When you think of “photo service,” you probably think of Flickr (and wince, softly). But the largest photo service in the world, by order of magnitude, is Facebook. By the end of 2011, people were uploading more than 250 million photos a day to Facebook — billions of photos a month. It’s staggering.
But Facebook wants more. Which is why it’s launching Photo Sync, a feature that automatically uploads all of the photos you take with your phone to a private album on Facebook. The automatic uploading happens whenever you open the Facebook app on iPhone or Android. Then you just pick out whichever photos you actually want to share from this album with everybody else. Very convenient. (The Google Plus apps for iPhone and Android have a similar automatic photo upload feature.)
Almost entirely by virtue of being the most massive photo service in the world, Facebook is the most important, and Photo Sync is the latest in a series of new products and updates from Facebook that are slowly remaking its photo experience into something decent. There’s a strange hole right now in the online photo space — one that Flickr used to occupy and that Facebook isn’t quite ready to fill — but by becoming even more definitive, slurping up every photo you take on your phone, Facebook becomes that much more critical of a photo service. While Instagram photos are carefully chosen, tweaked, and released to a small set of people, and Twitter is only interested in singular moments, Facebook wants your whole life.
Facebook’s carefully emphasizing the privacy of this all-consuming photo album sitting on Facebook’s servers, containing every photo you ever take with your phone. And even if you don’t slip up and accidentally share the wrong photo with all of your friends, the effect of Photo Sync’s silent, persistent uploading of photos will be real, if subtle — sure, you weren’t planning to put that photo on Facebook, but since it’s already there, why not share it? If you really want your photos to be private, don’t put them on Facebook.
This is how Zuckerberg’s law — that you share twice as much information every year as you did the year before — holds true. It’s slow; it’s steady; it’s very, very convenient.