Google brings shared albums to Photos

10 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google Photos Gets Easy-To-Use Shared Albums.

Rolling out for Android, iOS, and the Web, Google Photos now lets groups pool their collective snapshots and videos to create shared compendiums of memories, be it for your gran’s 80th birthday, a graduation, or a drunken night out.

LOS ANGELES – Google Photos, which launched in May, has made a huge impact in its short life, attracting upwards of 100 million people to download the app and use the Web service. Google Photos today launched “Shared Albums,” a way to privately get photos to loved ones and friends, and in turn, have them grow the album with additional photos.

I’ve been playing around with the feature that was originally announced back at Google’s event in September for about a week and it does exactly what you’d expect, share photos in an album with anyone you want. David Lieb, the product lead for Google Photos, sees sharing photos this way as the antithesis to what’s become the “aspirational” photos seen on social media–upbeat, happy photos of parties, trips and other occasions. I chatted with the Google Photos Product Lead, David Lieb, about shared albums and the reason why they were such an important feature to get out into the wild…especially before the holidays.

It was a big move for sure, but although the app made it easy to share images by sending links through messaging apps or email, it lacked the collaborative tools groups need. Leib sees a wedding album taking place online where the various guests of the party begin pooling their pictures together that they snapped at the ceremony and reception, and it grows and grows over time.

For example, videos and animated photos will appear in your album as if the subjects are moving, an old feature carried over from Google Photos that will still make people smile. (Note: Oddly, this only works in the iOS version, but Google says this is eventually coming to Android.) Shared album images can be rearranged by the album owner, while Apple’s can’t be moved after they’re added. Album collaboration starts not by inviting others via email or phone number, like Apple’s, but by sending a simple link using whatever method you prefer. You’re taking photos of things you could buy for lunch, or asking people “should I buy this dress?” But if you look at where most of the photos we take sit on that spectrum, it’s somewhere in the middle of those two. Amazingly enough, you can’t caption, comment on, or like things that you share or see, and this sucks the emotion from albums, leaving you with an unsatisfying feeling.

Google also sorts your album’s photos in chronological order of when they were taken — not when they were added — and this can leave you confused about where to find newly added photos. Leib says that shared albums has been the number one request from users, followed by support for Google’s Chromecast device, to view photos and videos on the TV. (Google added that recently.) Google Photos attracted such huge user numbers in part thanks to its terms of service–it makes backups of every photo and video you take, and the cost is free. Google Photos impact on the photo sharing world was quite clear this week when Dropbox said it would dump its Carousel photo sharing feature in 2016 Several analysts said it made no sense for consumers to pay for this feature and storage when Google Photos offers storage for free. You can send people a link to join that album and, in settings, you decide whether or not those people can add their own content to the album. (Contributors need a Google account, but anyone with the link can view the album and download photos, even from a mobile browser.) Back in September, Google said that it was working on Shared Albums when it announced a bunch of other updates to Google Photos. To vie for your attention on iOS, it would help if Google’s app intelligently integrated into the operating system, using things like richer notifications.

And Google’s version of shared photos has to be easy enough for everyone to use — including great-grandparents who are itching to see new shared photos of their kids’ kids’ kids. Lieb tells me the Photos team took special care to make sure the feature was as simple to use as possible, or nobody would ever use it: One of the more popular set of features in Google Photos is everything that happens within the “Assistant” tab. Imagine sharing a few photos, your friends and family do the same and then boom…you have a killer collage or animation from many different perspectives. He said he prefers to figure out when and where to allow comments and likes, for example, creating a space where comments are left on the entire album, rather than on each photo.

It most certainly is doable, and when you think about the possibilities for video, Google’s latest acquisition FlyLabs could become very handy for all of this. Lock screen notifications for Google’s shared albums are text-only because Apple’s ecosystem still only lets Apple’s apps use the tiny thumbnail that appears beside a notification. Google Photos was already strong on iOS and Android, especially for its unlimited backup feature, but the addition of shared albums gives this app an extra boost that may entice more people to use it.

Apple users aren’t likely to switch to it any time soon, but if shared albums fixes its problems, it could be a big win for Android and people who use both platforms.

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