Google to Shut Down Panoramio on Nov 4

Panoramio logo

Late on Friday, Google announced in an email to users (and a page here) they would soon close down it’s geo-positioned photo sharing site Panoramio, removing access for its users to upload new photos on November 4th, 2016. Google had previously announced back in September 2014 that it would close Panoramio in favor of the now defunct Views. However, due to user feedback and probably evolving internal plans, Google announced in June of 2015 they would leave Panoramio running for the time being. So this new development was not unexpected as Panoramio had been in limbo before.

Panoramio users will still have access to their photos in Panoramio for a period of one year, so that means until November 4th, 2017. Also, Google says that their photos will be automatically copied to the “Google Album Archive” when Panoramio is closed, as long as the user’s Panoramio account is linked with a Google account. Furthermore, if that Google account is activated for Google+, eligible images and their view counts will be transferred into Google Maps and will show for the Google account holder if they visit the Contributions screen of Google Maps. There are also export options available at takeout.google.com.

Panoramio Screenshot
Panoramio’s user page
Panoramio map view
Exploring Sequoia National Park in Panoramio

With this change, Google intends to focus its efforts, and the efforts of its users, to imagery within Google Maps itself. In the email, Google promotes the adding of new photos to Google Maps and also promotes its Local Guides program, which provides some rewards for users who contribute in certain ways.

How do Panoramio Users Take This?

As you would expect, long time Panoramio users are not enthused about this major change.

As a long time user of Panoramio myself, I enjoyed its focus on geolocated photos, with photos uploaded there appearing in Google Earth and Google Maps. I enjoy geography and surfing around Earth and Maps sometimes is a really fun way to explore an unknown place, or even help plan a trip, especially with some photos to look at right there. I got great satisfaction in being able to upload my own photos someplace and having them help to fill in the empty spots on the globe! The community of people on Panoramio was also fantastic, with commenting on photos and user organized groups. However, I had been much less active there over the last couple of years due to these announcements.

What about Panoramio’s Replacement?

I have also uploaded some photos to Google Maps, including photospheres like this one. However, I noticed the community interaction aspect is nearly nonexistent in Google Maps. You can’t comment on a photo while viewing it in Maps. You have to open it in its Google+ version by clicking the place name for the photo in the small gray box in the top left, and then it opens the Google+ version of the same photo in a new tab, where then Google+ comments are allowed. There is also hardly any recognition or attribution to the photographer relating to your uploaded photos. You can view someone’s photo after finding it on Google Maps, and you can see their user name and small icon, but there is no way for you to find more info about the person besides just looking at their other photos on Maps when you click their name. I couldn’t even find a way to navigate to their Google+ profile. There is also no way for the uploader to include a caption or a title on their photo, and it’s difficult for one to even view their own photos with just a vertical single-file display. With Panoramio, you had all of those things – title, caption, comments, and a profile that let you have a little blurb and a link somewhere. And of course there was a much better way to view your own and other user’s photos. With Google Maps, it feels more like I’m providing Google with photo content for nothing in return instead of sharing geotagged photos with others.

And that was all on a desktop web browser. With the Google Maps mobile app and mobile website, I don’t actually see any way at all to view photos. That’s understandable due to what Maps is mostly used for, but any photo sharing site would never purposely leave out mobile functionality like that. Thankfully they do allow you to see these photos on mobile another way – by using Google’s Street View app. That is the same way they allow for contributing new photos via mobile as well. I created and uploaded my photospheres using the Street View mobile app. Photospheres are definitely cool by the way.

One major deficiency I see right now is that, so far from my experience, uploaded photos only show in Google Maps; they don’t show in Google Earth. My photos at Panoramio received many more views from Google Earth users than Maps users so that seems like a problem. When Panoramio is gone, where will photos in Google Earth’s Photos layer come from?

Google Earth with Photos layer
All these clickable photos in this area of Google Earth are from Panoramio

Perhaps photos in Maps will show in Earth in the future, but if so, Google will need to be careful not to allow a flood of poor quality photos into Google Earth. Panoramio had guidelines and a review process that ensured that only useful photos showed up on the globe in Google Earth, not to mention the great community of photographers there and the site were completely geared for that purpose.

