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December 18, 2010

Picasa Web Users, Forced to Link Their Google Profiles

Google tries to make Picasa Web Albums a little more social, but it's not easy to convince users that this is a good idea. I posted in August that Google will link Picasa Web Albums with Google Profiles. On the surface, this is a minor feature, but Google didn't manage to explain users why it's important.

If you visit Picasa Web Albums, you'll see a huge modal dialog:

"Together at last! Picasa Web Albums now uses your public Google Profile to display your name and profile photo on your albums and next to your comments. This will help improve your experience in two ways. First, the quality of interactions across Picasa Web Albums will improve as friends can see and recognize whom they are interacting with. Second, using multiple Google products will be easier because you can now update your profile in one place."

It makes sense for Google to have unified public profiles that integrate will all services, but users may find this disconcerting. Why take away my hard-earned alternate username and change it with a number? Why not use a different number in the URL than the Google Profiles ID, like Google Reader does? Why associate my photos with a public profile that includes my name and my Google Buzz messages?

Custom usernames were useful and I don't see why Google isn't more flexible. You should be able to keep the existing username or at least pick an URL that can't be guessed from your profile address.

Instead of trying to make profiles more flexible, Google decided to disable most of the features until you link your Google Profile. You can no longer share a photo, favorite a user, add a comment. If you still don't like the new feature, you have the one-time opportunity to transfer your photos to a new account.

You can't force users to use a new feature by crippling the other features and then expect them to like the new feature.

Here's how a Google employee tries to address this issue:
the chief reason for this profiles change is because we want the vast majority of pwa users to have a quality experience with other pwa users. right now, its common for a pwa user to get a comment on a photo from another user, and have the comment be effectively meaningless because it was posted by 'DJJazzyJeff01234'. we've heard from many users how this freaks them out, and makes pwa a scarier place. we think this makes for a low quality social interaction between users and does not cause further engagement.

the other main reason we're doing this is to simply help users manage their google profiles better across multiple google products. the reality is that many of our users use several google products, not just picasa. the new model lets you manage your profile ONCE, and you're done.

in the end, you still will have total control over what others see. you can set your profile to show your full name publicly OR simply opt-out of your name being found in search. also your profile won't display any private information unless you've explicitly added it.


  1. When I visit Picasa Web Albums, the message I get is different to yours: it starts simply "Before participating in Picasa Web Albums, you need a public Google Profile. It is visible on the web so that friends can find and recognise you."

    This is terrible. I have been a Google fan for years, but I do not want a "profile" which is visible on the web, and I don't want to be found and recognised online. I'm holding off doing anything for now, hoping that Google will realise how they've screwed this up and make some changes (as they did for Buzz, after a few days). Otherwise I guess I have to move to Flickr.

  2. I had this prompt a few days ago. You see that close button in the top right? I clicked that and my profile is not linked to Picasa. I may have lost some other features as this article says but I never used them anyway so haven't check.

  3. People do realize that they can exclude their Google Profile from searches and even not put any info into it aside from a name, right?

  4. Google needs to realise that while it may be all very well for them and their tech buddies in silicon valley to want to be publicly visible, the vast majority of their user base are deeply uncomfortable with it, and actually want more privacy not less. Google really needs to realise this, have they learnt nothing from buzz?

  5. I am not surprise Google are doing this, just a other step on the road to turning there vast portfolio of products into a singular social network.

    An I have just linked my profile with my Picasa albums.

    An I do not think Google can afford not to push this through, they will loose very few people anyway because of this change an it set them up nicely for Google+1 implementation. An it easy to op out any. Flickr will end up the same anyway.
    I wonder how long it will be before Google start to unify there storage, Picasa only got a gig, why Gmail got 7 gig an Youtube is unlimited.

  6. This is a major problem. Facebook fixed its privacy issues. Google hasn't. I don't want a public "Google Profile" that makes my photos public. I don't even know what a "Google Profile" is. I'm just not using Picasa anymore after being a longtime user. I'm sure that Google will measure the number of users such as myself and will be able to determine that such users are a small minority. But they can't measure the erosion of trust in their brand or user confusion quite as easily. And if they did test this in usability labs and grandmas weren't confused, then I'm a monkey's uncle.

  7. OK, Chris and Andrex are right. You can just close the message box in Picasaweb, and nothing changes (except that apparently you can't make comments or click on "share"). And even if you do create a profile, it won't become public unless you fill in certain information.

    So Google aren't being quite as sinister as I thought, they are just deliberately misleading people into *thinking* they have to create a public profile.

  8. @slantendicular - you don't have to put more in the Google Profile than in your Picasa Web profile. Just a nickname, that's it. There is no privacy issue here.

  9. Google gave one Gb space in 2006! I think most of the users (like me) already use all this space and move to others services on the web. We can find 25Gb in Microsoft Skydrive!

  10. I've got 81 Gb with Picasa Web Albums. MS Skydrive is still stuck in the 90's.

  11. Well, there are some privacy issues:
    - if you use Buzz, you have to add your first and last name (not just a nickname) and the profile will be indexed by Google
    - if you use Buzz, all your public messages are included on your profile
    - anyone who knows your profile URL will be able to find the address of your Picasa Web Albums gallery (public albums)
    - if you don't like to use the big number (Google Profiles ID) in your Picasa Web URL, the only other option is to use your Gmail username. Until now, you could add an alternate username.

  12. This is obviously a privacy issu.
    Google sucks, even more that Facebook, in privacy issus.
    Google "+1" will downgrade Google to "-1"...

  13. I think Google should try to understand privacy issues.People have much hope from Google in this regard.

  14. I love how Google uses phrases like "Together at last!", like it's something people have been clamoring for. Well, not me.

