Google cuts Picasa photo storage prices

The annual cost to store 20GB of photos at Picasa Web Albums now eight times cheaper, making it more interesting as an online backup option.

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
3 min read

Google has cut the price to store photos at its Picasa Web Albums site by a factor of eight.

The photo-sharing site offers 1GB of photo and video storage for free, but now going beyond that limit costs less. The options now range from $5 a year for 20GB to $4,096 a year for a whopping 16 terabytes.

"Today we're dramatically lowering our prices to make extra storage even more affordable. You can now buy 20GB for only $5 a year--that's twice as much storage for a quarter of the old price, and enough space for more than 10,000 full resolution pictures taken with a five megapixel camera. Since most people have less than 10GB of photos, chances are you can now save all your memories online for a year for the cost of a triple mocha," programmer Elvin Lee said in a blog post Tuesday.

A lot of us have well over 5 megapixels per shot to contend with, but it's still interesting. When Google introduced the option to pay for extra storage in 2007, it cost $20 a year for 6GB.

The move is the latest to indicate that Picasa, although not a high-priority Google project like Chrome or search, does have a pulse. Last year, it added face recognition to the Web site and followed suit this year with the free Picasa photo editing software the company offers. And in March, Google started adding advertisements to the Picasa site.

Picasa is gradually getting more sophisticated, but as far as I can tell it has yet to dethrone Yahoo's Flickr as a preferred hub of at the center of a lot of photography activity on the Web. Picasa is fine for sharing snapshots with the family, but it's not really the place to join groups, chat on forums, and discover what the photography world is up to.

Picasa's more modest scope isn't a problem--plenty of people just want to share some photos, after all, and Google generally tries to offer services with broad rather than specific appeal--but Flickr has more vitality in this more social era of photography--at least among its "pro" subscribers who pay $25 a year.

Another interesting comparison is Facebook, with an extraordinary 2 billion photos uploads each month and a well-used system to identify who's in a photo that Flickr only just began offering. While Facebook has a strong social angle, though, it cuts down photos to a lower resolution and really is more a place for sharing snapshots than for digging into the world of photography.

Picasa's price cut raises an interesting prospect for photography enthusiasts, though. If it's going to set its prices to try to match some portion of the dropping prices of hard drives--not just this week, but regularly--it'll gradually become a more appealing place to back up photos in the cloud. Of course, like Flickr, it's chiefly for JPEG files, not the larger and more awkward raw files serious photographers often use. But even a JPEG backup is useful, especially with synchronization tools built into the Picasa software.

Paying Google $256 per year for 1TB of Picasa storage space is getting in the vicinity of the $100 price or so a 1TB external hard drive costs. Of course you only have to pay once for the hard drive, and even a slow USB hard drive is faster to access than photos on the Net, but Google's price includes backup and some assurance that you'll still have your photos if someone steals your laptop or your hard drive fails. Plus, of course, you get to share your photos.

A big gap here is support for raw files, something that SmugMug offers in its Amazon Web Services-based SmugVault. But that costs 22 cents per gigabyte per month, a price that rapidly gets steep when you consider how fast a modern SLR can fill up a 4GB flash memory card. SmugMug, a subscription-only site, caters to the serious set, though.