Google Photos


Since my personal falling out with the GOOG, I’ve been largely ignoring developments with the internet giant. I used to be far more brazen and rude about my disdain for them here; I’ve mellowed now and would rather just not have much to do with them.

At their recent Google I/O conference (the same event they tried to paint Flash as open, fortunately that petered out), they introduced Google Photos. It sounds amazing; every photograph and video you've ever taken, in near full quality to the original.

I say "near-full" quality, because they advertise 16MP and 1080P video support. Therefore, its safe to assume they're being lossy—processed at some point in the chain).

In much the same way digital pulled us away from expensive film, so to will plans like this for limited digital storage capacity. If you don't need to worry about how much space you have, whether you have backups or even where your photos are, you’ll be freer to take more photos. They’ll be stored safely, and in years gone by you’ll have access to them.

By comparison, my father’s 35mm slides have all faded, and our film negatives aren’t in great shape. Files from early digital cameras were lost in drive crashes, back when I was a reckless teenager who thought the term backup had two less letters.

Of the two elephants in the room, one is who sees these images. SaaS providers have successfully framed the debate to say that if we want access to our material anywhere, we need to ceed a modicum of control. We can't have client-side encryption, our files must be stored in the clear, etc.

As abuse at the NSA demonstrates, people in power with access to digital files can and will use and distribute them. The argument here is the NSA doesn't have to answer to the American public that pay their salaries, but Google’s business model is built on trust. It means I trust them slightly more, but that’s a pretty low bar.

The second proverbial room elephant is whether Google will stick with the service or not. Given their track record and short attention span for services, I wouldn’t trust it to be around long enough to be a meaningful backup system.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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