Google: Here's what we're actually doing with Google+ Photos

Following news and concerns that Google+ Photos is shutting down, the company tries to clarify exactly what will become of the service.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

Google+ Photos is retiring though the service will still be accessible. Google

Google+ Photos is technically retiring, but that doesn't mean your photos or the service itself are actually going away.

Google is far from the only company that offers online photo storage. In this area, it competes against such rivals as Flickr, Amazon Prime Photos, Snapfish and Photobucket. So Google has to make it clear to its users exactly what it's doing and offering.

On Monday, Google announced that Google+ Photos, which lets you upload and share photos via your Google+ account, would start shutting down as of August 1. Replacing it will be Google Photos , a new service the company launched in May.

On Tuesday, Anil Sabharwal, the director of Google Photos, attempted to reach out to users of Google+ Photos, concerned about losing the service and their photos. First, users of the service will still be able to post and share photos and videos with their followers. Second, the photos, videos and albums that users have already shared through Google+ will stay alive, according to Sabharwal.

This is a common problem that hits anyone who stores information via the Web. A company plans to shut down one online service with the intention of replacing it with another. But users of the initial service express concerns, both about losing access to the service and about potentially losing their content. Google's initial blog post from Monday clearly didn't do a very good job of explaining exactly what would become of Google+ Photos, hence requiring a second post to clarify.

"The great photo and video sharing service that's part of Google+ is unaffected," Sabharwal said. "You can continue to post photos and videos, and your followers will be able to comment and +1 as before. No change. All of the photos, videos, and albums you have already shared on Google+, including their posts, comments, and +1s are also unaffected. An easy way to find these is to visit the Photos tab of your Profile page."

The Google+ private photo management feature, which lets you back up, edit and create private photo albums, will be replaced by, or more accurately, managed by Google Photos. So users can still stick with Google+ Photos for now. But juggling both services poses a challenge. Clicking the Photos option in Google+ automatically takes you to Google Photos, though you can go back to Google+ Photos if you wish.

And clearly Google wants people to start moving to the new service as that's where the company will concentrate its efforts. Sabharwal even explained that keeping both photo services alive and fully functional wouldn't be feasible for Google.

"The reality is that maintaining both Google+ Photos (the private photo management component of Google+) and Google Photos poses several challenges," Sabharwal said. "Most notably, it is confusing to users why we have two offerings that virtually do the same thing, and it means our team needs to divide its focus rather than working on building a single, great user experience."

Google Photos offers free unlimited storage, automatic photo backup and management, photo editing, and sharing. Google Photos is accessible through the Web as well as through Android and iOS apps.