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Google's Panoramio photo-sharing service bids farewell

Feeling betrayed after contributing photos to Google Maps for years, users look for alternative photo communities like Ipernity.

The Panoramio website, closing November 4, 2016, caught on among those who liked seeing photos linked to real-world locations.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google will put photo-sharing site Panoramio out of its misery in a month, a decision that triggered fresh anguish and anger among people who have stuck with it through thick and thin.

This week, Panoramio fans saw the words "Panoramio is closing," with a November 4 deadline. As word spread from a post by a Panoramio forum moderator, outrage and sadness ensued.

You might have never heard of Panoramio, but you've probably benefited from the site. Its photos have been a prime source of imagery on Google Maps. It worked because Panoramio was early to embrace location tagging that lets you see photos of a specific spot. Panoramio, acquired in 2007, and Picasa, acquired in 2004, were early Google forays into online photo sharing, but Google is phasing both out in favor of Google Photos.

Communities dramatically improve online services by adding valuable content at no cost to the company, recruiting new members and building social ties that give a service staying power. But those advantages become problems when it's time to shut a community down, even one that only a tiny fraction of a company's users embrace.

The death of Panoramio is no surprise. In 2014, Google tried to scrap Panoramio. Facing more the wrath of more than 10,000 displeased petitioners, the company commuted Panoramio's death sentence in 2015, but it was clear the site wasn't a priority. Despite the downward trajectory, some users remained loyal though. Feeling betrayed, some of them now seem eager to spite Google.

"I have millions of views, some photos with more than 100,000 views, achieved Level 5 local guide badge, I've reported tons of errors in maps and now? They're saying me goodbye. We don't need you anymore, because we are accepting only photos of restaurants now," said user PavolG on the forum.

"I'm glad I deleted most of my photos two years ago so that I had only 20 photos left to delete today. My former Picasa albums will follow," wrote user c0l0gne1.

Google didn't respond to a request for comment.

There are abundant photo-sharing communities today for those who don't like Google Photos, including Yahoo's Flickr, Facebook's Instagram, and 500px. One that seems to have caught on among Panoramio refugees is French photo-sharing site Ipernity. It seems to have some of the community-friendly features Panoramio users liked.