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Friday, October 15, 2004
Hello! What's This? It's Google's Most Underrated Product: Picasa
If you're like me, when Google bought Picasa, you thought it was a pretty good thing, You downloaded the program, marveled at the interface, tried it out, and never launched the program again. That is going to change today. From now on, I'll be using Picasa a lot more. Why? Read on...

I chatted today at Digital Life with two women from the Picasa team. They've been around since before Google bought them, so they know the score. They started talking to me about Picasa, and I explained to them that I had already used it. In fact, I had used it to download photos from my camera just a half hour before in the press room, the first time I had ever used it for that. Then they asked me if I had ever used Hello. I was confused, to say the least. What's Hello?

Hello is Picasa and Google's little secret, and it sure as hell shouldn't be. Picasa is a way of storing and indexing your photos. Hello is about interacting. Hello was created as a way to share those photos Picasa spent so much time indexing, but it does so much more. Do you want an instant messenger from Google? Well, Hello is an instant messenger, complete with buddy lists and bots and smilies and sounds. The difference is that Hello is optimized for sending photos. It can automatically resize a photo so it sends properly. You can jump back and forth from Hello to Picasa to send your photos and share your albums. But most strikingly to most of my readers, it is an instant messenger in a Google product, and its a good bet that as Google integrates Picasa better with the rest of its services, Hello will be its chat client, with full feature support for Gmail and Google Desktop. And if you are worried about security, Google claims it's more secure than AOL Instant Messenger.

So, many people wondered in July why Google bought Picasa. The obvious answer is allowing Google users to better search through their content. But there are two reasons that were far more important to Google. The first is hinted at in the press release:
In May 2004, Picasa announced a technology partnership with Google's Blogger service to make publishing digital photos with Blogger faster and easier.
Yes, Hello has something called the BloggerBot. This PDF announces the technology. BloggerBot sits in your buddy list, but instead of chatting with him/her/it, you use it to upload photos and post them to your Blogger blog. As the BloggerBot PDF reads, "The BloggerBot resizes the photo, uploads and publishes it to the web in seconds." It really does take just seconds. You click "Send Pictures", choose the photo, type a caption, and post. It's an instant Blogger interface replete with photo resizing, uploading, and hosting. Don't believe it works? You're reading a post done in Hello! Sure seems to work to me, as all I did was attach the photo below and post through the Hello instant messenger. So, reason one of why Google bought Picasa: The Blogger integration in Hello accomplishes many of the things Google wants to do with a Blogger application.

The second reason is a bit more surprising. I remarked to one of the Picasa ladies that I was surprised by the interface, which is so non-Google-like. I wondered aloud if Google was going to change it to look like everything else they do. Well, guess what? Nope. See, Google bought Picasa because of the interface. They loved it! I think its a great interface too, although a bit confusing at first. Apparently, Google was looking for people who can build interfaces that are innovative, fast, and user-friendly. They plan on putting the Picasa interface team to work on future applications. Don't be surprised if the next big Google app is designed by the Picasa team, and is both different and light year's ahead of anything else on the market. Can you imagine if these guys were told to build a web browser, but reinvent the way a web browser is used? I'd be excited. So reason two: Google bought Picasa so they could work on interfaces for as yet unnamed Google applications.

How does this make Picasa Google's most underrated product? Well, with Picasa you have instant messaging, Blogger posting, an innovative interface, and, oh yeah, image organization. Picasa, and in many ways to a bigger extent, Hello, when fully integrated into Google's apps, will be its IM/Blogger program, will enhance its image search, and will represent the cornerstone of a new interface for many of the things you do. Considering how little anyone has talked about Hello and Picasa, I'd say underrated about sums it up.
Posted by Hello

Picassa is good yes and underrated as well. Much less publicised than Google's other products. But hello has simple limitations. It doesn't work with proxies. And to me that's a major disadvantage. Hello being such an advanced application, I wonder why it doesn't work with proxies.
do you think picasa will be integrated with google desktop, so that google desktop can index the metadata if image files on our hard drive.
Thanks for the follow up on this Nathan. I see that they host the images too, that is kewl. Should work if you are hosting your own Blogger account too.

I will be checking this out.

The IM is not what I what I imagined it to be though. Still they have the makings to expand upon and it there for the doing.
I've been using Hello ever since I started blogging to host my pictures. As you said, I've installed Picasa right after it made the headlines after Google bought it. But, I should say it still needs to be worked on. The interface is good. But, it's got limitatations. I'm still waiting for a photo application for windows that is comparable to iPhoto for Mac.
In order:

Vin: Google's products typically are much more stable and play better with hardware and software than most. Rest assured, they are working on these problems.

Jansen: Absolutely. The one question I asked every single Google person was "Will this be integrated better with [blank]", and the general response was that Google is working on integrating all of its products to work together seemlessly. It seems like the Picasa and Desktop teams are both interested in an image search which displays results both from your hard drive and the web.

Webstractions: Yeah, I had to post about it, just to pacify your request. but seriously, while the IM product is still rudimentary, it shows great promise, and represents the base for the future of Google IM.

