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Can Google + Photo become the Instagram killer ?

photo by Kārlis Dambrāns


By announcing the separation of Google photo from the Google plus social media platform, the  giant search  company has clearly announced  its intention to intensify the battle for domination of the online photo space. And for a good reason: Photos are the number one activity on smart phones, second on Twitter and obviously the only one on Instagram. It is also the number one group social interaction on all social media. Finally it offers huge potential in revenue generation as engagements are notoriously very high.

Google plus already received 214 million images uploaded a day, already far beyond the Instagram 60 Million daily uploads images but still behind Facebook 350 million. Under its current architecture, uploaded photos receive the  Facebook timeline treatment, published and mixed with links sharing, funny videos, Buzzfeed’s list and other Gif. In other words, they receive no particular attention and are prone to be quickly buried.

No more, it seems. While the future of G + as a social platform might be on the line (see Vic Gundotra’s departure), photos on Google are prepping for a bright future. It’s not really news for people paying attention. Since its inception, Google has put a strong emphasis on making its Facebook assassin photo friendly. Larger thumbnails, yearly offline photo community  events, integration with Picassa, Snapseed, nothing is spared to make it as  photo friendly as possible. Now it is time to step up the pace.Take off all the other unnecessary distraction and make it 100% photos.

Photos in today’s Google plus interface. The standalone app will probably be clutter free.

Google plus photo, as an independent app, certainly has all the features to match Instagram. Filters, simplicity, high upload rates, but is that enough ? As we have seen, same is not convincing enough to make people switch. Unlike Instagram, Google doesn’t have the trendy cool factor. In fact,  Google is more and more perceived as the new Microsoft, a huge conglomerate that does so many things that it doesn’t really care about anyone in particular. It’s not a community builder but a community profiteer. And that is a hard image to peel off.  Getting photo plus as a standalone app might be a first step to establishing an independent brand. Here are 4 reasons why it can succeed:

Google has the connections

Since Google is everywhere, your snaps uploaded via Google plus Photo can also be anywhere. Because of its integration with the rest of Google’s universe, the app could allow for easy integration with Gmail, Calendar, Contacts, as well as Google Image search, BlogSpot, Adwords and so on. In this age where everyone loves the attention, it beats anything Instagram can provide: It’s no longer a few hundreds “likes’ but thousands, if not millions.

Google has monetization

With easy integration to its vast array of services, Google has the possibility to help photographers monetize their content. Linked to adwords, for example, users could easily license a Google Plus Photo and add it to their campaign. Payments would be automated and delivered via Google Wallet. Same would work for an integration in Google Docs, giving content or slide shows or word documents. Suddenly, your snapshots of your week-end at the beach could bring you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

Google has intelligence.

The search giant has dealt with AI for a while now. With its self driving car, it has learned a lot about image recognition as well as identification. It has also acquired a few image recognition companies specialized in deep learning. That means that Google could probably turn on a search and discovery option in its app that would far surpassed anything available on the market. It would no longer need to rely on indexing manually entered keywords and could deliver discovery features based on personal taste instead of one size fits all.

Google  has Android.

Since it owns and develop the largest operating system for smart phone, it can take the battle to the Iphone and create a 100% seamless photo taking/ photo sharing experience. It can collaborate with cell phone and tablet manufacturers to take full advantage of hardware innovation, something Instagram cannot do.

The potential for Google to create a massive disruption in the photo app world is certainly there. The remaining question is how far will they go and how seriously will they take the next step. Past experience has shown that it can sometimes fail in its attempts to take over a market, mostly for lack of focus or/and commitment. The space is certainly there for the taking but will they take it?  The release of the app will let us know.

Author: Paul Melcher

Paul Melcher is the founder of Kaptur and Managing Director of Melcher System, a consultancy for visual technology firms. He is an entrepreneur, advisor, and consultant with a rich background in visual tech, content licensing, business strategy, and technology with more than 20 years experience in developing world-renowned photo-based companies with already two successful exits.

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