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the google empire expands
July 16, 2004 12:37 PM   Subscribe

Picasa is now part of Google. Download Picasa version 1.6 for Free! The question: why? What does Google want with digital photo organiser software?
posted by reklaw (33 comments total)

 
that's easy: google will probably roll it into puffin.
posted by birdherder at 12:44 PM on July 16, 2004


Google bought Blogger which uses Hello for image hosting/posting which is made by Picasa.
posted by smackfu at 12:48 PM on July 16, 2004


search [all local drives] for [flesh tone]
posted by kevspace at 12:51 PM on July 16, 2004


Because Google's business model will/does rely on data management?
posted by infowar at 12:53 PM on July 16, 2004


See this morning's AxMe thread for more discussion.

This looks like something I should get. Ive been making albums (clunkily) by hand, and it's getting tiresome.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:03 PM on July 16, 2004


Google uses its power to increase the value of the IPO. Most companies would release final products, not a series of betas. Yes, it is version 1.6, but based on AskMe thread, it does not seem to be complete.

Download Picasa version 1.6 for Free!
Please refer to it as the lock-in period. Not for this product in particular, but for Google Information Management Office 2008 (TM).

Assuming that they will be able to identify objects in your pictures, which ads would you like to see: the latest model of the car shown in one image, gardening products because you have a close-up of a flower, or cheap tickets to Vegas (hotels in the background)?
posted by MzB at 1:26 PM on July 16, 2004


At the beginning of the week, it was a real commercial product that was sold to real people at a real price. Making it free doesn't magically make it a beta version.
posted by smackfu at 1:28 PM on July 16, 2004


What does google want with your blog? [blogger]
What does google want with your email? [gmail]
What does google want with your firends? [orkut]
What does google want with your photos? [picasa]

I think its pretty obvious that this is leading to google's version of the capital-K Killer App. They already control much of the tools you use to interact with data [google proper, google images, froogle, google news] on the web. Now they want to put all the tools you use to interact with other people on the web in one place, as well. Basically, they want all the information you consume through the web to be google-ized. Good for you: ranked by relevance, easy to search, lots of storage, trusted provider. Good for them: sell targetted ads to you.

They already have the hardware and backend to make this happen, so now they're putting together the frontend software. I mean, isn't this obvious?

on preview: well, at least to MzB it is.
posted by ChasFile at 1:42 PM on July 16, 2004


We're from Google, and we're here to help.
posted by Johnny Assay at 2:29 PM on July 16, 2004


I didn't get this week's memo. We hate Google now?
posted by keswick at 2:37 PM on July 16, 2004


Just downloaded picasa this morning,, very impressive. A lot like iPhoto (except faster, at least on my PC). I also note that it has one click publish to Hello.com, which in turn integrates with Blogger.

It's a suite of (web) applications that all work together. Where have we seen this before?
posted by kaefer at 2:47 PM on July 16, 2004


Anyone use orkut mentioned by ChasFile above? Is it just a Friendster for the l33t? Apparently it's invite-only...
posted by swank6 at 2:59 PM on July 16, 2004


images.google.com

'nuff said.
posted by shepd at 3:08 PM on July 16, 2004


I suppose that the serious answer is that they need a product like this to make blogger work properly, and they need blogger to make page rank better.

I think the more realistic answer is they thought it was cool, they had a bunch of cash, and they thought - heck... we'll just buy it.
posted by seanyboy at 3:48 PM on July 16, 2004


seanyboy, I agree 100%. Right now, Google is self sustaining, they have enough money to cover their costs and buy/start smaller projects. They have to go with the IPO mainly because there are already too many investors. In the IPO they ask for $2.71B and it seems likely they will get about $27B. My question: what will they buy next?

However, if they want to create that "Information Management Office", here is my wish: context recognition in academic journals / newspapers / books. If a certain formula / idea is expressed in another document (on my computer or web) the software should be able to find it for me.
posted by MzB at 5:15 PM on July 16, 2004


Dave Winer hates Google, keswick.
posted by tommasz at 5:59 PM on July 16, 2004


I don't really hate Google, but it does seem like it has the potential to get very, very large and pervasive from time to time. I think Porky-Pine, that Okefenokeean philosopher, said it best: "Everyone's for the underdog... long as he stays the underdog."
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:59 PM on July 16, 2004


when it start development? Before or after iphoto? I know that the apple fanboys will say that picasa copied iphoto, but I'd like to know the right order.
posted by tomplus2 at 8:32 PM on July 16, 2004


What a very cool program, and the fact Google made it free is just the extra on-top.

