Facebook is not a good picture sharing site

I just want to throw this out there for all the people who like to use Facebook as their primary picture sharing site. Don’t! Facebook is great for many things. It’s great for connecting with people, it is great for synchronous and asynchronous chatting, cyber stalking and apparently filling out “pick 4 lists”. It also allows you to do picture sharing, but it does it very poorly.

Now before you tell me I’m nuts, let me finish. I do like the Facebook photo sharing in theory. I love the tagging feature for example. You upload bunch of pictures and you simply tag your friends and they are not only notified that these pictures are up, but also have them show up in their picture tab and on their friends’ walls. It is a great idea that was stolen and duplicated by just about every other social network out there. Their system works incredibly well with one exception – picture resolution.

Here is the deal – no matter if you shot your picture with a 3 or 7 megapixel camera and how high the resolution was prior to the upload – after it hits your Facebook page it will look as if you took it on your phone. It will be grainy, fuzzy 600×450 thumbnail of a picture. If you try to zoom into it a bit, you will actually be able to see each individual pixel become a blotchy square. Facebook will shrink and compress the shit out of every single picture you upload to their service.

I don’t really blame them. If I was running that type of service I’d want to make each uploaded picture as small as possible too. I mean, they have to pay for all that hosting with their… Um… Btw, how does Facebook make money again? Advertising? Secretly selling your private info to spammers? I don’t remember – I haven’t seen any outrageously annoying ads on their website lately but I assume they have some. I have Adblock installed so I sometimes forget how shitty internet is to other people. Anyway, however they make their money – they have to stretch that to pay for bandwidth, hosting, frivolous lawsuits and still make profits. Oh, and they have to pay their employees too. So compressing uploaded pictures seems like a great idea. This way they only get to store around 50KB per pic, rather than 3-4MB or more.

This way they get to save money, and you can upload as many embarrassing pictures of yourself that will one day cost you a job or a political career as you want. This makes Facebook a great tool for showing your friends funny pictures you took at the party, or family function. It’s great for showing the world how awesome you are for partying hard 7 nights a week, or uploading nauseating amount of baby pictures that your coworkers will pretend to have seen the next day (but they disabled updates from you a year ago when that little bastard of yours was born). It is the equivalent of showing people the prints of your vacation pictures – they get to look at them, but if they want a copy, you will have to make one for them.

Btw, it’s actually funny how different generations share pictures. When my grandma wanted to show people old pictures she would pull out a leather bound photo album. All the pictures would be meticulously dated, annotated and arranged 4 to a page. She would keep the albums neatly organized by date, occasion and she would sometimes re-arrange them. My parents had few of these albums. Most of our pictures were kept in those paper pouches that you get from the picture place. They would be there along with the negatives, and the original receipt. When they wanted to show people old pictures they would dip into their “pictures drawer” and start fishing for the right pouch. They would pull out one after another, pull out a random picture, inspect it and put the pouch back until they found it.

These days when people want to share pictures, they pull out a laptop, huddle around it and go to fucking Facebook. This works just as well as the old fashioned methods. You can look at the pictures, and even save a copy to your hard drive. But it will be a grainy and over compressed copy. So if you want to use that one epic picture of you and your posse (note, I said posse, not pussy – but if you’d like a picture with your cat, you can use that too, as long as it does not have a badly spelled caption in all caps) as your desktop background you definitely don’t want the Facebook copy. You will need to nag, and bother your friend for about a year to send it to you. The friend will of course have no clue what the hell is your problem, cause “dude, I uploaded it to Facebook”. In the end, you will have to take your laptop to their house and show them how shitty that desktop image will look before they actually get the message and give you the original picture – if they have not deleted it (I mean, it is on Facebook so they can get it from there, right?).

If you actually want to share pictures with people rather than just show them you should probably upload them to some real picture sharing service. There are dozens of them out there – most notable being Flickr (and perhaps Fotki). I’m not saying that you should stop uploading pictures to Facebook. I’m just saying you could try uploading them somewhere else in addition to Facebook. This is why I don’t mind paying for my Flickr account even though I have a Facebook account, and I upload pictures there as well. Yes, I upload most of my pictures twice. Once to Facebook where people will actually see it, and once to Flickr where people can really see it in all of it’s high resolution glory. Flickr also lets me share my photos with those 3-4 people left on earth who have not yet created a Facebook account.

I hope this will help you understand why I always respond with “Dude, Flickr it too” every time someone says “This shit is going on Facebook”. It means that I’d like to actually own a high resolution version of that pic – not the grainy one that looks like you took it with your phone. Actually, scratch that – your phone probably has a 3.2 megapixel camera like mine which means it takes way better pictures than what you see of Facebook.

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9 Responses to Facebook is not a good picture sharing site

  1. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I’m looking into hosting my own personal photo sharing site. Maybe using Gallery2? Already registered a shiny new domain name & planning to (probably) use dyndns’s Custom DNS service.