    As you said, "Google tries to make Picasa Web Albums a little more social," and that's the problem, it's trying too hard to be more sociable and that battle has been lost to Facebook.

  15. Do you know if transferring photos to a new google profile will include comments as well, and keep the url as it is today ?

  16. update, update and go on google to update \m

  17. @guillaume:

    I haven't tried transferring photos to a different account, but this doesn't preserve your URLs. I don't know if Google will also transfer comments.

  18. From what I've been forced to try to understand, it will be possible to maintain an almost-as-private account, with the unwanted addition of a profile with a bare minimum of information attached. It's only galling to have to try to think about the impact on my privacy because of something I was never given an option of saying no to.

    Not great on the day when Google have eventually been found to have surrendered all of the Street View info they took illegally.

  19. I haven't tried transferring photos to a different account, but this doesn't preserve your URLs. I don't know if Google will also transfer comments.

  20. If you go to one of your web albums, in the right hand margin, you can click "Link to this album" which opens the "Paste link in email or IM
    " field with the link address that would normally be shared when you hit "Share". So just copy and paste that into an email and send to your friends to share the old way. I too will not create a public profile.

    1. I can't find this anymore...Did they remove it?

  21. During the transfer to a new Google account, all photos, comments, favorites and fans will not be lost by that transfer.

  22. There are too much options and sites to the list. I'll just focus on Picasa - Google and Flickr - Yahoo.

  23. I try to share my Christmas pictures today on picasaweb, and was denied. How do I link google profile with picasaweb???

  24. Why do we constantly have to be nagged to do something we simply don't want to do? I can't access my own photos without yet another box forcing me to find the x (sometimes it doesn't show up) to close. Why can't companies with so many users simply add on opt-out? More to the point, why do they feel the need to pretend concerns about privacy are not worth recognising? I happen to be a teacher and the last thing I want is students accessing photos. Thankfully I'm not in China anymore or else I could get into serious trouble with the photos that appear from my anti-regime blog. And then where does it end? Will I be unable to read the NY Times without more links to Google or Blogger getting in the way a la Facebook?

  25. Fucks sakes Google!! I was a happily paying Picasa Web customer for years. Here's a tip: Some people DON'T WANT to be more "visible". Privacy is a top concern (no I'm not on Facebook) and suddenly now I can't share my photo albums unless I have a public Google profile? To hell with that. That was just enough motivation to make me switch to Flickr, which I have done today, and delete my Picasa Web albums. Will not renew membership, obviously.

  26. I'm with others who simply don't want this imposed loss of privacy, however small. I'm just not interested in having any sort of public profile, and frankly I can't be bothered to go to any trouble to try make my unwanted profile anonymous. When a service that I'm paying for tries to dictate to me, I leave.

  27. To quote another: "I don't want a public "Google Profile""... "I don't even know what a "Google Profile" is."

    I use Gmail for my private email. I use Picasa to show friends my photos (privately). There is no reason for me to want to link these 2 activities any closer than they already are.

    I do not want to join an online social network. I don't care about tagging or commenting.

    Surely this should be opt in, rather than compulsory.

  28. Just got the info that I have to delete my profile if I don't want to make it public. WTF? I use gmail for personal mail and Picasa for a portfolio that I don't want public. Period. As stated above, if this continues to be their policy, I will have to move to Flickr or some other pic host. Cheeky!

  29. Totally agree with everyone enraged by this arm twisting from google! Whoever wants to be "profiled" and tagged - go sign on facebook or implant a GPS chip in your brain! And you can happily bah ever after.
    All people wanted from picasa was to share a couple of pics. We don't need the friggin social netowrking of it all. Our social networks are real, not virtual. And we don't want to be "liked", catalogued, be-friended, farmed, finger-printed and all that krapp.

    Flickr it is...

  30. The involuntary public Picasa profile is a major pitfall of G+!

    I am an eager fan of G+ but having a public Picasa profile figuring in top on Google searches in my name that is something I haven't asked for and REALLY do NOT want.

    I know I can make albums private but that is not the point. The point is that I don't want a public photo profile, period. Also my G+ profile photo and scrap book photos (the handsome 5-photos row on my G+ about page) displays on my public Picasa profile (which I JUST WANT TO GET RID OF! PLEASE!).

    I am very surprised that Google doesn't understand online privacy better (it is about CONTEXT... how hard can it be) and it undermines my confidence in Google's ability to manage a social network. Buzz failed due to major privacy blunders... what did Google learn?

  31. Google+ is o.k., but I intend to live without it--what burns me up is the automatic "sharing" of my Picasa/blog (Blogger) pictures and posts with Google+--I do not want my stuff out of it's original context. Plus, I now cannot add pictures to my Picasa album, and consequently my blog, nearing 2000 viewer hits is static. That IS a serious burn! Can I renew access to it? Or can I open a new Picasa web album and move my captioned albums and pictures to it?

  32. ...But, more specifically this paternalism; this condescending attitude, is EXACTLY what I find super annoying and despicable. I had created an eclectic blog with photos of my choosing and my own illustrations, with up-dated and or renewed comments (postings), genealogy, history, expressing my particular world-view. I was satisfied with my viewer-hits, but planning a promo blitz. I am old enough to decide for myself my relation to "social networks." I despise the idea of corporados thinking for me. LinkedIn does the same thing to me--linking me to several people to whom I'd merely sent a "get it together", or a "get lost" message--all so very f#ckt. I can do my own networking, plus I despise sales-pitches, and never do them, instead I create shit that people can't do without. I am not new to publishing, and I know my market.


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