Google Photos is trying to streamline group photo albums by allowing anyone with a link to contribute their own pictures.
With the latest Google Photos update for iOS, Android, and the web, users can create a shared album from any cluster of photos. This generates a link, which can be copied, pasted, or shared to other apps and social networks. Once someone else has that link, they can upload pictures and add the collection to their own Google Photos library.
Compared to other image sharing platforms, Google’s is decidedly bare-bones. There’s no way to comment or “like” an image, as you can with Facebook or iCloud Photo Sharing, and there are no options for face tagging beyond the automatic (and private) image recognition that Google Photos performs automatically.
But maybe that’s the point. Compared to the Google+ version of photo storage that preceded it, Google Photos is not so much a social network as it is a private repository. If people are adding collaborative albums to their own personal photo libraries, the inclusion of likes and comments could make things messy.
To that end, it’d still be nice if Google included more controls over who has access to a given album. Although the owner of an album can toggle off sharing and collaboration at any time, users will still need to be careful about who gets access to shared links in the first place, as someone with the link could then share it with anyone.
Why this matters: Google is hardly the first company to tackle group photo albums, and collaboration is a long-standing feature of Google-owned Picasa. But the interesting thing about Google Photos is how it emphasizes ownership, letting collaborators easily save each others’ photos to their personal libraries without having to download anything. It’s an attempt to take some long-standing pain points out of cloud photo sharing, though the ability to freely copy and paste a link means it’s not quite as private as it could be.