When I went from Mac to PC, I missed iPhoto. This is an awesome replacement that I think I actually like better in some ways.
posted by benjh at 9:02 PM on July 16, 2004


Bah. I just paid for the blasted thing a week ago. This is the first time I have considered saying "Damn you, Google!"

But it is still very cool software. Will future versions require us to store our albums (and photos) in Google's massive brain, I wonder?
posted by mkhall at 4:08 AM on July 17, 2004


I think its pretty obvious that this is leading to google's version of the capital-K Killer App.

And like most business-model-driven "killer apps", it will freeze innovation and stick us with a series of incrementally less-crappy implementations of a bunch of crappy solutions to the wrong problem.
posted by lodurr at 5:39 AM on July 17, 2004


Yes, lodurr. Google search, Google news and Gmail are obviously inferior tools and there is no reason not to expect a steady stream of crappy solutions from them.
posted by cedar at 7:58 AM on July 17, 2004


Dave Winer hates Google, keswick

You can't buy spin that positive.

And like most business-model-driven "killer apps", it will freeze innovation and stick us with a series of incrementally less-crappy implementations of a bunch of crappy solutions to the wrong problem.

I missed the part where google ties us to the bed, brands us with hot irons, and forces us to use their tools.
posted by mecran01 at 8:22 AM on July 17, 2004


Yes, Cedar, aside from the Search, they are inferior tools.

I mean, come on -- the very idea that you can replace organization with search is just plain stupid. People who do try that are deluded if they think they're more productive, and they're probably deluded for that matter about what they're actually doing. (Malinowski's golden rule applies: Don't ask people what they do -- watch what they really do.)

The fact that News and Search are "good" is more of an accident of critical mass than anything else. Page Rank is effective, but it would be considerably less effective without critical mass. Furthermore, I find it offensive that people treat Page Rank'd results as some kind of indicator of "meritocracy", when clearly all they really indicate is popularity -- and a sterile, algorithmic, gameable popularity at that. If the Anil Dash's "nigritude ultramarine" experiment accomplished anything, it was to demonstrate just how gameable the system is, and how heavily Google has weighted it toward blogging.

And let's face it, to weight blogging as highly as they do is really pretty dumb. Yes, I know most folks here are, if not bloggers themselves, sympathetic to the view that blogging is the future. Well, wake up, folks: This is 2004, and blogging is the new "eyeballs". In other words: Yes, it matters, but not in the way you think, nor anywhere nearly as much.

And Mecran01: If you're waiting for the Google OS, then you're probably not a big fan of MS. So why don't you try the little experiment of replacing "Google" with "Microsoft" in your sound bite and see how it makes you feel. Google are no less dangerous for being fair of face, and I'd argue considerably more so by virtue of that.

I do not trust them any farther than I can spit them through a straw. Why? Well, I think the very fact that everyone LOVES them so much -- and that money keeps pouring into their pockets -- added to the really mind-boggling amount of personal data they're collecting on their users with nothing more than a "trust us, we're not evil" to guarantee that they won't use it however the hell they want... all of that together... if that doesn't make you nervous, if that doesn't make you distrust them, well, then, I'm sure I could find you a few good 3-card monte games to play in.
posted by lodurr at 6:52 PM on July 17, 2004


the very idea that you can replace organization with search is just plain stupid

Doesn't iTunes do something like that?

I thought in that case the point was to have people use only that interface for accessing their files. Just like some people prefer the iTunes interface, there will also be those of us who still meticulously sort our files.
posted by mindless progress at 8:54 AM on July 18, 2004


Page Rank is effective, but it would be considerably less effective without critical mass. Furthermore, I find it offensive that people treat Page Rank'd results as some kind of indicator of "meritocracy", when clearly all they really indicate is popularity -- and a sterile, algorithmic, gameable popularity at that.

Gee, it's a good thing they stopped using Page Rank a long time ago, then.
posted by kindall at 9:09 AM on July 18, 2004


I don't know what iTunes does -- the idea of renting music isn't something I'm interested in supporting with dollars or action, so I haven't bothered to check it out.

But GMail, as I understand it (I haven't had a chance to look at it myself) replaces organization with search. (That, presumably, is why there have been so many GMail-to-mbox scrapers developed: People want their mail repositories.)

Google's interest in that, BTW, isn't really usability at all -- it's utility to them. A sorted repository doesn't give them terms they can parse to offer you ad content; sure, with the right EULA (and assuming you don't live in an area where their EULA is void), they can still scan your email and give you ads based on read-frequency and the way that messages are grouped in mailboxes, but they don't think that way. They want it to work the way all their other stuff does -- which is to say, they want you to think search-centrically, so they can "use past behavior to predict future choices."

