Earlier this week, we all got to endure irate status updates and Tweets about Facebook’s new photo viewer, which ineviteably faded away after a few hours.  Now that the dust has settled, it’s clear that Facebook has emerged as a tremendous last-ditch backup utility for your cherished photos.

For a few weeks before the new lightbox viewer went live, Facebook has been giving users the option of uploading their photos in high resolution, which compresses them to 2048 pixels wide, rather than the paltry 720 pixels that we’ve been used to.  Though the difference isn’t evident in the viewer itself, you can download the high resolution via a link on the bottom left of the photo.  This is great for archiving pictures of yourself that friends took, or saving albums from parties without risking your own camera.  The images aren’t full resolution, but they’re big enough to look good on your computer screen.  

In addition to padding your personal photo gallery, Facebook’s upgrades now form a decent safety net for computer failures, as users now have the ability to restore a good chunk of their photo album should some catastrophy strike their computer and backup hard drives.  Most of our readers keep their documents in the cloud these days, and we can all stream any song off the web for free, but if our dorm room were to burn and our backup disks melt, our precious digital photos would likely be the most-lamented casualty.

Sure, you can back up online if you want to pay for a some storage from Mozy or Carbonite, but not many college students are going to pony up for that. We all use Facebook, and it’s free. The site even gives you the option to download all of your data as a .zip file, including photos, giving you one-click access to entire online photo history.  It wouldn’t restore everything you lost in that tragic dorm room inferno, nor would the files be full resolution (photos from before the switch are still stored at the old resolution), but it would definitely be a start to restoring your cherished college memories.  

Facebook’s new photos aren’t full resolution, but they’re definitely an improvement. Image from Facebook.