Opinion: Photos is Google’s Most Interesting Service in 2017, and Crucial for Their Product Repertoire
Google is a company that wears many different hats. In addition to the big projects, such as Search, Android, YouTube, Chrome, Gmail, Drive, and Maps, you’ve also got other, smaller projects, including Daydream, Allo, Play Music, Wallet… The list goes on and on, and even if I were just to name every individual product that Google currently has its hands involved with, we’d have more than enough words and content for an entirely separate article on its own.
Among all of these products, there’s one that stands out among the rest, one that’s proven to be extremely important and useful.
That product is Google Photos, and this is why it’s one of the biggest things that Google’s made in quite some time.
Beginnings from a dying social network
Before Google Photos was Google Photos, it was a sub-feature of Google+. The picture and video storage features that Google+ donned were far superior to anything that Facebook, Twitter, or other social networks offered at the time, and it was one of the main reasons why people continued to use Google+ despite the greater popularity of its competitors. However, in May of 2015, Google took Google+’s photo/video storage feature-set and rebranded it as its own thing in the form of Google Photos.
When Google Photos first launched, it stole the limelight with the fact that it offered free unlimited storage of all your photos and videos. Although images were capped at a resolution of 16MP and videos at 1920 x 1080, this was still a big deal in the cloud photo storage world. You could (and still can) use your Google Drive storage allowance for keeping copies of your photos and videos at their original resolution, but being able to have unlimited space for copies of your favorite memories is something that no other cloud storage solution has been able to offer since.
In addition to the unlimited storage space, Google Photos also started taking advantage of Google’s A-grade machine learning technologies. Gone were the days of aimlessly scrolling through your collection of photos to find a certain image as you could now just type in, “gray cat” to see all of the photos you’ve ever taken of Fuzzball. A similar feature was introduced to Flickr about a month before Google Photos’ launch, but Google’s take on the ability to search for photos based on what they’re pictures of was the best that we’d ever seen — and still is to this very day.
Combine all of this with easier sharing of photos thanks to links to shared online albums and availability on Android, iOS, and Web since day one, and it’s no wonder that millions of people began the migration over to Google Photos from competitors such as iCloud, Amazon Drive, Dropbox, etc.
Rapid growth and adoption
Just five months after its announcement in May, it was reported that Google Photos had more than 100 million users in October, 2015. And, thanks to those 100 million users, a whopping 3.72 petabytes of both photos and videos had been uploaded to Photos during that time as well.
A year after its release in May of 2016, Google made the announcement that Photos had grown to over 200 million users who were active on a monthly basis. More recently at Google I/O 2017 this past May, we got word that Photos was already at 500 million+ users who are uploading 1.2 billion photos every single day.
The jump from 200 million to 500 million users over the course of just one year already sounds impressive enough on its own, but how does this compare to all of Google’s other services that are also being offered?
In short, Photos is the fastest-growing product in the company’s lineup. Google Photos is growing faster than YouTube, Chrome, Gmail, and even Android.
Sharing photos made even easier than ever before
Just a little more than a week ago, Google added a couple more features to Photos to make sharing pictures and videos with your loved ones easier than ever before.
Shared Libraries, one of the two features added with the latest update, allows you to share either your entire camera roll or photos of specific people or things with another person. For example, if a husband and wife create a shared album for pictures of their newborn baby, Google Photos will automatically gather up any photos they take of their child and add them to the shared album so both parents can have access to pictures of their kid that each of them takes on their own device.
Shared Libraries is certainly a nice convenience to have, but even more interesting is that of Suggested Sharing.
Suggested Sharing is another evolution of Google’s machine learning tech, as it can identify specific people in your photos and where certain photos were taken. Once it has this information, it will then suggest that you share these photos with people that it thinks would like to see them. For example, if you take a few selfies with Dave at a BBQ you attended with him, Google Photos will then suggest you share those pictures with Dave because it knows that those are pictures of him and that you were both at that BBQ.
Google isn’t reinventing the wheel here with these new sharing features, but what it is doing is tapping further into the power of the machine learning technology that was one of the biggest talking points for Photos since it was first launched. It might seem like a small evolution on paper, but in day-to-day use, these new additions make sharing photos and videos with your friends and family members even simpler than what Google Photos already offered.
Why all of this matters
It can be difficult to really appreciate Google Photos for everything it’s doing considering everything else that Google has going on alongside it, and understandably so. Google Photos may appear to be nothing more to some people than a way to easily store, share, and edit the pictures and videos that they take, but when you really look into things, Photos is one of the most impressive showcases for machine learning that Google has been working on for so many years now.
Google is and always will be a software company, and when you compare Photos to its competitors and even the other products that Google is working on, it’s clearly the most immediately-impressive in both regards. There are other cloud storage photo platforms, but only Google Photos provides its users with top-of-the-line machine learning for object/people recognition and categorization, unlimited cloud storage, and so much more. And, when compared with other Google services, the growth of Photos is a testament on its own that there’s something special here.
Along with the increased growth for Photos, Google also announced Google Lens at this year’s I/O — a new product that will enable the camera on your smartphone to understand what it’s looking at in real time, and then allow you to perform certain actions based on what it sees. The capabilities that have already been showcased with Google Lens are extremely impressive, and the product as a whole uses similar tech to what’s been found in Photos.
What do you get when you add all of this together? What started out as a way to save photos on Google+ is now its own product that’s the fastest growing item in Google’s ever-growing lineup. It’s a cloud-based photo sharing service that provides users with unlimited space to keep pictures and videos, makes it easier than any other platform to share photos with people you know, categorize or search through your images, and it does all of this while also giving Google a platform to perfect the machine learning features it’s been working on for so long.
If Google can jumpstart even more products or services based on what it’s learned while developing and growing Photos, while also retaining it as the premier cloud photo storage service around, it’s pretty much a no-brainer as to why Google Photos is so important in the company’s lineup right now in 2017 and beyond.