“Gmail for photos”

Bradley Horowitz led Yahoo’s acquisition of Flickr & now runs our group. He had a really interesting conversation with Steven Levy, and I’ve pulled out some of my favorite bits here.

On what problems Google Photos addresses:

To give you enough storage so you can relax and not worry about how much photo bandwidth you’re consuming, and enough organizing power so you don’t have to think about the tedium of managing your digital gallery. It will happen for you transparently, in the background. I don’t think there’s another company on earth that can make that claim.

You almost need a second vacation to go through the pictures of the safari on your first vacation. That’s the problem we’re trying to fix — to automate the process so that users can be in the moment.

On why it was important to separate Google Photos from Google+:

We heard from our Google Plus photo users that we had great technology, but they didn’t want their life’s archive brought into a social product, any social product. It’s more akin to Gmail — there’s no button on Gmail that says “publish on the Internet.” “Broadcast” and “archive” are really different.

I’m really happy about this separation. It’s something I oh-so-gingerly suggested during my interview back in 2013, and happily it was already under consideration. Separating things thoughtfully took time & care.

On search & computer vision:

The key to getting that last percentage [of accuracy] which tips it over will come now, when we deploy it at scale. Getting all that data will create a virtuous cycle of getting better and better. […]

We also want to bring all of the power of computer vision and machine learning to improve those photos, create derivative works, to make suggestions…to really be your assistant.

This last bit has been my jam: If you Tron-ified the best Photoshop artists, animators, and illustrators in the world, kept them in your pocket, and had them just try to please you by creating amazing things from your photos & videos, what would you have them create, and from what? We’re already doing a lot in that regard (making movies, stories, collages, etc.) and have a lot more ideas, but we’d of course love to hear yours.

6 thoughts on ““Gmail for photos”

  1. Beautiful product John and kudos to the team.
    The assistant feels like a facebook stream stripped of the Oprah quotes and casual racism!

    Is the Face grouping support something that is due to come to more countries or just US only for the near future?

    Congrats either way.

    1. Thanks, Cian! We’d of course love to bring all features to people everywhere, and it’s something the team is exploring, but I don’t have further details to share at the moment.

      And we’ll work on auto-inserting some Oprah quotes posthaste. 🙂

  2. While I don’t love that it’s not backing up originals, I *DO* love that this is something I can recommend without hesitation to most people. (And use myself for a secondary backup at no cost.)

    Already forcibly installed the app for a couple people and got them backing up photos so they don’t lose ’em some day. 🙂

    Well done.

      1. Loving it more and more as I use it. Some of the animations the assistant has made for me are pretty fun!

        Does it stabilize video? Thought one of the collection videos it made for me did that but after editing the sound it seemed like it wasn’t stabilized, so I may have imagined it.


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