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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Google Plus Aims to Become a Photo Storage and Editing Hub

Google Plus has not come close to rivaling Facebook for social networking. But it is trying to carve out its own niche, as the place to go for photo storage, editing and sharing.

At a news conference showcasing photographers' work on Tuesday at a San Francisco gallery, Google Plus executives barely mentioned sharing and social networking. Instead, they focused on new photo and video services.

“The cloud is not just about storing your photos,” said Vic Gundotra, Google's senior vice president in charge of social networking. “Google aims to revolutionize photography.”

As cellphones have helped the field of photography explode, photography and video have become one of the hottest areas of competition for Web and software companies, including Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Yahoo and many start-ups.

Google's pitch is that it can fit the needs of a variety of users, including casual cellphone photographers who want to share what they are doing, amateur photographers who want an easy way to organize family photos, and hobbyists who want high-tech editing solutions.

“No other company has dared to take on the entire spectrum of photography,” said Bradley Horowitz, a Google Plus vice president for product.

Google has some advantages, like massive amounts of computing power for storing, sorting and automatically editing photos and the money to buy photo start-ups like Nik Software, maker of Snapseed.

But it lacks a few important things. Google said on Tuesday that its social network had 300 million monthly active users posting in the stream, a fraction of Facebook's 1.2 billion. And many consumers have already invested time and effort in other services, like Apple's iPhoto and iMovie.

Still, Google is trying to compete, even if it is still early in the process, Mr. Horowitz said.

The press conference was streamed live on Google Plus, and active Google Plus users in the Bay Area were invited to attend in person. Some offerings, like automatic photo editing and album organizing, had been announced earlier at Google's I/O conference.

Many of the new features are also done automatically, replacing manual labor, and will be part of a new Google Plus photo app to appear in the next few days.

Google offers automatic back-up and free, unlimited storage for lower-resolution photos taken on Android and Apple phones. People can store higher-resolution photos as well, but in that event Google charges for storage after a certain point.

With a feature it calls Auto Awesome, it automatically turns a series of related photos or videos into animated GIFs, or short movies. Google has also created computer vision algorithms to let people search their photos using thousands of words, like manicure, bridesmaid, concert, kiss or waterfall.