September 6, 2008

Google owns your name with Picasa name tagging

The new Picasa Web Albums have initial support for a fantastic name-tagging feature. The idea is to ease the process of identifying who is in each picture by combining human and computer efforts. It is very well done, and makes tagging fun and accurate in a way never done before commercially (but see SAPHARI for a surprisingly similar earlier research effort by my grad student).

BUT - it is a crime that this feature not does not offer a way to sync the tags you create online with the full resolution photos you own on your own computer. That's right. The only way to use this feature is to upload your photos to Google's servers, tag them via their website, and then lose that data forever. You can search your photos on Google's servers, but you can't export that tagged information. And the Picasa 3 "syncing" feature doesn't sync the name tags back down to the original photo. And the face-based annotation feature doesn't exist on the desktop version.

And even if the data does eventually come back down to your source photos (which I pray it eventually does), it still is not very friendly of Google to force you to upload your thousands of photos to the web for this extremely important feature. Of course, this is very likely Picasa's business model. Give away the free desktop version, offer a teaser bit of free storage on the web, and then charge a huge amount ($75 a year for the 40 GB of storage I would need to store all my photos online). I would much rather just pay a reasonable price for the desktop version to unlock crucial features - such as face-based annotation.

Web apps are fine - but people should own their data - not Google. And people should get to choose when they want to do something on the computers and disks they own, and when they choose to use someone elses on the web. Anything less is no better than the desktop-based lock-in that Google and others have complained about for so long.

1 comment:

Craig said...

I agree, I own way too many photos (and some way too private) to be uploading them all to Google's servers.
Right now I'm using Windows Live Photo Gallery that lets me do "people tagging" with face recognition on the desktop, but it only finds faces for you one photo at a time.. it doesn't do this automatic grouping Picasa Web offers.

I think the technology exists.. I want these tags on the desktop. Like you said, it's Google's strategy to own all your stuff on the web. The cloud is a trap.