Google breaks promise of ‘unlimited’ free Google Photos

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Google PhotosGoogle has broken its promise made in 2015 to offer unlimited free photo storage, in a move that will also affect storage for other Google products including email.

“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”.

Google now says instead it will limit storage to just 15GB of storage per account but that includes apps like Gmail and Google Drive. Anyone wishing to store more than that will have to pay for one of the company’s storage plans. More storage is available through its Google One plans costing £7.99 per month for two terabytes (2,000GB).

Photos uploaded before June 2021, when the change happens, will not count towards users’ limits. The change will mean that users who continue to upload photos will run out of space for emails faster.

Disgruntled users on social media accused Google of using free photo storage as a ploy to acquire market share while losing money. Said Don MacAskill, chief executive of photo-sharing site Flickr and its owner Smug Mug: “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.

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Chris Price
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