Now I like the idea for the tiered incentives they give for Local Guides based on contributions. But that new incentive comes at the expense of a lot of other things. I love sharing my photos on the map, but it’s not as fun without interaction. There is certainly a lot of potential there with the tight integration into Maps. I will follow Google’s process and maybe upload to Maps a little more, but I will definitely miss the mix of functionality that Panoramio provided. I can only hope that Google adjusts their system with Maps over time to somehow make up for the poor community features, lack of attribution, and missing connection to Google Earth.

26 thoughts on “Google to Shut Down Panoramio on Nov 4

  1. Hello Hiking Mike, I see this post is only a week old so I would like to comment I so much echo all you have said here. Panoramio has been a hobby, a real interest for me so was very sad to see its demise and decided to give google maps a real go having only done a few contributions before. As you have pointed out it lacks many functions, one in particular I am begging someone or google to fix is being able to geotag EXACTLY the location of photos added to google maps.
    like me you photograph in remote locations and want to show precisely where it was shot (not the nearest town)!!
    Now i have found a way to add captions to all my google maps photos, by opening the photo on my mobile phone (open google maps> your contributions/photos/select photo) it gives me the option to ‘add title’. However when saved and viewed on my PC the title appears TWICE 🙁
    As for finding a particular photo panoramio was great, google maps on the other hand is so bad. And yes your right google map photos dont ever seem to get a showing on google earth!!

    • O another comment is the photo counter on google maps I think is total crap, it would be nice if it was for real as I am getting more hits in a week on google maps than I did in one year with the same photo in Panoramio that was “selected” for google maps and earth??!!??

      • Hi Lee, thanks for the comment. It definitely sounds like we have similar thoughts here. I have learned more in the past week or so and I’ll have to make a new post. That location issue really bugs me too. For Panoramio contributions and Street View contributions, in Google Maps I see that the location shows the “snapped” location (the point of interest chosen) when you are on the screen viewing your contributions or those of another user. But if you are just browsing Google Maps and turn on photos, then it shows the correct exact location for those. However, when I add photos to Google Maps, the location shows only as the “snapped” POI location in both situations. About the view counts – I and others have definitely noticed that view counts are sky high for their photos on Google Maps. When I’ve viewed my stats in Panoramio, I saw most views of my photos came from Google Earth and Maps views were much less so this seems strange that Maps views are so high. I heard a theory that the view count might be incremented whenever the photo just shows in small size at the bottom, not necessarily requiring someone to click on it. They must be counted differently in any case and it is difficult to say what is happening.

        I think we should do our best to keep talking about these things. If we have to lose Panoramio then I am willing to try their new thing if it has the basic features I think are required. Let’s continue talking so maybe Google will take notice and make some improvements.

        • in my opinion mapsights.com has taken the torch, if only if the map was as easy to use than Google Earth. But at least there’s plenty of photos!

          • I took a quick look at mapsights.com. It looks neat, and they have a good Panoramio-like map view. Definitely it’s hard to beat Google Earth though. But I don’t see what is in it for contributors. There isn’t even a way to view more about the user who uploaded it, or their other photos. Interesting that it says “Photos provided by Panoramio are under the copyright of their owners.” so it must be showing photos from Panoramio. I don’t see much info there about the site so I’ll have to try and learn more. Thanks for the heads up on that.

  2. Every time I use Google Earth, I view Panoramio photos. I really think they’re ruining Google Earth with this move. It makes me worry that they’ll do away with Google Earth entirely at some point.

    Anyway, thanks for your insights and explanations. It’s good to find that there are like-minded people out there. Panoramio was a fantastic service, and Google Maps, in its current iteration, is grossly inadequate in covering the functions of Panoramio and geotagging. Hopefully it gets improved, like you’ve been saying.

    • Hi Jack, I worry about that too. It sounds like there has been some turmoil around Google Earth for a few different reasons. It is so much more valuable to have that fantastic photos layer to look at as you explore around the globe. Google Earth is an amazing tool and it is far and away better than any nearest competitor so I do hope it stays and improves.

  3. 800 photos on panoramio and in 2 years 80000 hits 50 photos on google maps in 5 months 130000 hits…..somebody pkease explain?

    • I have seen that behavior as well and heard of it from others too. I’m not completely sure what is going on, but I have heard that Maps counts views if the photo shows in the bottom area of the map with the photos layer. That means a photo might show in the bottom thumbnails if the user is just looking at the general area on the map where the photos is located, and a view would be counted, even if the user had not clicked on the photo to see it larger. I wish I knew the full detail there. I haven’t found any info from Google on this, and I have asked in forums.

