 20MB were still uploading to Flickr. I never really investigated it until today though.

Earlier this morning I uploaded this photo to Flickr. My original image is 5415×3610 pixels and is 23.5 MB. In Flickr’s bulk uploader (that I use to upload all of my photos to flickr) I’ve selected the option “don’t resize my photos.” Out of my 25 uploads this morning, flickr did in fact upload the actual originals of 24 of the 25 photos. The one that was over 20MB though was automatically resized to 2048 x 1365 pixels and now is a miserly 627KB.

While I can understand where Flickr might not want to notify me that my image was over the 20MB limit, reducing it down to a sub 1M file seems like overkill. I’ve always assumed that my photos on flickr could be perfect backup copies for me in the event that I lost my original photos (which are already backed up on multiple drobos and elsewhere in the cloud). It’s disappointing to know that even though I told the bulk uploader not to resize my photos that Flickr has been resizing some of my photos anyways. I suggest that if they are going to keep doing this that they put a disclaimer on the bulk uploader that photos over 20MB will be resized.

But lets talk about the stupid 20MB requirement in the first place. You can fit about 100,000 20MB files on a 2TB hard drive. You can buy a 2TB hard drive
retail now at Amazon.com for $80. (I guarantee you Yahoo pays less than retail).

99.99999% of Pro accounts on Flickr probably have less than 100,000 photos (and the same for 2TB). So Yahoo gets reoccurring fee revenue of $29 per year for each Pro account, but they have this stupid 20MB cap on photos that probably really costs them next to nothing.

Now maybe the 20MB cap limit made more sense a few years ago when storage was more expensive and DSLRs didn’t really produce 20MB+ sized images. But today’s Canon 5D Mark 2 (one of the most popular DSLRs with Flickr photographers) regularly produces a small number of files over 20MB. It seems stupid to me that to save pennies at best, Flickr would resize users’ photos (without really disclosing it to them). I think the time has come that Flickr at least consider raising this limit to 50MB. This would cover the bulk of the DSLR market out there today while likely costing Flickr very little.

Given that most people never view the original sized photos on Flickr I can’t imagine that bandwidth is a significant issue. And of course storage is only likely to get cheaper and cheaper in the months/years ahead.

So which innovative company is going to drop the stupid 20MB limit and let photographers actually upload their photos up to a more reasonable size without resizing (like say 50MB)?

By the way, Google’s Picasaweb Albums also has the stupid 20MB file size limit, which makes even less sense on Picasa because there you actually pay there by how much storage you use. What should they care if you upload 100 40MB files or 200 80MB files? You’re paying for the storage, why limit the file size?

Both of these of course are better than the Facebookery’s default of 2048 pixels.

Update: Rev Dan Catt, a former Flickr engineer offers a more detailed explanation about some of the reasons behind the 20MB file size limit in the comments below.

Slowly But Surely Google is Taking Over My Computing Life

Slowly But Surely Google is Taking Over my Computing Life

Years ago I used to only use Google to do internet searches. Slowly but surely though Google has been taking over more and more and more of my computing life. This is not a bad thing, this is a good thing. Google makes things that make my life easier and their corporate values are more in synch with my own than most publicly traded companies. I’ve especially noticed in the past six months that the trend of Google taking over my computing life has accelerated dramatically. This could have to do with the time I’ve been spending on Buzz, but some of the changes (like changing my internet browser) have involved big chunks of my computing experience.

Below is a loose chronology of the evolution of my experience with Google Products.

1. Search (can’t remember exactly when, but years ago), got off Yahoo pretty early in the game and switched to Google. Google has the best search on the web today. I appreciate Google’s more open nature than other search engines and their better track record when it comes to keeping the web uncensored.

2. Blogger. Used Blogger since 2003. Abandoned Blogger for WordPress last year, mostly due to Blogger’s inability to deal effectively with comment spam.

3. Google Analytics. Still use this. It’s free which is good. I’ve never really gotten what I want and need out of this product though. It’s complicated to build things for me. The two most important things I want from a stats package are the number of page views and referring url information. My view I’m most interested in is the past 24 hours. Before Analytics I used Sitemeter. I liked Site Meter’s analytics product much more, but you have to pay for that and Google Analytics is free.

I get the sense that Google Analytics is a bit like Photoshop for me. You can do anything and everything with it, but I’m still only using about 2% of its true potential.

4. Google Docs. I’m a lightweight user of word processing and spreadsheets, so this works just fine for me. Replaces the need to buy expensive software from Microsoft to do this sort of work for the casual user like me.

5. Google Maps. I used to use Mapquest and Yahoo Maps. Now I use Google Maps exclusively. It’s the best mapping software on the web. I use it *very* heavily when traveling.

