What is better Flickr or Picasa? There are handful of popular photo-sharing services out there but it’s probably between two that most people will agonise. On the one hand Flickr has the long standing kudos with a name almost as synonymous with digital pictures as Google is with search and, on the other, there’s yet another arm of the far reaching Big G to consider in the shape of Picasa. So, if you’re looking for one single cloud solution for all your imaging issues, which one is it to be? Welcome to the answer - Flickr vs Picasa.

Before we begin, just a quick word that we’re referring largely to the Picasa Web Albums online service. The main Picasa program is a desktop download application that will allow you to edit and organise your photos. Although there is a degree of interchangeability, it is the area of online storage that we're looking at.

Winner: Flickr

Loser: Picasa

Without having to spend a penny, Picasa Web Albums allows everyone who signs up 1GB of photo storage. You can use that however you like. Once you run out, you can pay for more in the shape of the Google Accounts storage additions which can be shared across your Gmail, Google Docs and PWA as you see fit. An extra 20GB is $5 per year and you can go all the way up to 1TB for $256 per year and beyond if you must.

Flickr, on the other hand, offers all its users an unlimited amount of space to store their shots. Well, sort of. The amount of space you have is endless with both the free and pro Flickr accounts, but you can only actually access your last 200 shots uploaded with the free version. The rest of your image library sits silent and inaccessible up in the servers. Should you decide to upgrade to pro at any point for $24.95 per year, then all your photos from the past would become available once more.

Interestingly, there is also a way around this if you’d rather stick with the free version. There’s no limit on the number of visible shots available to photo groups. So you can set up your own personal group and put all your images in it and then have access to them all without having to pay a penny.

Winner: Picasa

Loser: Flickr

With Picasa Web Albums, you can upload one giant 1GB video to fill your quota if you like but, as far as images are concerned, there’s a maximum of 20MB or 50 megapixels per file. Other than those with Hasselblads then, it’s your space, use it as you wish.

Unfortunately, the Flickr free account comes with some more icky parameters. The first is that no single image file can be bigger than 10MB (20MB with pro) and no video can be larger than 150MB (500MB with pro) or more than 90 seconds in length. Also, you’re only allowed to upload 100MB of photos and two videos per month. If you pay though, these last two limits are lifted.

The other issue with Flickr is that you have no access to your original uploaded files with the free version, so you’re not able to download them again and nor can anyone else. Again, the pro version removes this restriction. There’s no such problem with PWA.

Both photo-sharing services allow users to email uploads in order to take advantage of camera-phones and other situations where you might not have complete access to the Internet. Most of the the big desktop image software brands also have one click uploads to Flickr and Picasa too.

Winner: Flickr

Loser: Picasa

Flickr allows users to upload JPEGs, non-animated GIFs and PNG files and store them as such. Any other image type uploaded will be converted and compressed into a JPEG. It’s a similar situation with PWA except that the Google software will turn everything into a JPEG, and because there’s no PNG option you are stuck having to use a lossy format.

On top of that, through a minor bit of skullduggery, you can also store RAW files on Flickr by RAR packing them and appending them to the end of the of the JPEG. Naturally, getting knee deep in scripts isn’t going to be for most people, but here it is all the same.

If resolution happens to be a bone of contention for you, then you might want to go with PWA. While Flickr will automatically resize your images to a 75 x 75 thumbnail as well as 100, 240, 500 and 1024px wide versions, Picasa will simply keep the files according to how they were when you uploaded them. If they’re bigger than your screen size, then the software will automatically detect and resize them as appropriate.

Lastly, on quality, there’s also video to consider. With a Flickr free account, you can upload 720p HD video but you can only playback at HD quality if you have a pro account. With PWA there’s no HD at all. All videos are played back at either 320 x 240 or 480 x 360 with a recommended upload resolution of 640 x 480. The message from Google seems to be that, if you want to upload video, go and use YouTube. 

Winner: Picasa

Loser: Flickr

Back in the day when people used phrases like web 2.0, Flickr was always cited as a great social networking tool. It still is, but there doesn’t seem to have been a world of development on this front for a little while now. With just an RSS feed associated with each profile and the ability to make comments, friends and join groups; it’s been a case of waiting for all the apps to come to Flickr rather than anything else happening on the site itself.