  4. I feel your pain. I was a panoramio contributor also. When the change was announced, some of my photos were left in limbo. They are on the panoramio site, but have yet to be uploaded/transferred onto the Google Earth site. Will this happen? If so, when? It sounds from reading the above material there is quite a bit more involved than before. I will be watching this forum in hopes of getting some long needed explanations/answers. Thx.

  5. I really really hope someone can step up and take ownership of panoramio. Google bought it off dedicated creators, used it and now abuse it. Why not offer it to someone who can take command and keep it running. This is just disgraceful! I truly hope if Panoramio does disintegrate there is an alternative for community based geo-tagged photos for Google Earth… I will be lost without GE photos for travel planning, exploring and even work!!! is there no petition to save it before it’s COMPLETELY gone by Nov 2017??

  6. I just discovered all this was happening… Too late for me. I’ve been a little ticked off with Panoramio and Google because when I linked my accounts I had two, one of which was inferior to the other, and I didn’t know which one was which until it was too late. It was impossible to go back and correct my mistake, and now nearly all the Panoramio pictures in my name are lost to me. I can’t link the accounts or have them transferred in this move.
    I also echo the original poster’s concerns about any possible replacement for Panoramio. I’ve been a Google Earth user for at least 8-9 years, and Panoramio for 7-8 years, and having the ability to view specific photos located at the original uploader’s estimated capture location was immensely useful. Granted, it was always annoying when people would grossly misplace photos, or treat some little place they didn’t seem to value much as there own photo-album on Google Earth with dozens of completely misplaced vacation pictures tagged to the same location that obviously wasn’t the correct place (such as a bunch of photos of a tropical paradise placed next to a mountain in Antarctica). Nevertheless, I’ve always had a love for the smaller, and often uninhabited islands of the world, and thanks to Google Earth and Panoramio I’ve been able to explore, in a small way, nearly every small island in the world (I’m not kidding in the slightest). Thanks to the way things were, it was easy to explore just about any place on earth, and not in this kiddy version of “exploring” that maps provides (unless I’m not using it right, it seems like the maps photo viewing function only shows some of the Panoramio photos for a specific user in any particular area) – which isn’t exhaustive, thorough, complete, or any other word to describe what Panoramio was in Google Earth. Additionally, in photo-dense areas many pictures that I would personally be most interested in don’t show up at all. For instance, I am a pilot, and I have uploaded a fair number of aerial shots of airports and other places I’ve been to, and many other people do this as well, and it is immensely useful to be able to “see” an airport or a location as it actually appears from a cockpit before I go there. The way maps displays pictures now though, it is basically impossible to find my aerial shots, or anyone else’s for a specific location if there are many other more popular photos of some other landmark nearby. For anyone who is serious about finding photographic information by location, Panoramio and Google Earth were the best tool available, in my opinion. Now what? Google Maps? That’s just a sick joke. Thanks Google, you were perfect for disseminating photographic information from around our world, and now you’ve gone the way of the DoDo bird with Panoramio. It was a great bird and you had to kill it.

    One more thing, in the past I would download the full resolution Panoramio photos of places I found interesting so I could view them when I was offline. I have many of these, and now I have no way of finding out where they came from (it was once easy to put the numeric title into the url and find the original poster and see if they had anything new and interesting). That’s pretty much gone. Google, you’re making bad decisions. Why do you have to start from scratch and reinvent the wheel every few years? Why..?
    I’ve been a fan of your services for years, and I’ve touted your products to others, and this is how you thank us. You get rid of the good stuff and leave us with the dumb stuff.

    • I also have to say that I’m immensely worried that a whole lot of historic, rare, or unique pictures of islands and places in the world, that were visited by people who may not have had a Google mail account when they got Panoramio, or didn’t link their accounts, or linked to the wrong account (like me) or any other myriad of possibilities, will be lost – FOREVER.
      I don’t think it’s gonna be a matter of if. It will happen. I know it’s gonna happen with my Panoramio pictures. It’s gonna be a matter of how many valuable geotagged pictures will be lost.
      That won’t matter to people who don’t know of or don’t care about Canton Island or Enderbury Island or Nikumaroro Island or Pitcairn Island or Tristan da Cunha, but for those who do care, pictures – information – will be lost.

