If Google+ accomplishes nothing else for Google (though it looks like it may accomplish quite a bit), it seems to be getting people using Picasa Web Albums more, and that is a direct competitor of Facebook's Photos. The whole Google+ vs. Facebook war might be fought battle by battle (feature by feature).
The Instant Upload feature in the Android app (which seems to be missing from the new iPhone version) helps this a great deal.
When Google+ users sign into their Picasa Web Albums account, they're greeted with the following message:
You've recently joined Google+. Note the following changes to Picasa Web Albums:
- Albums you've shared can in turn be tagged and shared by others.
- For new albums, anyone an album is shared with can see who else it is shared with.
- When you tag someone, they receive a notification and can see the photo and the related album.
I think a lot of people are under the misimpression that I am posting photos of exotic places at a furious pace to Google+. Actually, I have had a bunch of albums public for some time on my picasaweb page. However, people only started to take note recently thanks to Google+ and when they comment on those photos they end up in the streams of people who have me in their circles.
We made some ranking changes recently that demote such comments if the commenter is not in your circles. Let me know if you are still getting flooded with tortoise pictures and the like.
Since I've been using Google+, I've been using Picasa Web Albums by default. Instant Upload is very convenient, and ensures that I don't have to worry about backing up my photos, because it does so automatically in the cloud. I am still uploading a lot of photos to Facebook, however, as that's still where most of my friends and family are (the people who might actually be interested in seeing the photos).
Before Google+ I was pretty much using Facebook exclusively for photo sharing, though I had a Picasa account I had uploaded a number of pictures to a couple years ago. Google+ got me using it again, and it seems like that may be happening for a lot of other people. At the very least, it's putting these pictures back in the spotlight, as Brin has shown.
As Google+ continues to grow (the latest official number is over 10 million users, and recent estimates have it around 18 million), these photos are only going to get more exposure. More people will also be compelled to use Picasa web albums more, and perhaps Facebook Photos a little bit less. It's all about who joins Google+.
Google is smart to simply label Picasa Web Albums as "photos" from within Google Profiles and Google+ profiles. That branding makes it less like you're using a separate product, even though you're using a product that's been on Google for years. It also makes it less confusing.
In terms of simple functionality and features, Google has Facebook beat on the Photos front (in my opinion), at least for Android users. If the Instant Upload feature ever comes to iOS, more people will see that. However, Facebook is still winning the photo battle because that's where the people are.
Google CEO Larry Page announced last week that Android is getting 550,000 phones activated a day. That's quite a few potential Instant Upload (Picasa Web Albums) users.