Google has just announced Panoramio Groups for sharing photos with likeminded people. There's a directory for existing groups, and anybody can create a new one. Groups are a fundamental building block of a social network, and Panoramio has joined that club.
Panoramio is a photo-sharing network built around a different purpose than the rest. It's held together by meticulous tagging and location data, making it thoroughly searchable, and it revolves around the notions of places and exploration, rather than just the capturing of moments. It has the kinds of data that let Google implement it in Google Maps and Google Earth as a layer, and its users contribute to the photo mosaics in Street View.
We've covered Panoramio as competition for Photosynth, Microsoft's effort to stitch together photos into 3D places and build them into Bing Maps. Panoramio's role in Google Maps and Google Earth is one of providing personal color and context to a place. This is a rather different kind of photo sharing than the kind that organizes snapshots into galleries. Some new apps, such as Trover, take this same approach to photos as ways of exploring places. Panoramio's groups will bring an element of collaboration to the adventure.
A storm is brewing in the photo-sharing space. The flurry of mobile photo-sharing apps is one thing, but the very social networks where we host and display our images are in flux. Photographers are pronouncing the death of Flickr, Facebook is changing its long-held policy of opt-out photo tagging, and Google Plus has saved Picasa with its instant uploading and unlimited storage. Even Twitter is adding photo galleries, and while they're not Flickr-style, full-featured works of art, they're great for the kinds of informal moments that get tweeted.
These services are beginning to distinguish themselves from one another. A photo gallery with comments is a kind of Web experience we're all used to by now. In response, the major photo services are either adding distinguishing features or they're stagnating. Panoramio had its distinguishing feature first, though, and it's only now beginning to build a social layer on top of it.
Where do you host and share your photos? Let us know in the comments