May 312015

Google Photo LogoA few days ago, Google announced the latest incarnation of their online photo storage and sharing service, now called simply, Google Photos.

Before I tell you the good and the bad of this announcement, let me give you a little bit of history. In 2006, Google offered an online photo storage and sharing service called Picasa Web Albums (PWA.) It worked in tandem with the Picasa software on computers and it was quite popular. In 2012 Google started the Google+ (Plus) social network and they totally reprogrammed the photo storage and sharing service to integrate it with the social network. They called it Google+ Photos. Picasa Web Albums continued to exist. If you used either of these services, your uploaded photos were stored in the same place, as part of your Google account. You could work with your photos using either Picasa Web Albums or Google+ Photos. These were simply 2 interfaces to the same set of online photos, but since Google+ photos was newer, it was the default. Unless you used a very specific address to get to PWA ( you would be taken to Google+ Photos every time.

The Good

Now, in 2015, we have a third interface. The Google Photos that was announced this week. Why? Because Google is trying to get it right … and, of course, to hold on to that huge market segment of people who care about their photos! Google learns and evolves. They learned that people didn’t like to be forced into the Google+ social network in order to use the photo storage and sharing service. They learned that we all have way too many photos to manage them ourselves. In response, Google Photos is uncoupled from Google+ and it offers free UNlimited storage for photos in original resolution up to 16 megapixels.

This was posted by the folks at Google about Google+ and Google Photos:

…it’s become clear that while social networks are great for sharing images and video clips, they’re not where most people want to store all their private, personal photos and videos.
That’s one reason why Google has been hard at work building an entirely new photos experience from the ground up. One that works for the photos you want to share, as well as the ones you don’t.

Google Photos is a standalone app for Android and for Apple iOS, as well as a website – These are all available now, for free. Probably the coolest new feature is found by using the Search feature. Tap the search icon (magnifying glass) in the mobile Apps, or click in the search field on the web. Instantly, you will see your photos categorized by People, Places, Things, and Types. I was amazed to see my pictures grouped under Things: Sky, Mountains, Flowers, Cars, Sunset, Boats, Kayaks, Caves, Camping, Lighthouses, and on and on. If I click (this view is private) on the picture labeled “Boats” I see lots of boat pictures that have collected in my photo library over many years. 

2015-05-30 20.25.12

I click on boats, and I see … boats, from luxury yachts, to

personal kayaks, to boat docks and more.


If you want to see your photos using Google Photos, there is no transfer necessary. It’s the same set of photos that you’ve been uploading all along. The ones uploaded to your Google account. Knowing your Google account is key. If you have more than one Google account, you need to pay attention to how you are logged in. If you want a master library of photos, you need to accumulate them under one account. Then you can see them using Google Photos, Google+ Photos, or even Picasa Web Albums. All three interfaces still exist so far.

The Bad

Lots of features are missing. Although it is easy to share pictures via email, facebook, and many other avenues, I see no way to simply make an album public. I am accustomed to giving a link to my photo library and anyone with that link can see all my albums that I have made public. So far, I have not found any command to do that in the new Google Photos. I also see no way, in the iPad app, or the website, to play a slide show of my pictures. The Android App plays a slideshow slick as can be, but you can’t see captions. The editing features that are built-in to Google Photos are very basic. For example, there is no way to add text to a picture, or to retouch a blemish. Picasa Web Albums is still the only interface of the three which offers to make an embeddable slideshow, it is also the only one that offers a way to get prints from your online photos, or view album photos on a map.

The Assistant is new and makes it drop-dead simple to create collages, animations, and stories – but if you don’t like what it creates you’re out of luck, no modifications allowed. And, it crashed on me a couple times trying to create Stories and Movies. I expect this will improve over time.

If you install either the Android or the Apple iOS App, pay close attention to the default setting to turn on “Backup and Sync.” This is ON by default. If you leave it that way, you will be transferring ALL photos from that device to the cloud. If those pictures are already there, you may end up with a lot of duplicates. If you pay for your Internet connection, it may get pricey!  Although the Apps give you an automatic way to upload every picture taken with your mobile devices to the online photo library, if you’re like me, you still want your master library on your computer and I see no way to do that easily. So I’m still going to use Dropbox to get the pictures from my mobile devices to my computer, then I’ll let Google’s AutoBackup take them from the computer to the online library.

The Unknown

What is going to happen to Picasa? They don’t say. I still think that Picasa is the best way to interface between your photo library on your computer, and the one online, so why would Google drop it? But, Google is living in the future, a future where there are no more computers, just mobile devices and online libraries. Even if they did discontinue it, the Picasa that you have on your computer will still keep working, but it will upload pictures at the old, lower resolution rather than the new higher resolution. I expect that they will keep Picasa around for a while to come. They do need to update it just to change that one button that now reads “Share on Google+.” It needs to read, “Upload to Google Photos” and it needs to upload at the higher resolution. When I see that update, I will be confident that Picasa will be around for quite a while.

