Google has announced that it will no longer offer unlimited free photo storage on the Google Photos feature. The company’s photo storage launched in 2015 had promised unlimited uploads. But Google now says it will limit that to the same 15GB of storage per account that is shared by its popular apps such as Gmail and Google Drive.
Observers describe the move as one that will affect storage for other Google products including email.
The change could mean that users who continue to upload many photos will run out of space for emails faster, and anyone wishing to store more than that will have to pay for one of the company’s storage plans.
But photos uploaded before June 2021, when the change happens, will not count towards users’ limits.
Disgruntled users on social media accused Google of using the free photo storage as a ploy to acquire market share from other firms while losing money.
Don MacAskill, chief executive of photo sharing site Flickr and its owner Smug Mug, tweeted: “For five years, we’ve known this would happen eventually… Losing billions of dollars to scoop up market share, stifle the competition, then eventually charging money for it? Monopolistic behaviour.”
He added that he was not surprised Google had acted now since the US Department of Justice had recently filed anti-trust charges against the firm.
The latest announcement coincides with 165 of Google’s critics writing to the European Union, asking the bloc to take a tougher stance against what they say are unfair practices by the tech giant.
“When we say a lifetime of memories, we really mean it,” Google said when it launched the Photos service in 2015.
“With Google Photos, you can now back up and store unlimited high-quality photos and videos for free.”
But in a blog on Wednesday, it said that policy had led to four trillion photos being stored on the service, with 28 billion photos and videos being uploaded every week.
It said the change was needed to make sure the product “continues to meet your needs over the long haul”.
A remarkable 28 billion new photos and videos are uploaded to Photos every week. To welcome even more of your memories and build Google Photos for the future, we are announcing a change to our storage policy.
The unlimited photo storage on offer was a major selling point in the marketing for Google’s own Pixel phones, which gave users free unlimited storage at full resolution. Non-Pixel owners were only offered unlimited uploads at what Google calls “high quality” – a lower-resolution compressed standard.