The Unique Properties of Photos

Another month, another great photos service.

Google Photos is the latest service to one-up its competition, and there’s a lot to like about it: both the effectively unlimited storage[1] and the machine-intelligent search play to Google’s core strengths and are features that no one else can really match. If nothing else, I’m thinking of using it to store yet another copy of my pictures in the cloud to hedge against service outages and product deprecations.

There are a few properties of photos as a medium that make it unique from most other documents and media:

Some of these reasons are also why photos are such a tough business to crack; the startup deadpool is littered with remains of companies, founded by photography enthusiasts, who could not develop a viable business model[2]. It’s coming down to the major tech giants and cheap cloud storage, but that storage only comes at massive scale, and likely subsidized by other products instead of being sustainable as a standalone offering.

Footnotes    (↑ returns to text)
  1. The usual caveat here is that it only allows unlimited compressed photos, so it’s not a lossless backup solution. That said, for non-professional photography, it’s becoming less and less important to keep originals other than as a matter of philosophy.
  2. It makes me concerned about smaller companies like Lyve, which I still try to use to sync photos across devices.