Google puts photos on the Web

Picasa Web Album feature is designed to let Gmail users easily publish photos.

Google is set to launch late Tuesday a new feature in its Picasa photo management application that will let people organize and share photos over the Web.

Picasa Web Album initially will be available only to a limited number of Gmail users at http://picasaweb.google.com, said Adrian Graham, a product manager at Picasa.

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CNET's Elsa Wenzel takes a first look at downloadable Picasa software from Google.

Picasa, technology Google acquired in 2004, is free downloadable software that lets people find and edit photos on a desktop computer and send them to others from a Gmail account or publish them on a blog.

Picasa Web Album is designed to let people easily upload and store their photos on the Web. Uploaded albums can be public and available to anyone who knows the Gmail account under which they're listed, or private ("unlisted") and available only by way of a special link Picasa users can send to whomever they wish.

"All users need to do is select the photos they want to share and click on a button and the photos are online," Graham said.

Viewers do not need to sign in or have a Gmail account to see the photos. A "recent activity" section shows recent photos uploaded by friends. Users can comment on each others' photos and can store about 1,000 photos or so before needing to pay for more storage, Google said.

Photos automatically resize to fit the screen and have no ads next to them. Images are preloaded for fast viewing and users can download entire albums at 1,600-pixel resolution, large enough to make 4-by-6-inch prints, Graham said.

Meanwhile, Photobucket is set to announce on Wednesday the availability of the Photobucket Jwidget tool, a free plug-in that lets any Web site provide free image and video hosting for users. Photobucket offers free video and photo sharing and is designed to let users easily host images and videos and link them to social networks, auction sites, blogs and message boards.

Last week, Yahoo launched a limited beta of a new Yahoo Photos site that lets people download high-resolution photos, tag shots with descriptors for easy search, and comment on them. Yahoo also owns the Flickr photo site, which popularized photo tagging.

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