6. YouTube. Like everybody I’m on it. I rarely use it though. Occasionally I’ll consume content on it. It takes so much time to watch YouTube videos though. It’s probably the internet site that my kids use more than any other site on the internet though. My son Jackson has spent hours on there learning how to do Yo Yo tricks. One of these days I’m going to have to get him a Google Yo Yo. Actually I just ordered him a green one and a yellow one. He’ll love them. 🙂 I used Google Checkout to buy them from Google (not sure why the shipping charge is more than the yoyos though).

7. Google Earth. I don’t use Google Earth a lot. I find it a bit unweildy actually. But I do use it to do the geotagging with Geotagger for my photos.

8. Gmail, part 1. Unfortunately I was late to the game with Gmail. So alas, I’m thomashawk22 instead of thomashawk. I got a gmail account and then never really used it. A few years back though I was getting so much spam email that I began filtering thomashawk.com email through gmail first to filter out all of the spam. That worked tremendously well. My spam pretty much went away entirely overnight. So I was using Google gmail as a passive filter for my Mac mail reader for about 2 years. Part 2, later.

In the past six months.

9. Google Buzz. Buzz has really become my primary social network. I still use a number of different social networks (Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed), but Buzz now gets the bulk of my social networking time and attention. One of my favorite things about Buzz is that it shows photos *really* well. You can feed your Flickr feed into it and if people click on the thumbnails they blow up huge to get an easy big view. There’s a link to Flickr included that I can cmd click to go fave the photo on Flickr too.

The majority of my faves that I’m faving on Flickr these days are coming from Google Buzz. If you haven’t hooked your Flickrstream up to a Buzz account yet you are missing out. 🙂 Even if you aren’t going to use Buzz, don’t have time for another social network, etc. You should still at least hook up your Flickrstream to it so that people can see your Flickr photos there and get back to your stream via Buzz.

10. PicasaWeb. I’ve had an account on Picasa for years, but just never really used it. I’ve started using it much more though. Presently I’m maxed out my free storage there so I’m just using it to host small sized screenshot files and deleting my larger high res photos as I need space. I’ve thought about paying the $5 to buy more ($5 is really totally insignificant for me to pay) but I need Picasa to convince me as a product first why I should do that.

If Picasa had photostreams and SmartSet technology I’d totally pay. But as it stands today, it’s too much work organizing my photos there manually without SmartSets and it feels to me like the photosharing community is still very much at Flickr. I do use the service though almost daily to host my screenshots.

11. Google Profiles. I like having a profile page on Google and look forward to seeing them continue expanding this product. You can find my Google Profile here.

12. Google Chrome. After a rocky marriage with Firefox for many years we finally split up a few months ago. Google Chrome is just a far better, faster, more stable web browser.

13. GMail, part 2. I haven’t opened my Mac Mail application for about a month now. I’ve been consuming all of my email directly from gmail on the web. Mostly it’s just faster to do email this way. So now it is not only my passive spam filter, it’s my main mail application that I use to consume all of my email.

14. Picnik. Probably technically not a Google Product yet, but acquired by Google recently so I’m including it. I just bought a Pro account there for $24.95 for a year. I did it just because I was curious about what you could do there more than anything. I don’t think I’ll renew it after my year is up based on what I saw. I didn’t really see anything there that I can’t already do in Lightroom or Photoshop. But for someone who doesn’t want to spend the money for Lightroom/Photoshop, this seems like an excellent way to go. You really can do quite a bit for $25 a year.

I need to play around with Picnik a bit more though. Maybe it will grow on me. Google should consider giving away the Pro version in Picasa to get more people on there.

15. Google Calendar. After using 30 Boxes for many years I switched to Google Calendar. Not sure why really. 30 Boxes was working just fine. I think I like Google Calendar better. I like how now that I’ve synched it up with my iPhone that I get a little notification from my iPhone calendar 10 minutes before I’ve got an appointment.

16. Google Chrome URL shortener. this is kind of a minor little tool. Not a product really. But I love it so much that I wanted to include it. You just click on a little icon in Chrome and it automatically copies a shorter url to your clipboard. 🙂

The future.

So what’s next for me in terms of adopting Google products. I’m not sure exactly but here are a few ideas.

Android. I suspect that when my contract with AT&T ends in July that I’ll likely switch to a Google phone of some sort. They seem to be ahead of Apple right now, are a more open company. And I can’t stand how poor AT&T’s 3G network is in San Francisco.

Chrome OS. This will be an interesting one. Switching your OS is huge. It took me years to get off Windows and on to my Mac about 5 years ago. Overall I’m pretty happy with my Mac. Still I paid over $3,000 for my last MacBook Pro. Chrome would seem to make computing cheaper. I don’t know enough about Chrome to really blog about it, but if I can install it on my MacBook Pro when it comes out (later this year?) to check it out I definitely will. Apple’s OS is pretty damn solid though, so I think this switch for me will be a harder one.

