The Google+ photo organization and editing tools are probably the most useful part of Google's oft-criticized social network, and now it sounds like they'll soon be spun off into their own standalone product. According to Bloomberg, Google is planning to make the existing Google+ photo features into an independent product that'll be accessible even to users who don't have a Google+ account. It's an effort to find more users for the strongest part of Google+ without the baggage that comes with a service that has consistently struggled to find an engaged user base, despite Google's claims to the contrary.
The future of Google+ has been up in the air for several months now — VP Vic Gundotra, the head of Google+, left the company in April, and the product wasn't mentioned a single time at the recent I/O developer conference. That said, there's no doubt that the Google+ photo tools are best in class, even with strong competition from Yahoo's revitalized Flickr, Facebook, and a host of other competitors.
Indeed, the photography aspects of Google+ have received a number of updates over the past year even as the rest of the product hasn't changed. And with reports claiming that Gundotra's departure marks the end of the line for Google+, the company would be wise to harvest its most significant feature and make it a front-and-center feature going forward. Of course, Google had its own stand-alone photo service for years in Picasa, but the features included in Google+ Photos eclipsed the older option years ago. Google essentially deactivated Picasa as a standalone service in 2013, with URLs redirecting to Google+ — but it seems the time might be right for the company to unbundle those two pieces once gain.