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Google Boosts Picasa Photo Service

Google   today began testing a new feature for Picasa, the company's free desktop photo management software that lets users organize and edit their pictures.

Picasa Web Albums is an attempt to offers an easier way to share photos online, Google Product Manager Adrian Graham said in a blog post earlier this week.

To share those pictures, users will upload a group of them and click a "Share" button on the album's site. Or, they could e-mail friends the URL for the public gallery.

Google hasn't said whether and how the public albums will be searchable. Currently, public Google Notebooks are searchable, though public Google Spreadsheets are not.

Picasa Web Albums comes with 250 megabytes of free storage space, which Google said is approximately 1,000 wallpaper-sized photos at 1,600 pixels each.

Online photo sharing is a relatively new arena for Google, while Yahoo's photo service has offered photo sharing albums for years.

Just last week, Yahoo added advanced social features, such as tagging, search and comments to its own online photo service.

Yahoo's improvements may have been inspired by its increasingly popular Flickr property.

That site, as much a social network as a photo sharing facilitator, uses live Web technologies, such as RSS syndication and tagging.

Flickr's unique visitors grew 346 percent in the last year and hit 4.8 million viewers in April 2006, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.