Google Drive can also see the photos in your library. It is showing all recent pictures in folders by month. I like that, but I don’t understand why it is only showing recent photos and an occasional older photo. I had understood that Google Drive would be another interface to the complete library, but it is unknown how this is being implemented.

For lots more reading on the new Google Photos, try a Google search for #googlephotos. The video of the actual Google announcement is on this blog post by The Verge.

  18 Responses to “Google Photos Announcement–This is BIG”

  1. Ik heb hier veel aan gehad, bedankt voor de tips ook. Ik overweeg overigens om het boek aan te schaffen, is er en mokeiljgheid om het te ruilen als het niet bevalt?

  2. […] there are features like albums and slideshows are still best done from Picasa (more info here: – and  Picasa Desktop’s photo editing tools are still vastly […]

  3. […] The busiest day of the year was August 29th with 8,988 views. The most popular post that day was Google Photos Announcement–This is BIG. […]

  4. Thanks for taking the time to explain.

  5. Very frustrated!
    The idea of uploading photos is to share them – and I have not seen a way to share publicly with a simple url. Very sad.

    • Jan, you can indeed share publicly with a simple URL, just not your entire public library. To share a selection of photos via a URL, first select all that you want, then click the share icon (looks like a slingshot) up in the toolbar. Choose “get shareable link” and you will have a URL that you can put anywhere: email, facebook, website, etc. Anyone who clicks that link will see all the pictures that you selected.

      • I run a google website where I insert photo albums as a slide show onto a website page. Previously I was able to make this slide show public. On my website, I am still able to choose ‘insert’ a google+ album… but it doesn’t show the photos… In google+, I have chosen the photos, chosen the share icon, shared it publicly… but nothing on the website….. any suggestions?

  6. It may have been added since this article however there is a way to share the album by public link. Once you click on the album there is a share icon (second from the right) at the top right of the screen. There you will find options to share to Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and below to Get Shareable Link.

    • Yes, but you can’t just make the album public so it is viewable with a link to my entire photo library.

  7. I hear what the others are ‘saying.’ But, have you come across this for the related Picasa/Google+:

    I received a pop up message when I opened Picasa that said that I “recently joined Google+” when in fact I did no such thing (I was actually prompted to upgrade my Google account to G+, but I closed the window – no way I was going to).

    Along with the message are the changes they made:

    • Albums you’ve shared can in turn be tagged and shared by others.
    • For new albums, anyone an album is shared with can see who else it is shared with.
    • When you tag someone, they receive a notification and can see the photo and the related album.

    What was not exactly told to us/me was that anyone you share the photo/album with can now share it with others, which was not the case with the pre “upgrade” to G+.

    You write that: “…I don’t understand why it is only showing recent photos…” Let me take a crack at that.

    Due to the bullet point changes above, plus the change in sharing abilities, old invites with email link are not shown; while viewing through G+ or new email link results in the invitee being able to now forward the link to others (previously they could not). Picasa/Google it seems, is only going to show you the photos under the policy changes. (I looked at the G+ account that I supposedly set up, and it only showed me photos taken recently.)

  8. Google Drive can also see the photos in your library. It is showing all recent pictures in folders by month. I like that, but I don’t understand why it is only showing recent photos and an occasional older photo. I had understood that Google Drive would be another interface to the complete library, but it is unknown how this is being implemented.

    • All I can say is I agree! I expected all past months to get filled in, but it’s only adding recent photos.

  9. What I consider to be the worst “bad” of all is that the new Photos interface will not allow sorting of web albums by “album date” (the date that I set in “album properties” when I created the album). This means that all 589 of my carefully curated albums are shown in some sort of random order, making it impossible to browse in a logical fashion. Additionally, when I open one of my web albums, the photos inside are not in the order that I have set either. This makes it basically unusable for me.

    I’ve been using Picasa software and Picasa Web Albums ever since Yahoo photos got taken over by Flickr. Now I’m not sure what to do.

    Has anyone found a solution to this “random order” problem??

    Sarah DG

  10. 3 questions about Google Photos:

    How’s it going to play with Picasa (if at all) or is it going to merge/replace Picasa?

    Any chance of getting an API like Picasa already has? (here: )

    Any chance of getting an integration with Google Drive (an API) for uploading (photo inbox) or downloading (backup)? 

  11. Since Google Photos appeared, it seems one cannot send the photo album to more than 4 or 5 people at one time. And if one tries to send several emails with the same album, the number of people in the email gets smaller and smaller. Pain. Also, it looks like you can only send 100 photos. Have you found this also? Thanks

  12. […] by Chris Guld, (originally posted at […]

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