In a move which is certain to be a tactic designed to directly take on Google Plus, Facebook has begun a selective beta experiment called Facebook Photo Sync, and I was one of the lucky ones who got to try it out.
If you have a Google Plus account, you will know that you can directly upload and synchronise all of your photos from your computer to your online Picasa account. You can then decide whether or not to make each photo private for your eyes only, or whether you want to share it with your Google Plus contacts. This cloud storage feature has proven to be quite popular, and as Google Plus struggles to compete with Facebook in the social networking arena, cloud photo storage was one feature which made them stand out from their chief rival.
At the beginning of the week, as I was looking at my Facebook app on my iPhone, I noticed that there was a new button called “Synced“. Intrigued, I started Googling to see if this was a new feature and I discovered that indeed it was. Anyone with an Android or iOS device, along with the official Facebook app for that device [Android - iOS], could be eligible to try out the test (which could disappear at any time if Facebook decided to pull the plug). All you have to do is check to see if you have the synced button at the bottom of your photos section, like me. The best way to get there (on the iPhone at least) is to go to your Wall, find the Photos link and tap that. Then scroll to the bottom of the page.
I decided to upload all 376 photos from my iPhone to my Facebook account, before they could change their mind and yank the beta feature.
All in all, I was very impressed with the speed. It took about 10 minutes for all 400 photos to upload (which is even more impressive when you consider how many other people around the world must have been trying out the feature at the same time as me, and being a beta feature, it was probably full of bugs). As each photo was uploaded, it instantly appeared on my Facebook photo section.
As soon as they land on Facebook, they are instantly private, so you don’t have to worry about your contacts suddenly getting a huge amount of private, sensitive photos to look at. Instead, you can choose which ones can be made public by clicking the tick in the top right hand corner of the photo. Another advantage to having your photos online like this is that, if you choose to share one or more of the photos in a status message, they are already there instantly, and there’s no need to wait while they are uploaded again to Facebook’s servers.
As with anything in life, there are some drawbacks which you should be aware of at all times :
1. This is a beta feature so Facebook execs could wake up one morning and decide for whatever reason to discontinue the feature. So always make sure you have backup copies of EVERY photo.
2. Being a beta feature, it will have bugs and may not work properly occasionally. In those instances, you should help Facebook by sending a bug report.
3. The cloud storage space is not unlimited. Facebook is currently only offering 2GB of space. So remove any unnecessary photos to conserve space.
4. The feature may not work if your phone is low on battery.
5. If you are not on wi-fi (and using a cellular network instead), Facebook will shrink the photos to conserve your bandwidth.
6. The synchronisation is only one way (your phone to Facebook). If you make changes to any of the photos on Facebook, it won’t sync those changes back to your phone (which must be making Dropbox breathe a huge sigh of relief).
I would be interested to see what effect (if any) this feature will have on Google Plus’ cloud storage feature, and also if Facebook plans to charge if anyone wants more than 2GB of space. Considering the huge number of active users on Facebook, charging for more photo space could be a huge revenue booster for Facebook and Google Plus, as a result, would find it extremely difficult to catch up.
Do you have the Facebook Photo Sync feature on your phone? If so, what do you think of it? If you don’t have it, would you like to have it? Why, or why not?