Picasa Increases Album Limit from 1,000 Albums to 10,000 Albums

Picasa Increases Album Limit from 1,000 Albums to 10,000 Albums

Ok, this is just smart marketing. In the past Google’s Picasa photo sharing service had a limit of 1,000 albums that you could create on the service. I actually would be surprised if a single user on the site had hit the 1,000 album limit. I’ve been posting to Flickr aggressively for over five years and even I don’t have 1,000 albums on Flickr yet (to date, interesting enough though I’ve got 994 sets on Flickr so I’m close).

A few weeks back I blogged that I thought you’d see Google step things up with Picasa a bit now that Buzz has arrived and can serve as a social interaction engine for the site. The more I think about it, I’m not sure if a Picasa/Buzz combo will end up becoming Google’s competitive answer to Flickr or if Google might do something else entirely, but I can tell you that I think that Google is presently *very* well poised, better than they’ve ever been, to take Flickr on in significant ways.

From Google:

“We want Picasa Web Albums to be a place you can share and store all your digital photos, regardless of how many you have. We recently made extra storage really affordable, but until now, Picasa Web accounts have been limited to a maximum of 1,000 albums. We heard that you needed more room, and because we want you to keep sharing your photos and posting them to Buzz, we’ve worked hard to now raise this limit to 10,000 albums.”

Now here is another smart thing that Picasa has done. By default they show you 100 albums. But they give you the *option* to click a link and see all of your albums. Now why is this great design? Well it keeps Picasa’s main album page fast loading for everyone. While some of us are constantly on fast connections, we have to remember that many other people are not. By loading 100 albums this makes it easier for those on slower connections. But by giving an easy link to all of the albums for those of us with fast connections, it offers us a more dramatic way to view albums on Picasa.

Flickr by contrast just recently (ugh, paging sucks Flickr!) decided to page your sets pages. What does this mean? It means that now you (and your contacts) can only see a miserly 30 of your most recent sets. This means that if you have a lot of sets on Flickr like I do that 30 of your sets get exposure while the other 964 effectively get buried. It used to be that if you looked at my Flickr sets page you got to see them all. Now you only see this. This sucks for me as a photographer because it makes it *much* harder for me to find my sets, but it also means that less people will be seeing my sets going forward.

You can follow a thread of users complaining about this decision by Flickr here. They did offer a workaround hack for users to use for their sets in that thread, which was smart, and allows *me* still to access all of my sets on one page, but it doesn’t deal with the fact that anyone who follows my work likely won’t know about the hack so they’ll still be stuck with sucky paging. You can see all 994 of my sets on one page by the way using the hack here. If you want to use the hack yourself, just add ?page=1&per_page=10000 at the end of any set url for either your own sets or someone else’s on Flickr.

By contrast, Google provides users a very handy link to see all of your sets on one page right there on the 100 sets page.

So Google shows 100 of your sets with a link to show all of them, and Flickr only shows 30 with no link to show all of them (but offering a hack for those in the know to see all of them). I think Google’s page design here is superior. I also like the way that Picasa uses larger thumbnails for their albums than Flickr does.

There is one area (and a far more significant area) where Flickr has Google beat on sets though. And that is in SmartSet technology. With Flickr’s API, developers have developed ways to organize your sets on Flickr by keywords — a far more efficient way than manually creating sets by hand. There are two primary web based sites where you can organize SmartSets on Flickr. Eric Appel has SmartSetr and then there’s Dopiaza’s Flickr set manager. I probably like SmartSetr more here because it doesn’t limit the number of photos you can have in a set. Dopiaza’s tool limits a set to 500 photos.

By FAR though my favorite way hands down to organize my sets on Flickr is using Jeremy Brook’s new tool SuprSetr. While SuprSetr still has bugs and is in beta, I find that it is the most robust and consistent performing set manager I’ve seen yet. In fact, I’d say that for me personally, SuprSetr is the most important and most significant improvement that I’ve seen around Flickr in the past five years.

Now if Google really wanted to leapfrog Flickr in set management with Picasa, they’d actually incorporate Jeremy’s SuprSetr application as a feature for Picasa.

If you want to find me on Picasa I’m here.

Does Google’s Acquisition of Picnik Suggest That Google’s Picasa is Getting Ready to Seriously Challenge Yahoo’s Flickr Photo Sharing Site?

Does Google's Acquisition of Picnik Suggest That Google's Picasa is Getting Ready to Seriously Challenge Yahoo's Flickr Photo Sharing Site

Google acquired image editing site Picnik today. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but you can read the announcements by Picnik and Google on their respective blogs.

