Google Photos adds smarter sharing, suggestions and shared libraries

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Google today will begin rolling out new sharing functionality in Google Photos, first unveiled at the company’s I/O developer conference in May. Specifically, it’s launching the AI-powered Suggested Sharing feature along with Shared Libraries, both of which are designed to make the Google Photos app a more social experience, rather than just a personal collection of photo memories.

Companies for years have tried to figure out ways to leverage technology in order to get users to share the photos snapped on their smartphone with others.

Early apps like Flock (which Google bought) tried using location to tie different sets of photos together, even when they lived on different people’s phones; others like Bundle and Cluster aimed to better organize photos into albums, thinking that would solve the sharing problem; and others still tried to mimic texting as means of improving photo sharing. None really found traction, and even closed.

The most progress in this area has instead emerged from companies like Facebook and Google, thanks to their use of technologies like facial recognition and AI, combined with sizable user bases that mean you don’t have to rebuild your social network in some startup’s new app.

Facebook, for example, has Moments, which figures out who’s in the photos on your phone, groups them into albums, then prompts you to share those photos with a click.

Google, on the other hand, has Google Photos – a tool for backing up and storing your photos in its cloud, that’s also augmented by a powerful virtual assistant. The assistant does things like turn your photos into collages, animations, and movies; create stylized photos; offer a look back on memories past; organize photos into albums; and more.

With the addition of Suggested Sharing, Google Photos will now prompt you to share photos you took by pushing an alert to your smartphone. The feature will identify people in the photos using facial recognition technology and machine learning, which helps it understand who you typically share photos with, among other things.

It also looks at the photos you’ve taken at a particular location, before organizing them in a ready-to-share album by selecting the best shots (e.g., removing blurry or dark photos). You can edit the album if you choose, then share with the people the app suggests, remove suggestions, or add others.

Even if your friends or family doesn’t use Google Photos, you can share by sending them a link via text or email.

These sharing options are all available from a new tab in the app, where you’ll see your suggestions as well as the albums you’ve previously shared, or those someone shared with you. Similar to Facebook Moments, when you’ve been invited to a shared album, you can add your own photos to the collection for everyone to see.

A second feature called Shared Libraries is designed more for use with families or significant others.

This lets you either share your entire photo collection with someone else, or you can configure it to share only selected photos – for example, photos of your children. Kid photos is probably the largest use case for this feature, as it would let two parents share these photos automatically.

Recipients can choose to save some or all of the shared photos from this library, to make them searchable in Google Photos’ app.

The updates are rolling out now on iOS, Android and web, and will likely complete by the end of the week, we understand, or early next week at the latest.

Other Google Photos features announced at I/O include Photo Books, which is already live in the U.S., and Google Lens, which is arriving later this year.