Picasa Hello vs MSN Photo Swap
July 18, 2005
I recently played with two photo slideshow sharing products: Picasa Hello and MSN Photo Swap (part of MSN Messenger version 7). These two products both give people a way to show someone else photos over the net, but their UIs reveal subtle distinctions between their user models for this task.
The most interesting distinction for me comes up in the UI for determining who's showing photos and who's watching photos. Hello's model allows for free-form interaction between the participants. If you want to look at a specific photo, you can. If you want to let your buddy drive the action, you click a command called "Follow Friend":
You can see which photo your friend is looking at and -- if they want to follow your lead -- they can elect to follow along with you. In practice, this model and the resulting UI feels natural.
MSN Photo Swap, meanwhile, feels like what you'd get if you shared photos according to Robert's Rules of Order. One user has the floor, so to speak, and gets to hold on to it for as long as they want. When they see fit to cede control to someone else, they click a "Pass Control" command:
In practice, this model makes what should be a pleasant experience between friends feel dull. If I don't want to look at the photo my buddy is showing, I'm stuck. (Where is the "Filibuster" command?)
The rest of Picasa Hello's UI is likewise friendlier than that in MSN Photo Swap -- but the UI is moot. Hello is probably doomed as a standalone application.
Photo slideshow sharing is a feature, not a product. It only makes sense in the context of a larger framework for interaction over the net such as an IM client like MSN Messenger. I can't imagine telling someone that I want to show them some photos I took, but first they should download and install a client app that they'll never use for any other purpose.
Here's hoping Picasa Hello gets incorporated into something bigger, or that Photo Swap loosens up.