At its I/O keynote, Google announced that Google Photos is now a standalone product. The service has officially been spun off from Google+ and is being billed as a brand new product, according to Google's Anil Sabharwal, and Google hopes the revamp will enable it to better take on the likes of Flickr and Facebook Photos. The new service will be available at photos.google.com.
Google Photos looks a lot like Google plus Photos, just without the Google+ part. There is still tons of cloud storage; pictures are still automatically backed up to the cloud, and Auto-Awesome (though it has been renamed to "Assistant") is still here. That feature still automatically surprises the user by adding funky effects, making panoramas, and creating album slideshows using copies of your pictures.
There are a few new additions however. Google+ Photos has long been able to use image recognition to automatically tag the contents of pictures for search results, but the new service is exposing these computer vision results to users in a more obvious way. Google Photos automatically makes collections of your most-frequently photographed people or objects like "food" or "landscapes." Tapping on a person's face will search for other pictures of that person in your collection. It also relies heavily on gestures to navigate through one's entire timeline, letting the user pinch and zoom out from individual pictures all the way up to a high level view that shows pictures organized by years.
We've seen Google continually distance itself from the original "social backbone" strategy it employed when Google+ first launched. With the spinoff of Photos, G+ is now just a social stream. Google has stopped making G+ the center of its social world, and lately the company has been embracing Twitter by integrating tweets into search results.
With the breakaway from the Google+ umbrella, Google Photos is now an equal-opportunity social sharer. You can still send pictures to Google+, but it also integrates with Facebook and Twitter. And speaking of sharing, the new service even offers a few privacy features, like the ability to strip a photo's location from the EXIF data before sending it off to the public Internet. These features work whether you're accessing Google Photos via its app, or through the web version.
Google Photos also allows you to backup and store "unlimited, high-quality" photos and videos for free. For images, this means a resolution of up to 16 megapixels (which Sabharwal called "print quality"), and 1080p for videos.