Facebook Keeps More Pixels

Alan Bullock
Mar 17, 2010

Facebook recently increased the maximum size of photos uploaded to its site from 604 pixels to 720 pixels (longest dimension). The phased rollout was completed for all users in early March. While many observers see this as a nearly 20% increase in size, the actual increase is just over 42% for most images, as most users will not be increasing just one dimension of their photos. Here’s one example:

Before the change, a typical 4:3 aspect ratio photo was uploaded at a maximum resolution of 604 x 453, or 273,612 pixels. Under the new rules, that maximum increases to 720 x 540, or 388,800 pixels, an increase of 42.1%. The math works the same for any other image unless, of course, it’s already smaller than 720 pixels.

What are the storage implications for Facebook? First of all, it should be obvious that no attempt to increase the resolution of photos already uploaded will be made. Going forward, the more than 3 billion photos uploaded each month by Facebook users worldwide will certainly require some additional space, but not 42% more. Some unscientific experimentation with Photoshop Elements highly compressing the same JPG images at both 604 x 453 and 720 x 540 resolution suggests that the increase in file size will be in the neighborhood of 15%; still significant, especially at that volume.

For Facebook users, the change will be most obvious in the form of larger images on computers, digital frames, and other connected screens, resulting in a more pleasant viewing experience. As soon as app developers and third-party services implement the change (announced in January), users who choose to order prints from their Facebook photos should see 4”x6” prints that are slightly better, and 5”x7” and larger prints that are slightly less bad. And that’s good.

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