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New upgrades paint Facebook as an elegant photo site, Flickr and others feel a little fear
Facebook announced on Thursday that it is rolling out sweeping new upgrades to Photos, including higher resolution support, an updated photo viewer, and a stabler uploader.
The most welcome change, a resolution upgrade, increases the maximum photo size from 720 pixels to 2048 pixels on the largest edge, an eightfold increase.
Facebook’s photo viewer, however, will likely be the update immediately noticed by most users. Instead of going to a new page to view the album, clicking a photo will now raise a photo viewer in the center of the screen, greying out the background and darkening the picture’s frame. It seems like an elegant solution for displaying photos.
Users can now tag photos in bulk and, last but not least, Facebook has upgraded its photo uploader with the latest Flash technology to make it more stable.
The announcement arrived on the same day that comScore released August data declaring Facebook to be the second biggest video site on the Web, topped only by YouTube-owning Google. A site that started out as just a social networking service could be closer than anyone thinks to becoming the Internet’s most popular video hub.
Similarly, today’s announcement must drive a little fear into stand-alone photo sites already struggling to compete with Facebook’s unmatchable 500 million strong user base. Flickr, the most likely candidate, announced just a couple weeks ago that a user had uploaded the site’s 5 billionth photo. How’s this for a little perspective: Facebook hit double that milestone in October 2008. Today, says Facebook, users upload over 3 billion photos (that’s more than half a Flickr) each month.
One view is that Facebook could pose a serious threat to photo sharing sites like Flickr. If all your friends are on Facebook and you want to share your photos with as many people as possible, why go elsewhere? Perhaps more importantly, now that users can upload high-resolution photos and with no cap on quantity at no charge, who will pay to have premium accounts on less often visited photo sites?
Alternatively, the fact that sites like Flickr have continued to thrive in spite of Facebook’s clear statistical dominance speaks to the success of having a different identity. People upload photos to Facebook purely to share experiences with each other, to show friends and family what they’ve been up to. Flickr users, on the other hand, feel as though they’re sharing something important because of its aesthetic value too. Obviously, one finds millions of photos of shared experiences on Flickr just like on Facebook, but you only see the kind of mindless mass dumping of whole vacation photos-filled memory cards on the latter site.
Expect the friction between our constantly growing social monster Facebook and niche photo sites to increase in the next few years, as users caught in the middle figure out where they really want to upload their photos.
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