Google held its first Google+ Photographer's Conference this week in San Francisco, and emphasized the social network's role in the photography world. Of course, the thing about that is that everyone's a photographer (granted, not everyone's good at it), now that so many have phones with cameras in the pockets at all times.
Photos are a big part of social media, and one message that came through loud and clear based on reports from the conference, is that they're a big part of Google's social strategy.
“Photos are the lifeblood of our service,” Google VP of Product Bradley Horowitz is quoted as saying. “We wanted to make the content the hero.”
And why not? Photos have certainly been huge for Facebook. It's harder to leave a social network when you have all of your photos on it. It's not impossible, but it takes more effort to do so.
I'm sure you see plenty of photos flowing through your Facebook News Feed on a daily basis. Many are probably from Instagram, which Facebook is paying $1 billion to acquire, by the way. That, in and of itself, shows how important photography is to social media corporate strategy.
Photography has been a big part of Google+ since it launched. Photographers quickly flocked to the service, sharing all kinds of photos, and making user streams more interesting than they would have been otherwise. Google+ has handled photos so well, that Facebook even made its own photo viewer more like Google's.
The Instant Upload feature of Google+ has certainly been a highlight. Every time you take a picture with your phone, it goes to your Google+ account. No need to worry about uploading it manually (that is if you enable the feature), and of course, this comes with built in privacy control. Just because you take the picture, and it's uploaded, doesn't mean it will be shared.
Google is not new to photography, of course. Google's had Picasa and Picasa Web albums for years, which gained significant popularity on their own. After Google+ emerged, Picasa Web Albums and Google+ photos merged. While you can still go to the Picasa Web Albums site, and access photos, it's all integrated with Google+ if you're a user.
Google Glass (or Project Glass), even in its early stages, has already been known to take pictures, further highlighting how much photography is part of Google's strategy, even in new developmental products.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin, by the way, showed up at the event (wearing Google Glasses):
It's not the first time he's been spotted wearing them. Co-founder Larry Page was wearing them at the Zeitgeist conference this week too, for that matter.
Google has even managed to integrate Google+ photography into its core search product. Earlier this year, Google launched Search Plus Your World, which personalizes your results, largely based on Google+ connections and content (though other factors are at play as well). Image search is part of that.
Because of that, I can search for "danzig" and get pictures of my dog (named Danzig), in addition to the aging rock star.
This is actually one of the areas where Search Plus Your World shines.
The Verge interviewed Horowitz at the event, and he is quoted as saying, "This isn’t just about one product, it’s about Chrome and Android and Search and Ads and YouTube and Gmail and all that Google is. It’s a deepening of the relationship between the user and Google that will create services in the user’s service."
Few things are more deeply personal than photographs, so it makes a lot of sense that this would be at the core of Google's strategy. Horowitz came from Flickr, so that's another reason it's not surprising. The Verge has another pretty interesting quote from him:
If we're working from fulfilling the interests of the photographers backwards, this is something we've heard. [...] Also, just to be clear, I think it's something Google is good at. We work with publishers worldwide to help them monetize their content. This is not a new endeavor for us, it's what we do. We don't think there's an allergy towards helping photographers be successful with that.
Perhaps we'll see some new, interesting ways for photographers to monetize their work using Google in the future.
Google's Chris Cabot, who participated in a panel at the conference, posted a video discussion around Google+ photos tips and tricks:
So if you want to pick up a few useful tips and hear a few fun stories make sure to watch the video of the session!
fast forward to about the 2:00 mark to get to the start of the session