Sayonara, Picasa: Google Shuts Down Album Service in Favor of Photos App

On Friday morning, Google fired up its official Picasa blog for the first time in over four years — only to tell users of the photo service that it is no more.

That’s because Google made a better photo service, Google Photos, that is tailored for mobile phones. So Google is shuttling all Picasa photos and users over there, part of its effort to become the go-to platform for digital images.

“After much thought and consideration, we’ve decided to retire Picasa over the coming months in order to focus entirely on a single photo service in Google Photos,” Anil Sabharwal, head of Google Photos, wrote in the post. “We believe we can create a much better experience by focusing on one service that provides more functionality and works across mobile and desktop, rather than divide our efforts across two different products.”

This is not surprising. Picasa, which Google acquired way back in 2004, before its IPO, has sat relatively dormant for years. It was absorbed into the maw of Google+, the beleaguered social service. Rumblings that its users were being nudged to Photos have circulated since the launch of Google’s new app in May.

Perhaps Google was waiting to see if its Photos caught on. It has. Google said the service crossed 100 million monthly users in October. Its main distinction from Picasa is the advanced machine learning feature that can automatically tag and organize images, something Google likes to talk about incessantly. Photos will now pick up Picasa’s users. (Google, however, will not talk about how many of those there are.)

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Photos is also a product built first for mobile, unlike Picasa. Mobile is a very big deal inside Google these days. By getting fully behind Photos, the search giant is creating a single front for convincing consumers to store their photos with Google — an important strategy since Apple and Facebook are doing the same thing.

The move is indicative of an ongoing effort from CEO Sundar Pichai to streamline Google’s multifarious products. Google often juggles several similar services at once, for internal competitive reasons or just because it can. The company recently moved to consolidate its various digital music offerings as well.

Picasa users will have their photos automatically uploaded into Photos. Should they want to hang onto their images there, they can do so until May 1, when the service is fully shut. Sabharwal wrote that Google is “creating a new place” for Picasa users who want to tweak photos with tags, captions or comments in ways that Photos cannot. Google is fading out the Picasa desktop application starting on March 15.

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