For the sake of this post, let’s imagine that Flickr, Picasa and Riya are all owned by one company. That should put this post into perspective. This is my vision of the ultimate social networking photo tool & service. It’s a combo of Flickr, Riya and Picasa.
Picasa, is one of the best photo/image management desktop tools out there. It has a great UI and allows you to manage photos very well. It has a basic integration with some web services as well. Flickr is one of the best photo sharing websites (along with Photobucket). It’s reach and number of photos uploaded is slowly moving up. A lot can be expected from Flickr in the future. It allows you to tag individual photos and tag people within the photos, which is really useful. Riya is a quasi photo sharing website as well, but it’s main feature is its visual search. You upload a bunch of photos of your friends/family to Riya and you can train Riya to recognise faces. It takes you a few iterations to teach Riya to learn certain sets of faces, after that it will go through photos and automatically tag people in other photos. This is excellent because you don’t have to point to certain faces every time, especially if you have a lot of faces. Some of my photos uploaded to Riya are here. The people in majority of the photos have been automatically tagged.
How the Services would work: Picasa and Flickr
Now. Here’s my dream setup. I have Picasa installed on my computer and all of the photos are in their respective albums (holiday, weeding, hiking trip etc). Picasa allows me to upload all my photos to Flickr and keep a exact mirror of my Picasa setup. All albums on Flickr are exactly how they are setup on my Picasa installation. Picasa has an auto-sync feature – which will automatically sync my Picasa album set to Flickr. I can set auto-sync settings for specific albums so only specific albums are synced. Picasa will of course allow me to tag photos and those tags are transferred over to Flickr, so most of my work is done on my familiar, pretty desktop client (I consider Picasa’ photo management UI better than Flickr’s). Sync from back from Flickr to Picasa would be great too. So I can easily make changes in both locations and keep my photos perfect.
How the Services would work: Flickr and Riya
The next part is where Riya’s visual search technology and Flickr’s community comes into play. On Flickr photos are people-tagged — photos are tagged with people’s names to indicate who’s who. This should serve as Riya’s visual training, Riya should learn from this tagging and automatically go through other photos in the album and tag them. (or all other photos in the user’s collection). User’s should be given the option to search using people’s names, which would correspond with Riya’s people-tagging.
Certain Obvious Problems
Some people obviously wouldn’t want their photos tagged by the auto-tagging services. If there were a couple of options – Allow my photos to be tagged by Riya” or “Allow my tagging to influence other photos” (aka allow a user’s people-tags to be applied to other user’s photos). This will lay the base for some good privacy settings so another Facebook fiasco doesn’t happen. Riya’s visual search and people tagging gets used in a wider community and it makes for an excellent service.
The system could also be gamed by false-tagging. People could purposefully tag people with the wrong names to throw off Riya. Also people have common names etc. These are all factors in screwing up with Riya’s face recognition system.
Photos from parties, group outings are almost automatically people tagged. Searching (and cyber-stalking?) for certain people becomes easier. Photo management becomes a lot easier with desktop tools and they are stored online for people to view. Flickr will serve as a great backup for your photos too.
However, chances of something like this happening are remote since Google owns Picasa, Yahoo owns Flickr and Riya is currently on its own as such. Hope this post has made some sense. Now if only…