Raghu: The Picasa team said that they are working on enhancing Picasa in many different ways. Expect to see many of the issues fixed. More than just demonstrating the product, I could see that they were using the demos as a way to gauge feedback and figure out needed features.
"More than just demonstrating the product, I could see that they were using the demos as a way to gauge feedback and figure out needed features." - I would be very much pleased if they are doing that. Their Desktop Search also needs lots of working to be done. Hopefully, as you said they will integrate all their products so that they work seamlessly. But, in my view, they have to consider having their products get integrated with firefox too. One limitation with Hello is that after you publish a picture to your blogger account, it automatically opens your blog in IE even though Firefox is the default browser.
I wish there was an OSX version.
Just what the world needs: another IM standard with none of my friends on it.
Raghu said, "But, in my view, they have to consider having their products get integrated with firefox too."I have been wondering about that myself, why would Google choose to leave Firefox and even Mozilla out of the mix.

Perhaps this might have something to do with it, and it boils down to changing standards between versions. I was just reading at Blogzilla that Mozilla's storage will be changing (I am thinking this includes Firefox as well). They'll be writing a parser to transfer the data from crappy mork db to a nicer unified sqlite db.

Look at this from the Google viewpoint. The Windows OS, filesystem and Internet Explorer are frozen for the next two years. Mozilla / Firefox can change in a heartbeat and cause unnecessary redevelopment time on the part of the Google software engineers. IE is ripe for exploitation and the quick kill.

Links:'re really not in the main stream are you?
Well Brian, I guess that would depend on what you would call "mainstream". If it is WebMasterWorld, that is a different set of folks altogether and it does not represent the majority view.

I was just checking the citations for this article, and it is Nathan's most popular to date. Seems to me that there is a renewed interest or just plain discovery going on here. A lot of people out there are picking up on this with enthusiasm.

Mainstream or not, having Hello removed and off to the side makes it as Nathan put it "Google's most underrated product". That was the point of the article as I see it.
I use Yahoo! Messenger as my instant messaging client, however, I've been slowly converting some of my buddies to Hello for the very reasons you outlined. What's really awesome is all the pictures that are sent to you are saved in a file which has a directory in Picasa which makes for very convenient referencing. And the chat log files are far superior than Yahoo's archiving.
I've been using Hello since it was launched (Blogger was promoting it as a means of uploading photos, I thought) - I like how it puts up your pic in a friendly size but lets people who want to see the full-sized version click on it. I agree, my number one annoyance is that it opens up in IE instead of Firefox. And I also find it annoying that Hello doesn't support Blogger's titles, because I end up having to go back and re-edit to put in a title..
I hope the Hello folks fix this annoyance: whenever you post an image to Blogger, it launches a new browser.
What browser are you using Jonathon? If it is Firefox, you can add an extension that will take care of that.

Tab Browser Preferences (TBP) will stop that from happening.

Also, I hear the latest build of FF PR1 has this fixed. Still the above extension offers a lot of control over your tabbed browsing. Lots of options.
In order, again:

Juan: I don't suspect we'll see Google rushing to adapt too many of its products to other OSes. Google has been happy releasing products like the Toolbar to Windows and letting the open-source community reverse engineer the protocols so they can take advantage of them.

Orestes: Google has been working together with AOL to get AIM to work together with Desktop. hope they try to expand that spirit of cooperation those two companies have had to Hello. Either way, AIM can be your simple chat client, while Hello handles more advanced tasks and integrates with the rest of Google's products. Heavy Google users will love it the most.

Webstractions: I wouldn't be surprised if that's exactly the thinking in the Google campus.

Brian: To me, the mainstream is the "real-world" media. After them comes blogs, then forums, and then IRC. While there is a community of people who discuss and spread rumors about Google at length, they are far from mainstream. The one obvious indicator of that is this: No one uses Hello, even though it was released in May. Very few news organizations have ever mentioned it. Webmasterworld's forums did not get it noticed. I blog about it once (and my blog isn't even that popular) and CNet picks it up. The way I look at it, Hello moved into mainstream media coverage the instant CNet reported on it, not when I did, and not when the forums did.

Webstractions: Yup. It's Google's most underrated product because it has so much potential, yet receives little notice. That's the definition of underrated to me.

kook: As good as Hello's chat logs are, nothing compares to Google Desktop's. They need to integrate this product ASAP.

Daryl: I read back on news releases, and when Evan William, founder of Blogger, first saw the BloggerBot, he was very excited. There's a lot more that can be done with it. And they do need to add title support.
Hey, how about Google adding a chat client that can manage your six degrees of separation: will anyone ever figure out how chat and six degrees of separation are inseparably linked?
Nice find. Hello seems pretty slick.
Totally agree. Picasa is a good move for Google. I would add that the URL is not the worst URL around for somebody with a big Net ambition :)
A little while ago I wrote up a set of instructions for creating online shopping carts at Blogger, using Hello to post the item pictures and PayPal to provide the purchase buttons.

Over the past few days I've been using Perl to post-process the Picasa-Hello-Blogger output in conjunction with keyword-based categories, with good results. Some of the permalinks result in pages that have no PayPal button, still, but that's just a bit more code to write.