Which is great if what you want to do is sell product. But it's not so good if you want to actually develop knowledge.

The problem with a search-centric view is that you tend to lose things as what you find normalizes around a core. Things that don't have an obvious bearing on what you're looking for will tend to get isolated in a search-centric approach; those same things can be organizationally associated pretty easily. In a nutshell, you sacrifice serendipity to utility.

What's lost here in all the rhetoric of "meta-data versus search" versus organization is that no one of these strategies will solve the core problem of how to find the relevant data. A balanced approach is required.

I've been starting to think that what's really wrong is not how we organize our data, but how we create it. The so-called "application-centric" (generally associated with PCs) and "document-centric" (generally associated with Mac) models are both off the mark; what we need is an information-centric model. "Tiger" and "Longhorn" are sniffing arond this problem, but they still don't get it; like the "Google OS", they're trying to solve the problem with incremental steps.

What's really needed is a shift to a "data soup" model, similar to that developed for the Newton. Ultimately, this kind of model gets enabled by some kind of a search engine, but this "past action predicting future choices" model that Google and everybody who loves them are so enamored of is really good for nothing so much as losing knowledge, and it needs to be relegated to the subsidiary role it deserves.

I think the Unix world has implicitly been closer to the "information centric" model all along, but they have specific ways they've traditionall dealt with the problem so I don't have much hope they'll come up with solutions. I think the real solution to all of this lies with people who want their systems to live across spaces -- or in a networked space, to put it a little differently. People who currently think in terms of web-based applications, but are becoming frustrated with the poor UI options that web-based apps afford them. There are clearly some people who think like that involved at the architectural level on the Mozilla team, and I think many of the Safari folks think that way too.

Here, I think, is a key to the real ultimate significance of blogging: Not so much as an arbiter of truth or merit, but as a testbed for distributed knowledge-creation and knowledge-sharing technology. How that will ultimately be deployed and employed, I don't think modern blogging really tells us much about.
posted by lodurr at 9:21 AM on July 18, 2004


Gee, it's a good thing they stopped using Page Rank a long time ago, then.

Hmm... I hadn't heard anything about that... Do you mean they stopped calling it that, or that they actually don't compute page rank anymore? Because Anil Dash was of the impression as of early July that he had one. And he's a pretty sharp guy, so I would tend to think that they still use it. Unless you have some authoritative source that most other folks aren't aware of that says they don't.
posted by lodurr at 9:24 AM on July 18, 2004


I'd say someone better tell Google that they aren't using Page Rank anymore. They seem to be under the impression that they are.

The heart of our software is PageRankā„¢, a system for ranking web pages developed by our founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford University. And while we have dozens of engineers working to improve every aspect of Google on a daily basis, PageRank continues to provide the basis for all of our web search tools. (source)
posted by Orb at 12:48 PM on July 18, 2004


But GMail, as I understand it (I haven't had a chance to look at it myself) replaces organization with search. (That, presumably, is why there have been so many GMail-to-mbox scrapers developed: People want their mail repositories.)

Google's interest in that, BTW, isn't really usability at all -- it's utility to them.


Very perceptive comments lodurr. Gmail does allow you to add 'labels' which are sort of a metaphor for folders but there is a limit to them and they are a pain to use. Gmail encourages you to Archive everything but I am questioning how useful this is.

If I had folders, I might have one labeled 'old friends' but without that, an email from an old friend which just gets thrown into a keyword-searchable archive just becomes lost. There is no way for me to 'discover' old friends or otherwise orphaned emails. The keyword search is a catch-22 - what I'm looking for is on a higher level contextually than someones first name.
posted by vacapinta at 1:42 PM on July 18, 2004


It seems to me that what they'd want you to do is replace human memory with instrumentality. Let Orkut+GMail+Google decide who your really important friends are. That way it's all predictable and saleable.

Sometimes it seems like a Tom Disch/PK Dick/James Tiptree nightmare, treated as a marketing proposal.
posted by lodurr at 3:28 AM on July 19, 2004


what is it about labels that makes them any more difficult to use than folders? labels are just like folders except that you can now put your email in more than one "folder", which is pretty handy.
posted by badstone at 11:09 AM on July 19, 2004


I agree, labels -- used wisely -- could be superior to folders. Create too many of them, and cross-label too liberally, and you're courting confusion.

Also, I think the rub on labels with gmail is the implmentation, not the concept.
posted by lodurr at 5:39 AM on July 20, 2004


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