Saturday, March 13, 2010

Facebook is great for sharing pictures, terrible for storing your only copies of the files

Facebook is now by far the world's biggest photo-sharing site, a task it performs well. But it only stores photos as low-resolution files. Everybody knows this, right?
People want to put their pictures in a place where family and friends can see them, so Facebook is a natural choice. But although the site is great for sharing photos, it's also becoming a default place for storing them. And that's not necessarily a good thing. Facebook doesn't have the capacity to store all the world's photos without shrinking them first. Facebook just announced that it will increase its maximum photo size by 20 percent. But even with the upgrade, the photo quality on Facebook isn't useful for more than basic onscreen viewing.

Chris Chute, a digital imaging research analyst at IDC, said that "720 pixels will provide for a richer photo experience online, but to create a 4x6 print would still require additional data."
In just three years, according to IDC, three times as many photos will be shared digitally around the world as printed -- 124 billion vs. 24 billion. And the photo Marketing Association says that 40% of households with digital cameras already no longer print out photos. So maybe it doesn't matter, and screen resolution is good enough. Or not, depending.

Just to be safe, even if you think you might never want to make a print, keep a copy of the file. You never know.

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