Google goes "unlimited* with Photos

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2015 is a photographers dream. Quality equipment is cheap and abundant, picture taking -once restricted to the number of exposures on a reel of film- is practically limitless thanks to electronic media, and thanks to online social networks photos can be shared around the world within seconds of being uploaded. Of course if you’ve taken 10,000 photos at 50 megapixels a pop you have a new problem; a mountain of digital media. Thankfully just as film negatives have become a trinket of days gone by, a digital storage option has replaced it; the cloud.

Think of all the electronics you own. How many of those gadgets have cameras embedded in them? Now how many of those media devices are web enabled? It’s no coincidence if both numbers are the same. See the internet has become the primary place to store, display, and showcase photography. In fact, Facebook’s true innovation isn’t the online social network, but providing the first boundless repository of still images.

Time and again online media storage has paved the way to climbing user numbers. Facebook climbed to web prominence from it, YouTube ushered in the proliferation of web video, and Flickr become the premier online photo site. But beyond simply offering media storage, these sites have historically done it for free. Even better, Flickr and YouTube allow you to make money from your media through print sales and placing advertisements respectively.

Other sites see what media storage has done for gaining users, and becoming a household name, and have jumped into the fray. The difference is, they don’t want to give away their photo locker services. Amazon, Apple, Google, Dropbox, and countless others are more than happy to hold onto your digital images, but at a cost. Sure they all offer free options, but unlike Facebook and YouTube, these companies don’t want to wait a dozen years to turn a profit.

Last month, much was made of the announcement of Google Photos at Google’s annual developer conference. The unveiling was buzzworthy because of one word; unlimited. Users can upload an infinite number of images and videos to Photos; however unlimited in this case came with a big asterisk. The fine print reads users can store unlimited photos as long as your image fidelity is below 16 megapixels and your videos are 1080p or smaller. Plus all images stored on Google Photos via a free account will be compressed to maximize storage space. To retain image quality and exceed the bounds of the free account, users can pay either $2 a month for 100GB or $10 a month for 1TB of uncompressed space.

For amateur photographers, image compression means nothing if they can house a lifetime of photos for free. But if you’re just snapping pics for fun and photo collages why jump from Facebook’s limitless photo storage to Google? And if you’re going to pay a price, shouldn’t you be looking for unlimited, uncompressed photos? Google Photos may be making a splash but it isn’t the holy grail of media storage. Amazon offers unlimited, uncompressed photos as part of its Amazon Prime service, and Prime comes with access to streaming movies, free shipping on Amazon purchases, and other great consumer tools.

Maybe you’ve taken the bait and are preparing to upload all your media to Google Photos. First consider what Facebook’s counter move will be? Google steals the free, unlimited game from them, Facebook’s revenge is likely to pump its service up to allow free, unlimited, uncompressed photo storage within the year. So unless you’re a Google fanboy, I’d say sit tight see what happens next.

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


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