This is interesting to me for a few reasons.

First, Picnik is the default image editing software built into Yahoo’s photosharing site Flickr. While nobody has yet suggested that Picnik will be getting the boot from Flickr, it would seem to me an awkward relationship at best for a Yahoo property to be using a Google owned service for part of their offering. I suspect that Picnik gets dropped by Flickr and replaced with some sort of new offering.

But second, you have to ask yourself why Google would buy Picnik and why now.

The most logical application for Picnik at Google, would be for Google to integrate the software into their photo sharing property Picasa which competes with Flickr. The fact that Google would allocate $$$ towards Picasa right now may signal that they are getting serious about finally mounting some reasonable effort at trying to displace Flickr as the photo social sharing King of the internet.

What else makes me think this? Google Buzz. While I consider Flickr superior in a lot of ways to Picasa today, the biggest advantage that Flickr has always held over their competitors is how strong a grip they’ve had on the social aspect of photo sharing. But now that Buzz has arrived on the scene (and your Buzz photos go into Picasa albums by default by the way), it would appear that Google finally has a viable social network to compete with Flickr’s own internal social network inside of Flickr. By combining the social power of buzz, with an enhanced version of Picasa, Google could mount a formidable competing offering to Yahoo’s Flickr.

Personally I hope this is the case. Why? Because Flickr needs competition. Not only have they grown lazy in terms of innovation (because they can), they treat their users and their users’ data disrespectfully (because they can) censoring users and nuking whole communities on their site. With a stronger competitor out there it may force Yahoo to finally begin beefing up Flickr as well as treating their users better than they have been.

I’ve been actively using Picasa for the past few weeks after not really using them for years, mostly because of their integration with Buzz. They are still a long ways away from Flickr. Flickr today is a much more elegant offering with far better organizational capabilities and a huge body of work already on the site which carries weight. But with the right engineers hacking on Picasa and the right $$$ being allocated from Google, I’m pretty sure Picasa could in fact build a better Flickr. Combining the social sharing aspects of Buzz with a beefed up Picasa from Google, would be a formidable offering on the social photo sharing space.

Certainly integrating Picnik into Picasa (weird how their names are so similar) will enhance Picasa a bit. But here are the things I think Picasa should also be working on if they want to offer viable competition to Flickr.

1. Picasa should redesign the service around the concept of the photostream. By default Picasa only has album views. But people think in terms of streams much of the time. Flickr has a stream AND albums (sets). Picasa just has albums (and sort of clunky albums at that). By retooling the site with a photostream as a primary view, Picasa would feel more comfortable for people who wanted to migrate away from Flickr and towards Picasa. Picasa could still have albums (just like Flickr has sets), but a photostream should be the primary main view.

2. Picasa needs better organizational tools. Flickr’s organizer is *amazing*. In fact, it’s probably what I’m impressed with more than anything that they’ve ever done. The ability to batch organize photos is powerful. Picasa’s not as much. One very easy thing Picasa could do right away to improve their organizational capabilities would be to introduce SmartSets. SmartSets allow you to build albums/sets around the concept of tags. I can say, for instance, put all of my photos that are tagged/keyworded “neon” into my neon album/set. There could be better support this way for overlapping albums as well. I might have a Golden Gate Bridge album (for instance) that had all my Golden Gate Bridge photos. But those photos could also be in a SmartSet for my San Francisco photos too.

3. Picasa should make blogging photos easier. Flickr has super easy html code that you can easily cut and paste and then use to blog. Picasa allows this too but with more complicated tables that are difficult to custom size and are harder work to use. Picasa could easily copy flickr’s approach and get more traction from bloggers wanting to use Picasa to host their photos.

4. Picasa needs a better “Recent Activity” view. “Recent Activity” may be the most viewed page on Flickr for active users. Picasa needs a better way for you to easily and quickly view what’s going on with your photos. Likes/comments/tags/etc. in a central page view on Picasa.

5. Picasa needs a super easy to use Flickr-Picasa importer. Our photos belong to us. Not Flickr. So does the metadata (tags, geotags, etc.) associated with our photos. Much of this data today is trapped in the silo that is Flickr. Picasa should build an application that makes it super simple to (with the press of a button) transfer all of your Flickr photos (and metadata) easily over to Picasa. If Flickr won’t grant Picasa a commercial API key for this, then Google/Picasa should make a point of publicizing that Yahoo/Flickr is not serious about user data portability and a more open and relevant web.

There is a ton more that Picasa could do to compete with Flickr. Hopefully today’s announcement of Picnik is but a first step in a serious attempt by Google to build a viable competitor to Flickr.

Congratulations, by the way, to the Picnik team on today’s exciting announcement.