I dumped some holiday photos into PicasaWeb before work this morning and scanning through them at lunchtime I noticed it had added face recognition. This seems to work really well, much easier than the manual tagging of Facebook.
Tightly integrated with my Google contacts it takes a big chunk out of that side of the big FB. Why?
My contact list is mine. It’s wirelessly synchronised to my iPhone and I can export it any time in CSV or vCard format. As well as the fulfilling the principle of portability this means it’s also populated by people I actually communicate with – rather than those I sat next to at school. My actual phone list is far more selective than Facebook’s (though that’s bound to come in useful at random points in the future).
Likewise with the photos. PicasaWeb lets me download the lot and securely and selectively share with people who may not have Google accounts. The service isn’t quite as polished as Flickr yet but for sharing albums of occasions and holidays with family and real friends (not FBF) it does the job better. Photos of places that I was pleased with might make me dither between Flickr and Panoramio.
This is clearly part of Google’s drive to weave social structures into the web rather than have Facebook stitch their own patch on top of it. It won’t succeed overnight but if it can pull the threads together nicely there might be… [metaphor deforms under strain] …a nice jumper in it.