In a clever attack on privacy invading Facebook, Google announced on Thursday a new dedicated Photos app for Android, iOS and the web. It had hinted at this repeatedly over the past month but its launch today is a sneaky effort to undermine Facebook.
Facebook only exists because of the ability to share photos. Strip photos from the social network and there is no Facebook. As Instagram began to become the preferred method with teens to share pictures, Facebook had no choice but to snap it up in order to maintain its monopoly on photo sharing.
Yet Google's attempts to get it the game have been clumsy. Google+, its own social network, is widely regarded as a failure. Nobody uses it and social isn't really in the search company's DNA.
Google's newly released Photos plays to this culture, while also filling a gap in the market - people are increasingly distrusting Facebook for its invasion of privacy. They also don't particularly want world+dog to see all their life moments.
The new Photos app addresses this, allowing you to both back up your photos and also share them with select friends as you see fit. No bulk privacy settings needed, you can control exactly who has access to what. It also connects with the company's excellent machine learning algorithms, allowing users to search for content based on activity, person and place. This is something Facebook is extremely poor at, as it lacks the intellectual capital to pull off such ambitious and technical projects.
Best of all, the update attacks what Facebook has always been: a free repository for you photos. The updated app will allow for free, unlimited storage of high-resolution photos up to 16MP, and videos up to 1080p.
This is one of the more clever products Google has released on the consumer software front - it's both useful and also deeply disruptive to Facebook.