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  2. k00pa FINLAND Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Another great post!

    I like to use flickr, because well there is pictures I like. I don’t like to stalk peoples, but I like to see nice pictures.

    Flickrs explore feature is awesome. (or what it was).

    @Mart: And about that gallery2, try flickr :) it is much easier to use + you get more views easier.

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  3. mcai8sh4 UNITED KINGDOM Opera Linux Terminalist says:

    I can’t really comment – I have no strong reasoning (short enough to put in a comment) – but I hate Facebook! I joined ages ago, but it seems like a pointless wast of time for me (perhaps I just ‘don’t get it’).

    I have a litter server in my lounge and host a gallery2 site from that – I’d recommend trying it Mart. It works well. I’ll not post a link here, who knows what type of reprobates may visit ;P . But if you want a link to have a look, let me know and I’ll figure out a way to send you the link.

    Like Luke, I’m a fan of the face tagging in Facebooks pictures, but hate the small pics (although I thought that was just the res people decided to upload them as). Perhaps there should be some sort of linking feature allowing you to upload to, say flickr, or someother host and then kinda hotlink to them – therefore upload a good quality pic once – then share it with your mates via facebook…. just a thought.

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  4. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @k00pa: I’m not really into getting views, but I have recently registered a so-called “family” domain name, and would like to host family-stuff under it. Since I do plan to get a small mini-ITX-based PC to act as a throw-anything-at-it server, gallery2 seems to be just nice.

    @mcai8sh4: It’s ok dude. I’ve downloaded and experimenting it with WAMP for now. Thanks!

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  5. The real shame is when people lose the original image files and the low-quality version on Facebook is all that’s left. I guess that’s better than not having it, but it also might encourage people to make Facebook their only copy in the first place (not ever noticing the quality issue).

    I haven’t used Facebook in over 4 years now, so I haven’t seen this for myself, but it seems just like something they would do.

    I am curious why you pay for a Flickr account when you have this Dreamhost website which can serve mostly the same function (after some webapp wrangling (like the above mentioned gallery2)). Surely you must have unlimited storage and bandwidth here by now, so these wouldn’t be concerns. You could have your own photos.terminally-incoherent.com or something. Is it the social networking aspect of Flickr?

    For me, if I can shoehorn something into my website I do that instead of getting a separate account somewhere else. As a bonus, I make regular backups of my website so anything I hook in gets included in those backups.

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  6. ZeWrestler UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I was going to suggest Gallery2, but a few people beat me to it already.

    I’m in complete agreement about FB pictures. Another thing that p.o.s me about it is the fact it completely wipes out the metadata from the original picture with its compression algorithm. I like utilizing that data for my pictures I have, so that really sucks when its erased.

    Also, story: I had it happen where I asked my brother to send me some pictures that I could get printed professionally, and sent to family members. I was given links to FB. I asked for the original, and he told me to ask his gf. She proceeded to download them off FB and send them to me. *GAARRRGH* It looked like crap when it was printed out.

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  7. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Wow, everyone loves gallery2. :)

    @Chris Wellons: Well, there are many reasons really.

    1. I had that Flickr account for ages – relocating all these pictures would be a pain

    2. Flicrk == fast, terminally-incoherent.com == slow

    3. Because of #2 I’m always planning to switch hosts (but ultimately never do) so that’s few hundred MB less stuff for me to move

    4. Something about putting all your eggs in one basket

    5. With Flickr I can upload my pictures directly from my phone, my watch, my toaster and bunch of other things that implement their API

    6. Dreamhost stores my files on a linux box that I share with like 5 million other people (at least that’s how it feels on some days when I look at the server load). Flickr stores my files on a cloud… At least I think it does.

    7. Flickr has a built in community stuff like tagging, groups and etc. I originally created the account to post funny pictures of stupid signs, graffiti or the lousy art pieces people install in the quad at school. Then I started uploading other stuff.

    8. ???

    9. Profit

    So yeah. I could set up a gallery2 but it would actually take more effort than just using my Flickr account.

    @ZeWrestler: OMG! LOL! That’s exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about. People just don’t get that whole resolution thing.

    I blame Hollywood for this – cause in every single movie they take a grainy, low resolution photo and then they zoom-in and enhance it so that you can see the fingerprint on a glass that is visible in a 5th floor window in the building across the street.

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  8. copperfish Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    I’ve had a paid-for flickr account for ages and I’m really happy with it. Add Desktop Flickr Organiser (Linux) based on flickrfs and you’ve got a great way of managing those photos from a desktop.

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  9. Morghan UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    Well, my camera is horrible, so I very much doubt that my pictures could get any worse. My pet peeve has already been mentioned by ZeWrestler, ganking my metadata does not make me a happy citizen.

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