Say cheese, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). The Internet's leading search engine is dipping its feet into the suddenly crowded photo-sharing pool. The company is using Picasa, its free photo-editing software, as a shoehorn into digital-photography storage.

Picasa Web Albums is now being offered to members with Gmail accounts, allowing users to upload up to 250 megabytes of snapshots and share them with others. Busy shutterbugs can pay $25 a year to have as much as 6 gigabytes of storage, but the free account should be more than sufficient for most people.

Digital photography has come a long way. A few years ago, it was companies like Kodak (NYSE:EK) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) that were running the most popular picture-upload sites. They were in it to enhance their photofinishing and printing businesses. Even Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), an early arrival with its Yahoo! Photos site, was emphasizing the purchase of digital prints over simply taking advantage of the traffic.

That has all changed over the last couple of years. Sites like Facebook, CNET's (NASDAQ:CNET) Webshots, and News Corp.'s (NYSE:NWS) MySpace are serving up submitted photographs to tens of millions of visitors every month. It's no longer about trying to sell prints as much as cashing in on the eyeballs that are eyeing the digital snaps.

So it's easy to see why Google has popped in. It has been known to show up fashionably late at times, but always does so with an attention-grabbing entrance. The surprise here is how it's practically tiptoeing in this time.

The moneymaker in digital photography is the page views? Well, Google is claiming that there will be no ads in the Web albums. The social-theater aspect of folks searching, rating, and tagging uploads is the virtual flypaper of the top photo-sharing sites? You won't find it here, because folks will need to know the URL to your Web album to find you, and you can always wall off your uploads as private.

This doesn't sound like Google. It's a guarded entry by a company that often favors noisy steps. I wouldn't be going out too far on a limb if I predict that that will change. Picasa Web Albums will be something entirely different and more magnetic in the future. It's the Google way. It's the best way to pose when taking your dot-com snapshot.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz really can't remember the last time he bought a roll of film, thanks to digital photography. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this article. T he Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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