I’ve been trying out the test version of Picasa that publishes web albums and lets you geotag photos with Google Earth. I imported some photos of Stockholm, geotagged them, and published them as a web album.
I’m completely impressed. The process manages to combine absolute ease of use with all the power that Google Earth now musters. It took me no time at all to pinpoint seven photos to within a meter’s accuracy, and I found myself smiling at the ingenuity of it all.
Here’s how it works: Start with some imported photos. Highlight them. Go to the Tools menu, select Geotag > Geotag with Google Earth.
Google Earth pops up with big crosshairs at the center of the screen. At the edge of the screen, a floating window that shows you the photo you need to georeference.
Drag the Earth. Click. Next. Repeat until done. Placemark icons are generated automatically from the image, and the collected whole is turned into a folder ready for export as KML. (Here is the KMZ file of the Stockholm photos.) Once Done, Picasa marks the photo icons with a small symbol, denoting that they have been geotagged.
Publishing them to a web album is just as seamless. Push a button, log in to your Google account, choose a name and whether your folder is public, and you’re done. in fact, once you have a Picasa Web Album account, you don’t even need the Picasa standalone application. You can upload photos directly, via the web client, albeit without Picasa’s georeferencing abilities.
There is still room for development, of course. The public web albums do not yet offer up a KML link for georeferenced photos, and the RSS feed that accompanies the photos does not do GeoRSS. Integration with Google Maps would also make sense, in case you’re travelling and want to georeference your roadrip pictures. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.
The integration between Picasa and Google Earth is the first instance I can think of from the past year where Google develops something geo-savvy that risks competing with the freelance developers in its ecosphere. There are other tools out there that use Maps and Earth to georeference photos, mainly connected to Flickr, but also dedicated ones, like Panoramio. (Panoramio’s strengths lie elsewhere, though — in social mapping.) In this case, however, the advantage of the ease of use of the integration is so great, that anyone using Google Earth should download Picasa, and anyone with Picasa should download Google Earth. And that’s precisely how the game is won against Microsoft and Yahoo!.
What about Apple’s iPhoto? That only integrates with .Mac’s web publishing, for which you pay, and there are no georeferencing tools in sight. Picasa is looking far more interesting at the moment. Luckily, my MacBook Pro boots into Windows:-)