In May, Google introduced a brand-new version of its Photos service that we called the best in the world. From the ashes of Google+ had come a full-featured service for storing, organizing, rediscovering, and more easily sharing all the photos in your life. It stripped out the social features that had constrained its growth and built a service that adopted privacy as a design principle. It offered unlimited uploads at a relatively high resolution. And it used machine learning to understand the content of your photos, allowing you to search for them via keywords.
Since its launch, it's been a top 10 iOS app, and has been installed on Android devices more than 100 million times. And Google has added a rediscovery feature into the app, surfacing old photos on their anniversaries in the manner of Timehop. But today it's getting its first major update, adding Chromecast support and the ability to add name labels to Google's photo collections of your friends and loved ones. The company also announced that a feature for letting friends join and contribute to your albums, a la Apple's shared photo streams, will arrive later this year.
Pause Chromecast sharing to hide bae's nudes
Chromecast sharing is straightforward: when you are on a Wi-Fi network shared by a Chromecast, an icon will appear at the top of the photos app. Tap it and then tap a photo to broadcast it to the screen. (Videos and animations created by Photos can be broadcast as well.) You can also pause broadcasting temporarily while you swipe through your phone before finding the next image you want to share — helpful if bae sent you their nudes halfway through your recent vacation.
Photos also now lets you label the collections of faces it built for you using machine learning. Importantly, the names are private and not used by Google for targeting purposes. But once you've added a few, they make search much more powerful: search "mom christmas" to see pictures of your mother during Christmas, for example, and Google will find them using just the label and its facial recognition technology.
Making shared photo albums cross-platform
But the most useful feature announced by the company is yet to come. By the end of the year, you'll be able to invite friends and family to contribute to your photo albums. After they join, they'll receive notifications whenever new photos are added, and they can add those photos to their own cloud libraries with a single tap. Users of Apple's shared photo streams will find this familiar. But Google notes that its version of shared albums is cross-platform — it works just as well on iOS as it does on Android.
None of these updates sound particularly momentous, but they come after years of big tech companies ignoring consumer photo products altogether. Here's to many more of these steady iterations — and to more tech companies taking photos this seriously.