  7. The loss of Panoramio is indeed unfortunate. It appears that for google maps, google prefers to have mobile phone or tagged images. After agreeing to transfer my Panoramio images to google maps only the most recent photos were actually transferred, and only those that corresponded to my whereabouts with the phone. Older photos, some with 5 digit views on Panoramio were not transferred.
    This si probably a commercial decision by google.

  8. Google management is making an all time bad decision discontinuing Panaramio. It will take away a major part of the full functionality of Google Earth for most average users. I am surprised since I thought the management at Google were supposed to be some of the brightest. Google Earth and the photos posted there go hand in hand. In a time when technology and information are improving leaps & bounds Google is taking a big step backwards…Maybe some one at Google will get their head on straight and notice this, unless they are planning a big surprise to make Google Earth better that they aren’t talking about.

  9. Google Earth is clearly the best app of its kind and the Panoramio layer made exploring the world an exciting and interesting time and runs beautifully on this old box. Google Maps on the other hand, requires immense bandwidth and a fast computer and living away from a Big City and having a low(er) bandwidth connection makes using Google Maps an exercise in patience… assuming it works at all.

    I am sure there is a good reason Google intends to downgrade Google Earth but I am sure there are better reasons not to.

    I sure would like to know who to talk to inside Google to beat some sense into their heads. Or conversely, Google could buy me a new computer and get me hooked up to a high speed net connect.

  10. I don’t know how old this thread is but here’s my 2 cents. I can’t hike anymore, old age. I can’t travel anymore. poor. Google Earth was how I traveled. Panoramio helped make it real. Now nothing but this ghetto.

    • HikingMike says:

      No worries Jeff, your comment is appreciated. I agree that Google Earth is a great way to explore the world and I’ve done it a lot, but you really need the photos to go with it.

      • What’s worse, is that for those us using older machines, the new Google Earth won’t run. Besides, I prefer the stand alone app and the Panoramio photos were the thing that made exploration fun and worthwhile.

  11. Panoramio is the only site that i was capturing photos from my camera for it. I emotionally attached with that site, but now i am very alone from my panoramio friends, now i totally hate Google, i will never support google in any way. I am very alone, there were pictures i was so attached, there were very famous photographers. Please dk something…

  12. I have spent hundred or hours getting all my photos onto Google Earth. Now suddenly because I missed the Nov4 deadline Poof they are not gone but the index is gone. The order in which they were listed is all mixed up now. Lesson to learn you cant trust Microsoft once they get their hands on it. Have tried to transfer pics across but it doesn’t work anymore.

    • Here I totally agree. I am not going to support big data ever again. Hours and hours lost. Not doing that again. I had 81000 hits on a photo I took I never knew why but it was good fun. In the cook island s4500 people looked at a pic some said the marker wasn’t correct, even told me my map location marker was in the wrong place. What fun. Real people interacting with a photo. I would have happily paid a subscription fee to Panoramio to keep it going.

  13. I have spent many probably hundreds of hours positioning photos in Google Earth and now its all going nowhere.
    I noticed some time ago that the indexing of the tags with photos got horribly mixed up.
    I wont ever waste my time on a free service like this again. I think its dreadful what Microsoft have done. I have tried the backup as per instructions but it doesn’t work. I wonder what hidden benefit they have had over the years from people listing photo locations around the globe. I wish Panoramio also listed photo icons in alphabetical order and that I could find my listed pictures as a group in one go. Is there anything like Panoramio available as a paid service anywhere else. The groups in Panoramio were a great deal of delight too. Sad to see it go.

    • It is definitely disappointing. I imagine a LOT of great images will be removed from Google Earth and Maps. Mine have disappeared from the map now I see. As for wasting time, I have decided that in the future I will always position my photos and save the location to the photo file’s EXIF data first (before uploading to some service) so that I have the position always saved to the file even if a website like Panoramio is closed. Google certainly benefited by the fantastic landscape photography sourced from Panoramio by increasing the value of their Google Earth and Maps. Now they have a new program and encourage uploading to Google Maps, but it is geared toward business listings and usually doesn’t show the photo located at the actual coordinates on the map (it has to be connected to a listing). It works but not as well as Panoramio for natural landscapes, and there is not community or social functionality to it. There are other web sites that utilize the geolocation of photos, but none of them have the great products like Google Earth and Maps to go along with it. Flickr has very strong photo sharing and social aspects, but definitely lacks in mapping. If they put more work into mapping and using the geolocation of all the photos, then it might be a possible alternative as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *