Panoramio Gets Reprieve from Google

In 2006, Google bought Panoramio – a fast growing user community with geo-tagged photos from around the world to add to Google Earth and Maps so people could better identify locations through photos people had taken. Google hired all three of its developers and they helped them scale up the system to handle a much larger load of users and photos.

The Panoramio site grew at a much more rapid pace and the resulting photos have been a fantastic resource for people throughout the world. Many of the original Panoramio members are professional or enthusiast photographers who have enjoyed the online community associated with Panoramio. Google helped add many more community features and contests were held for the best photos. Panoramio had a very happy and growing community for several years, myself included. I have contributed thousands of photos to Panoramio over the years while traveling to the far corners of the world.

As most people know, in subsequent years Google has grown a lot, and in the process they have been getting a more corporate, and less community-friendly attitude. They have been closing down (or using the most common Google word: “deprecating”) products on a frequent basis. Shutting down products sometimes is necessary with technological progress, but there are better ways to help communities surrounding the products to transition to alternatives. Google could be doing a better job.

Last September, Google announced they would migrate users off Panoramio and have them use a new Google Maps based photography site they had built called Google Views. Google said everyone would be moved off Panoramio in the next year (2015), and they assured the Panoramio community they would not lose key features. But, the new Views site did not have many of the same community features Panoramio had developed, and the community did not at all like the new site. Google’s Brian McClendon tried to address the concerns. But, a petition was created by the Panoramio community and over 10,000 users signed the petition within a few weeks. However, Google said little in response to the petition even after several months.

Suddenly, this week, Google announced: “After listening to community feedback about the future of the platform, we’re pleased to let you know that there won’t be any immediate changes to Panoramio. Instead of aligning the community with Views, we’ve gone back to the drawing board to work on a more integrated solution that supports you and your content directly within Google Maps.” So, they aren’t going to immediately kill off Panoramio after all. But, this probably doesn’t mean Google will repair features that have been broken with Panoramio for months. It’s apparent this supposed reprieve has more to do with the new Google Photos platform and the fact Google is now going to close down Google Maps Views (according to this post) and putting panoramic photos into the Street View platform. Meanwhile, Google has to continue to rely on Panoramio for its huge archive of geo-referenced photos.

So, although Google won’t be killing off Panoramio as planned this summer, there is no guarantee the stay of execution will be held off indefinitely (unlikely even). Let’s hope the additional time will give Googlers the opportunity to think of innovative ways to capture the essence of Panoramio – maybe even re-use the name – in the transition to their next photo mapping product. An even better step would be to at least address some of the problems with the current Panoramio product that has been plaguing the community in the meantime.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was released. He worked in 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition.



Comments

  1. Interesting and good news, at east provisionally, particularly in view of Google’s usual approach these days to its user communities. On Google Earth the Panoramio photos are a really valuable resource in the many places away from Street View, and it’s amazing where the community of photographers reach. Also, often stunning galleries from individual photographers can be opened direct from a photo in Google Earth.

    In Google Earth there is perhaps too much of a proliferation of Panoramio icons in popular locations, plus there are obvious problems for some photographers with geotagging – areas for editing?

    But the Google announcement refers only to Maps, so how can it be interpreted for Earth?

    • Yes I agree that Panoramio icons are blocking most popular locations in Google Earth, but Google should put button on menu bar, which will switch Panoramio photos -on or off-, instead going to —> View—-> Side Bar —-> Panoramio on or off —> Side Bar off.
      Frank

  2. I wonder if the Google execs will learn a thing or two about this Panoramio issue and they can address the “other” 10K users’ petition; that is, to bring back Classic Google Maps:
    https://www.change.org/p/tell-google-bring-back-classic-google-maps

    • The Beach Wilsons Beach says:

      “Bring Back Classics Google Maps”, indeed. Unearth all ancestors and have them apply their denture mark. It appears Google looses sight (pardon pun) that the consumer/user/contributors have the final say.

  3. http://youtu.be/ylJutEuQ7jk

    Frank – First a short thank you for keeping this blog. I too have wondered and continue to shake my head as regards Google geography. I waited in apprehension to hear Google Earth, to see some sort of magic in Google-licious flavor, and missed it. The whole future of what Google Earth can be found in the surprise, we the Cardboard Million shared with the wonder…. Oh the places your will see…

    FYI MidNight Mapper aka Neil

  4. I think that migration into Views could relaunch Panoramio.

  5. The key for me is Google Earth and Google Maps. I will probably move to whatever platform of photo sharing that these will use in the end as they are invaluable. However, I hadn’t tried Google Views yet because of how it didn’t seem geo-focused, and had put a hold on uploading to my Panoramio account because of the turmoil. I am quite content with Panoramio, though I’m sure things will change again eventually. If Yahoo builds up some great mapping visualization tool around Flickr then I could possibly favor that. I have a Flickr acct already and their photo sharing and social aspect is top notch.

  6. Stuart Smith says:

    How about an update on Google’s poor performance in maintaining the Panoramio site and its relationship to Google Earth

    • What has happened to being able to load multiple pics all a once. That feature has gone. Panoramio is so tedious now. Is that another Google feature.

  7. Jan Matthieu says:

    I found that none of my pictures I have uploaded to Panoramio more than six months ago still have’nt been loaded to Google Earth. Wonder if that’s the case with other users too?

    • peterboysonicat says:

      Yes. Me too. It’s been an unusually long period of time since I uploaded photos on Panoramio and seen my photos on GE. 5 or 6 months since upload. It never took that long before. I don’t know why but it looks like Mine aren’t the only photos that aren’t getting uploaded. The people at Panoramio and GE aren’t on the same page anymore. Or, there’s a glitch in the system they can’t seem to fix.

  8. Interesting! When I started using Panoramio it was for stiched pictures, not simple view stuff. Now when clicking on a picture, you see just an ordinary photo, very nice photos by NOT panoramio.. Click on the button in google earth and the map goes crazy trying to show millions of pictures..

  9. Anybody knows… Will there be an alternative to the panoramio layer for Google earth?

    • Good question. I have noticed that photos you upload to Google Maps (which is what Google is promoting now for geotagged photos) do not show up on Google Earth. They definitely need a photo source for Google Earth and I hope they think the same. I know for sure that on my many Panoramio photos that they got many more views from Google Earth users than from Maps. That means maybe they will bring some over from Google Maps to also appear on Earth. Photos on Panoramio showed on both.

      I wrote a little about them closing Panoramio here – http://www.hikingmike.com/blog/google-to-shut-down-panoramio-on-nov-4/

      • Mike, I share your view that Google earth (the Option I prefer to Google maps as viewing 3d landscape is essential to me) needs a photo layer. I constantly use panoramio, and I am puzzled – since the Google announcement to discontinue panoramio there seemingly is no discussion about the panoramio level in google earth in the web to be found.
        I guess, the panoramio layer will not work any more from Nov 4, 2016? To me that is not clear. Google does not seem to have a very thought-through and structured method about many of their tools – example: things like Google Earth 3d plugins for Websites which have been discontinued a long time ago still seem to work on some Browsers.

        So, maybe some other person (e.g. somebody from Google) could enlighten us, will there be a photo layer in Google earth in the future?

  10. David Schmitz says:

    Google Earth will suck without all the pictures.

  11. Think you all overstimated Google! As of Nov 4, all these photos have disappeared from Google Earth. Way to go you idiots at Google!

  12. For the past few days panoramio photos in GE have shown as blank with no details in the pop up box on my two PC’s.. but in GE Android App still showing. I REALLY do HOPE there is/will be an alternative photo layer that we can use for GE… it is essential to me for work, planning trips and just exploring! Somebody said GE will suck without photo, I already feel it’s lost much of its appeal and am deeply saddened to see no images loading 🙁

    It is also very strange that all this went virtually unchallenged. I know there was the 10k petition, but there really is little around the web. Is it too late for a petition to create something that the community could manage?? I truly hope this is not the end of this.

    • Maliyan – you are right with every word.

      I am pro a new petition to Google, saying that they should keep up Panoramio working for GE until they provide a sustainable alternative with lots of photo content!

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