Monday, September 11, 2006

SmugMug + PictureSync vs. Google Picasa Web Albums

[Update 9/12/06: The CEO of SmugMug responds in the comments section. I'm impressed. I slightly edited one part of the original post as noted below. Also, I disovered on rereading it that my original post was mangled by an error in Blogger's RTF editor -- it choked on a less than sign and truncated a paragraph. I've added in the missing paragraphs from memory.]

Lately I've been disgusted with SmugMug's weak iPhoto uploader. Their latest OS X uploader is supposed to capture caption data from iPhoto, but it failed miserably for me on 10.3.9 (probably never tested on that platform) and 10.4.7 (though there subtle iPhoto issues may have played a role I think subtle iPhoto data bugs in my Library may be responsible, I need to retest on a clean Library).

This is more annoying than usual because Google's beta OS X uploader for their (beta) Picasa web albums works great. I payed Google $25 or so (love that Google checkout!) and I've used about 15% of my 9GB limit so far.

OTOH, Google Picasa albums don't have any printing services, you have to download images one at a time, and you can't password protect an album. SmugMug has passwords, though I don't recall if you can do multi-image download. If your Picasa "secret" URL is discovered anyone can view the album -- and I don't think there's any way to change the "secret" URL -- you'd have to create a new album, move the images, and delete the old one.

SmugMug has unlimited storage though images must be less than 10 MB, Google Picasa provides only up to 9GB though I expect that to increase. SmugMug, but not Google, will send a library CD to you for a fee -- a good backup to your backups. Both SmugMug and Google allow anyone to download a full resolution image, unlike stinky services like Ofoto/Kodak Gallery. Neither force viewers to sign up and both are very good about avoiding spam.

I don't believe either SmugMug or Google Picasa provide any facility to transfer images and metadata to a competing service, but I think both publish an API that might allow a developer to provide such a service.

Bottom line - I wouldn't mind if SmugMug were an option again. Happily the PictureSync Beta seems to have corrected the bug that rendered the production version useless. So SmugMug may turn out to be acceptable. I'm keeping them in the picture for now -- though if Google adds good print services SmugMug will be hanging by a thread.

If you do opt for SmugMug (always assume these services will go out of business tomorrow!), you can generate a kickback from me by using this link, or entering my email address ( ) or my coupon number (sTHk2jeMi228c ) in the 'Referred by' field. Just don't blame me if the service goes under along with your photos -- only Google's still beta photo service is likely to last over 10 more years ...

Update: See the comments from SmugMug's CEO -- he's saying their finances are more solid than one might suspect ...


Anonymous said...

Hey John,

I'm the CEO and Chief Geek at SmugMug. Thanks so much for giving us a try, and especially thanks for the feedback.

We blew it with 10.3.9 and our Mac OS X uploader. The short answer is we didn't even test it on anything other than 10.4, and we should have.

We have a version in testing now, which I'm happy to get you a copy of as soon as it's ready for external beta testers, which does work great on 10.3.9. It also adds support for Intel Macs, which I personally can't wait for.

I'd love to hear what wasn't working on 10.4.7, though, since we have a ton of 10.4.7 users and everyone in the company uses 10.4.7. We'd be happy to improve it and/or fix bugs - we just need to know what you'd like to see. :)

As for being around 10 years from now, I'm not a fortune teller, but I think we'll still be cooking along. We started more than 4 years ago with zero investment, bootstrapped it to the profitable, growing company it is today with no debt, and have no plans to get out anytime soon. I'll take your blog post for a challenge and promise to do the best we can to protect your photos for a lot longer than 10 years.

Thanks again,

JGF said...

Well, I'm sincerely impressed. I'll annotate the original post to point to your comment.

There is something odd about my main iPhoto Library (as I mentioned above), an instance of the data flaws that seem to afflict some longtime iPhoto users who've suffered through many flawed versions of OS X and iPhoto before reaching today's relative nirvana. I suspect that's the cause of my 10.4.7 problems and I'll clarify that.

I'd be delighted to test the beta uploader. I'm hoping you're studying Google's OS X uploader closely! They did a marvelous job.