Google Photos introduces Memories feature, resembling Instagram Stories

13 Sep 2019

Google's New York City office. Image: ymgerman/Depositphotos

Google also announced plans to introduce a feature enabling users to share their photos with friends and family in a more conversational format, akin to Instagram and Snapchat.

Less than a month ago, Google Photos rolled out an interesting new feature that enabled users to search for photos based on the text captured in them. The feature also allows users to copy text from photographs and paste it elsewhere, creating a handy way to log in to Wi-Fi networks with complicated passwords, for example.

This week, Google Photos introduced another significant new addition to its app, which has been compared to Instagram’s Stories. Entitled Memories, the new Google Photos feature makes it easier for users to look back on old photos and memories. The feature is available to users from today onward.

Searching for moments

Prior to the release of Memories, users could look at old photographs with the ‘rediscover this day’ feature. With Memories, these old photos will appear at the top of a user’s library in small circles, resembling those on Instagram Stories.

You won’t just be provided with old screenshots or blurry photos from your phone, however. Explaining that the feature will use an algorithm to find the best photos to pull up at a particular time, Google Photos product lead David Lieb said: “Not all memories are created equal.”

Google Photos lead Shimrit Ben-Yair added that the feature was inspired by observed user behaviour: “We see users browse their photos and scroll all the way down to look at pictures from five years ago. We see them searching for moments and having a good experience with that. But we thought, how can we make that even easier?”

Users will be given the option to remove individual people or time periods from memories, if they are concerned about being reminded of things they’d rather forget. The feature can also be shut off entirely, for those who want to opt out.

Private content

While Memories may operate quite similarly to Timehop, an app that collects photographs, posts and tweets from all of your social media accounts, the new Google Photos feature will also gather photos that never made it beyond your phone’s image library.

In a pre-launch demo with TechCrunch, Google Photos engineering lead James Gallagher said: “Even though it is the Stories format – which we lean into because we feel it creates a more immersive experience for reliving your life – this is only your library. It’s your private content.”

The feature also won’t be as tightly tied to a particular date as Timehop’s features, or those of Facebook’s On This Day feature.

According to The Verge, in the coming months, Google also has plans to turn Photos into a messaging app. Like Instagram and Snapchat, Photos will introduce features that enable users to share photos and videos with friends and family in a more conversational format.

The company also wants to encourage users to print more of their photos. It’s providing a service that allows users to order 4×6 photo prints directly from Google Photos, which can be picked up the same day in one of 11,000 Walmart and CVS Pharmacy locations in the US. Plans for a similar service outside of the US have not yet been announced.

Google’s New York City office. Image: ymgerman/Depositphotos

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic