Google finally admits that photos today have as much to do with communication as with form of storage. For years, the only way to share photos through the company's otherwise awesome Google Photos service is to create a cumbersome shared album. As of today, Google is launching a revised sharing option, which is virtually a private messaging feature built into Google Photos for iOS and Android for mobile and web sites.
If you want to share a photo, you do not have to create an entire album. You can send a one-time message to a friend if they also have Google Photos that has a photo, just like Instagram, Snapchat, SMS, or any other chat app. If you want to turn this thread into a conversation, you can start chatting as well as react to photos and share more with likes. In this way, the photos become a starting point for a conversation much like photos have become another form of communication on social platforms.
This is a bigger deal for Google than it seems. This is because Google Photos could be turned into a more social application, which in turn could attract new users. Since the big relaunch in 2015, when Google added free online storage to the service, Google Photos is a trusted repository for all your photos, whether mobile or otherwise. For those who photograph mainly with a smartphone, which is basically the vast majority of the world these days, Google Photos is the best way to keep an online reminder database without having to worry about storage or backups.
Google Photos, however, remained largely so, even though the world viewed photos as less flawless, edited memories and more as a simple form of instant visual communication. These days people are taking pictures and sharing them almost immediately, sometimes with a single friend, a group chat or the public. Many of us do not really think about quality unless it's a recording that's been carefully crafted for your Instagram feed or maybe Twitter.
Currently, chatting sharing is not that complex. You can start a group chat with as many people as you like. Everyone involved can share photos and videos such as posts, comments in the thread, and individual files for their personal collection. You can create a new chat by selecting the share under a photo from the main library. Existing chats can now be accessed through the Sharing tab.
"This feature does not replace any chat apps you already use. However, we hope that it improves the sharing of memories with your friends and relatives in Google Photos, "explains product manager Janvi Shah in a blog post. "This will be gradually introduced next week and, as always, you can share these photos with your friends and family across all platforms – Android, iOS and the Internet – without affecting the image quality of the photos you back up."
It's a smart idea and you have to wonder why it took so long for Google to get there when the company announced earlier this year that Google Photos was the ninth product that reached 1 billion users. It's a huge product that allows users to directly access other Google products like Drive to get higher-quality backup storage.
From a competitive perspective, Google has probably recognized that countless photos are being taken and shared across other apps, be it Instagram, Snapchat, or any number of messaging services such as WhatsApp or Signal. At least some of these photos were not saved to photo roles and therefore could not be included in Google Photos. With the new share feature, the company has the opportunity to put some of these social interactions into their own service.