Facebook launches a major update to the photos section. What started off as an after-thought and has been for many years a second-tier interest at the company, despite its huge popularity, is now finally a real threat to photo sharing services out there.
With just a couple of changes, Facebook photos now squarely targets Flickr, not to mention Google Picasa and other service out there.
Users will be able to upload and view high resolution photos on the social network. Images were limited to 720 pixels across until now. Users will soon be able to upload images as big as 2048 pixels wide or tall, whichever is the biggest.
The second big update is the new photo viewer, designed to accommodate the larger images and make the whole experience much more immersive. Finally, the heavily criticized photo uploader has been rewritten from scratch.
“When we originally got started on Photos, we only had two people working on it. We didn’t build out a lot of features; we just focused on making sure photos were easy to share and this made Photos a great social experience,” Sam Odio, product manager for Facebook Photos, wrote.
“But we also wanted to give people on Facebook the best quality photo product on the web,” he added.
“So I’m excited to announce three big improvements to Photos: high resolution images so you can store bigger pictures, a better viewer for browsing photos, and a simpler uploader when you have lots of images,” he announced.
Photos can be 8x larger
The new photo size limit is 2048 pixels on Facebook. Photos larger than that will be scaled down, but it’s more than enough for most images. The new limit is an eight-times increase in the photo’s overall surface.
Of course, most people don’t have the monitors to display the images at this size so you’ll see a smaller image. But they will be stored at their largest size on the servers and there will be a download link on all photos to save them at their original size on your computer.
A new light box photo viewer
Larger images mean nothing if you can’t view them so, thankfully, Facebook has introduced a new photo viewer as well. Clicking on any image anywhere will open it inside the page at its full size in the new photo overlay.
You can navigate the entire album from it, see the comments, share it with others, all the activities you’d normally expect. The black background, similar to the new Flickr light box, doesn’t steal the attention away from the photo.
A rewritten Flash-based, photo uploader
Finally, there is also a new, Flash-based uploader to simplify the process. There have been plenty of complaints about the photo upload tools Facebook has provided in the past so, hopefully, this one does a better job.
One interesting thing about it is that it enables you to tag photos in bulk, very useful for a large number of photos of the same event. It’s also easier to tag the same friend in different photos, Facebook says.
The new features will be rolled out to each of Facebook’s 500 million users in the coming month. With billions of photos already available on the site and millions added each day, the changes are sure to have a huge impact.
Don’t miss to read the comments to get rid of the Black box. :)