Picasa, however, has Google’s full weight behind it and comes with buttons to share images on Buzz, Twitter and Blogger. You can also get an immediate embed code for websites where you can choose from a set of picture sizes, and the share tab also allows you to email your content to people according to your associated Gmail contacts. You can select from individuals, friends, family, co-workers or everyone with a quick tick of a few boxes.

Flickr houses contacts for you as well and allows you to email the HTML link out, but the whole process is just much smoother and better integrated on PWA. What’s more, there’s no sign up required for friends to be able to view what you send them. On Flickr people will need an account of their own or a guest pass.

What probably illustrates the difference best is that when someone comments on your photos on Picasa, or comments on a comment of yours, you’ll automatically be emailed of the fact so that you can respond quicker. With Flickr, you’ll receive notification on your home page when someone makes a comment on your photos, but that’s about it.

Winner: Flickr
26 million users

Loser: Picasa
500,000 users

While Picasa might have it all better set up socially, the fact remains that Flickr is just more popular. It has more users, more images and a more professional community than on PWA. As a result there are more groups on offer, a better source of expert tips for help on improving your photography and there’s more chance of your work being appreciated and even used as paid for stock now that Getty Images clients can also browse and buy from Flickr as well.

Tie: Flickr

Tie: Picasa

We’ve included this category in case you have questions over what each photo-sharing site offers. You’ll be pleased to know that both services let you tag shots to your heart’s content, you can pin point everything on a map and they each have put deals in place with Picnik to allow you some minor image editing - cropping, red eye reduction, rotating - on site as well. Strictly speaking, PWA should probably inch it here given that it does automatic face recognition and some of the software is just a little better, but there’s not enough in it to make this an area of contention.

Winner: Picasa

Loser: Flickr

It’s important to think about privacy when using a photo storing service, otherwise you might find your family holiday shots plastered on the side of a bus. While both websites allow you to select who can view your images, whether they’re search indexed or even licensed for reuse, it is Picasa that makes this clearer and easier to do with with two very simple photo streams - Public and Unlisted. If you’re confident in this area, then you’ll get just as much protection from Flickr but if it’s a worry, then you should probably consider Picasa.

While a few of the parameters set around the free Flickr account are a bit of a drag, it still gets our vote for the photo sharing service of choice. It’s ahead in terms of both the amount you can store as well as the quality of what you can post, and they’re probably the two most important areas for any shutterbug. Add to that a thriving community, good API and all sorts of interesting third party tools that people have taken the time to build and you’ve got the reason why this site still survives as number one, despite whatever else might be going on in Yahoo!’s portfolio.

Picasa Web Albums is a worthy service, as backed up by the excellent desktop tool that is the Picasa program itself, but, for the moment, there’s isn’t quite enough of a reason to go with Google in the face of such a huge deficit in community.

The best of all worlds is to have the Flickr Pro account and the good news is that, if you happen to subscribe to any paid for Yahoo! services already - which includes having your broadband through BT with email at Yahoo! - then you’re entitled to a pro account for free.

If you’re willing to spend a bit of cash then Smugmug is an excellent choice worth investigating and there are also other favourites such as Photobucket, Zenfolio, Shutterfly and Snapfish to explore, to name just a few. While Picasa might not be the biggest to compare to Flickr, it’s certainly prolific and increasingly so - with both Android and Google beginning to take over the world. Let us know your top choice of photo service and why in the comments below.

The elephant in the room throughout all this is, of course, Facebook. With 500 million users worldwide and most of these uploading photos on a regular basis, it’s hard to ignore. However, there are plenty of restrictions and reasons why you should think twice about using it as a main photo store.

Firstly, privacy is a big problem. Just because you choose to share your images with your friends, you have no control over who gets to see the news feeds of those people in your network where your “private” snaps will subsequently appear. Secondly, there’s no options in terms of quality or resolution and, thirdly, you can’t delete your photos once they’re up in the Facebook servers. Worst of all, you agree that Facebook can basically do whatever it likes with your images once uploaded. The trade off is that you can upload as much as you like for free. Your call.