Today Facebook officially announced a significant improvement of its photo handling. With more than 15 billion (!!!) pictures online Facebook already is the largest photo sharing platform by far. It dwarves other services like flickr by far and continues to grow at an almost obscene rate of millions a week.
These changes are not only a simple improvement of the photo sharing feature, it is more like a change of philosophy. Besides prettier presentation and better organizing (by bulk tagging) this largely concerns size. Until now pictures on Facebook were pretty much confined to the social network. It was impossible to download a picture with a decent quality. Reason was that they were downsized on upload. Considering the immense volume of pictures uploaded every day this was more or less a reasonable decision to avoid jamming the servers. With the recent improvements to their infrastructure and the acquisition of photo sharing startup Divvyshot these days are over. Thankfully!
Users can now upload pictures with a size of up to 2048 pixels on the longest side. This resolution already allows decent prints in standard photo formats. And here comes the really interesting part: Besides allowing direct downloads of the high-res version Facebook also opened the photo platform API (this is more or less a connection to external applications). Third party developers can now create features to import and export photos. What is the consequence? The ultimate consequence is commercial photo printing directly out of your Facebook account, including collages and photo books created from your albums.
This is a big business opportunity and I assume that we will witness the rise of such applications very soon. The only open questions seem to be who will take the pole position by coming first and who will take the lead by delivering great functionality.
The combination of these developments also shows that the printed picture is far from dead. It’s a bit like the e-book case of my last article: print is not dying as long as people have emotional and cultural strings attached to a printed piece of expression.
Stephan de Paly