Picasa 3 released. Only kind of Googley.

I have the highest respect for Google’s products, their usability, and what they’re trying to do as a company. But I’m starting to see some warning signs that as they mature, offering me free, fast, ridiculously useful tools may not always be their number one priority. With that in mind, here’s my review of Picasa 3 and its online photo sharing companion, Picasa Web Albums. I’m only going to talk about the new features, because overall, Picasa is the best free photo program I’ve ever used.

Googley:
-Easy to upload and store full resolution photos to Picasa Web Albums, so that if someday I want to make a print of a friend’s photo, I don’t have to track them down and have them email the high res version, as is the case on Facebook.

-Slick slideshows, great collage templates, and neutral print providers

-LOLcat feature lets you easily add text over images

-magic retouch brush means your friends are about to get prettier

-Picasa already pretty great

Un-Googley:

-Google tries to get you to set Google.com as your default search engine during installation process. They already are my default, but it’s because they provide the best services, not because they pulled Microsoft-like tricks to get me to use their stuff.
They killed Hello, an extremely useful but little known photo sharing tool, to encourage a) more uploads to Picasa Web Albums and b) more upgrades to profit-generating hosting plans. Really? The company that revolutionized web mail with a gigabyte of storage is going to nickel and dime me on uploading full resolution photos?

-the “Download full album” button is excellent and will hopefully spare you the days of going through your parent’s Snapfish albums, right-clicking on each image. But it only works in Internet Explorer on a PC. You have to have Picasa installed, and even then Firefox won’t do the trick. This isn’t very clear in their help files, either.

-They flat out copied Facebook’s face-tagging. It’s a creepy feature on Facebook, which at least gives you granular privacy controls, but I don’t know how I feel about Google itself storing this info directly.

-Still no Mac support! Maybe they’re worried about iPhoto, but they shouldn’t be. Picasa’s way better.

-Picasa Web Albums is the second least inspired name in the Google Universe, trailing only iGoogle.

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