Without the triumvirate of Picasa-Hello-Blogger, I would have had to write significantly more code, detailed a much more set of instructions, and in general wouldn't be so willing to recommend it as a solution to others. There are still minor flaws in Hello ("the Picasa team doesn't think its ready for prime time"), but we've been able to work around them quite nicely.
Hello is a cool product, I agree. But let's hope that Google understands that the approach is backwards. In this case, the IM hangs off the Photo Sharing service. Any online service should hang off your IM presence...that way your buddy list becomes the center of your desktop vs. the apps. Check out how a new start-up called Qnext handles this ( They have it right. Their P2P Photo Sharing is exceptional.
I've been using Hello to upload pics to my blog for ages. How come this site (which is hosted by blogger after all!) has only just heard of it? It's been out for something like six months now.
Anyhow, Hello is great. I don't even bother with other image hosting sites anymore.
Peeve 1: IE opening automatically instead of firefox is annoying.
Peeve 2: If it's so well integrated with blogger, why is it not possible to post a picture with a title? That's such a basic and useful feature. Going back to edit is very inconvenient.
Peeve 3: Why can't you just publish a picture to your blog with no text?
Peeve 4: Maybe this is just on my own PC, but Hello is not able to remember my passowrd. I have to type it in each time. Tinkering with the Hello settings does nothing.

As for its IM utility - who needs it? The vast majority of my online 'buddies' use Yahoo IM and Skype.
If you ever wondered what Picasa + GMail would look like, check out . It's got dynamic imaging so that you do really cool things. Check out my blog.
Hi there!

I've been working with Picasa and Hello for the past 2 days. Used it to upload the designs drawn by my mom, onto her blog ( Surely the working-behind-proxy for Hello is a highly needed feature. At office, where the bandwidth is generally better, I can upload the images, even with higher quality. But, at home, with these dialups, it's so painful. Unfortunately Hello does not support uploading images from behind a proxy.

'Hello'! Are you folks listening?

Sridhar (
Also check out Flickr ( It is very polished and clean looking and has some great features. They allow you unlimited space but instead limit the monthly bandwidth to 1GB (in the paid version).
I use hello on my Windows PC, but I wish there was a Mac version so I could use it on my iBook which goes with me everywhere.
Have you seen this?

It's been detailing various aspects of Google's instant messenger.

I wonder what else this site can be used for.

What do you think?
I like the site, but I worry that it will at some point lose its domain name to Google. The domain is more misleading than most (like MoreGoogle, which lost its). Still, lots of very useful information on a product which will eventually (I believe) be a major part of Google's strategy.
hi. i think it is all very good. there are some things that could be changed though. what i really want to know is, how do you get your pictures onto google?
You mean Google Images? Google doesn't update it often, but you can just leave your images on the web and hope they get picked up eventually. Make sure Google is crawling your site.
As I see it there is only one reason to use Hello, and that is to upload images to That is to narrow to make it a mainstream app. I've tried to find other bots that would let me interface with other blogs or sites, like the excellent Gallery, or perhaps even Wikipedia(!), but so far no such luck. Plese drop me a line if you know about such a bot.

The picasa program itself is supercool, a wonderful and free tool that replaces the bloated Acdsee I've used until now. The timeline interface is just insanely cool. But it seem to be unstable, it crashes all the time, when in use, and seem to go into some unsolvable slumber when not in use. Anyone else had problems with this?
Picassa is really good, i've only just found it. but although i like using Hello IM i must say it is hard to use since it isn't rated and none of my friends or family use it therefore the contact list is nearing null, which in truth renders it somewhat useless!
I've only gotten this to work once at home.

I use Hello to post something, and it says "Posting picture" but nothing happens.

It seems glitch, it did work one time.

I know it's not much to go on, but any ideas?
Yeah i love hello! but i am having a hard time finding other users. My name on hello is jedinerd look forward to talking to you!
did u all know when u type
" love " will fly out a love ...
if u type many many many "love"
will fly out many many many loveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!
^^ i was wonder is there any others words tat will come out something like tat ? ^^ :D
did u all know when u type
" love " will fly out a love ...
if u type many many many "love"
will fly out many many many loveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!
^^ i was wonder is there any others words tat will come out something like tat ? ^^ :D
do you only can use Hello! with Blogger?

This stupid monopoly and standarize tricks in the share and open source times just go against Google biz...

While Flickr get thousands and thousands of new users.
One thing I believe Google think-tanks are- winners!

Having said that, Google buying Picasa does not mean they would always hit market winners everytime. No one is perfect. But when you want something in the top 10, Google's product will always be there.

- SEM Pro
Hi. Thanks for the insights.

Steve @
I use Qnext (http;//,it is one incredible product! Its features are multiple: Instant Messaging, Audio Chat, Video Conferencing, Music Streaming, Photo Sharing, Online Gaming, Remote Administration, File Transfer, File Sharing, IRC and QnextMyPC. You can create photo and file sharing zones on your computer that are accessible only by other friends on a permission-basis. It's like you are able to build your own secure private network, while still connected into public IM clients. Qnext ( is free and everybody can run it.
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