On September 30th, Facebook announced plans to increase the maximum photo size to 2048 pixels on the longest side (i.e., ~6MB in size), up from the current 720 pixel limit. The 720 pixel limit was already an improvement announced in early 2010 from 604 pixels.
In terms of printing area, this size makes the photo 8 times bigger. If previous sizes were good for 4"x6" print quality, this can make a good 11x14" print, look beautiful on a canvas, a 12x12" (or larger) photobook, or look fantastic when browsing on a big TV or monitor.
Sam Odio, Facebook Photos Product Manager, announced that "you won't need any kind of premium or paid account unlike on many other online services" (making reference to Flickr, I assume). You will be able to upload as many photos as you like.
At this point it is difficult to say the implications for other photo repositories focused on high res like Picasa, Smugmug or Flickr. Not to mention implications for KodakGallery. I guess many new opportunities but not fewer uncertainties. To put things in perspective, this year Picasa and Flickr have about 5 billion photos stored each (growing at 1 billion per year) and Facebook already has 50 billion (growing at 3 billion per month, yes, per month). So every 2 months, a new Flickr is created on Facebook. And in one year Facebook will have over 100 billion photos. Also, seventy percent of Americans and European Facebook users, share other than profile photos.
I love photos, more for the emotional value than for the professional content. "The value of the photo is who's in it, where was it taken, and your memory or experience associated with that." But the combination with high res makes Facebook photos even more powerful.
There are people who think that "Facebook photos are not meant to be beautiful, are mere photo journals, open to the casual viewing of family and friends. And because of this, specialist photography communities such as Flickr need not worry". This might be true. Although I still think that one of the main reasons to use Flickr (i.e., high res) has disappeared. I still think that multiple photo repositories will exist, like Twitpic, Plixi, Flickr, Picasa, Smugmug, Dailybooth, Photobucket, etc for different needs (e.g., photo editing, communities about professional photos, etc) but their relevance will be smaller. And new services that add value to Facebook photos will emerge (e.g., Picnik recently acquired by Google).
This is excellent news for Pixable, where we have focused 95% of our efforts on optimizing the photo experience for Facebook (e.g., the only way to login on Pixable is with Facebook Connect, we optimize the experience and sharing for Facebook, etc.) and when we started, we were the only startup focused on Facebook photos, giving up other opportunities related to photos (e.g., storing photos, creating user accounts, ...).
We are really excited about this improvement! and I am sure that future photo improvements on Facebook will contribute to offer a better experience at Pixable, like photo geolocation. Now we can start thinking of other ways to expand the range of products and experiences at Pixable. But given the size of the opportunity, new competition for Pixable will arise too, both from new entrants and traditional players.
This is going to get interesting.