Google Plus Focuses on Photos in Fight Against Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

With new photo features, Google hopes its social network will attract users.

ByABC News
May 16, 2013, 1:19 PM

SAN FRANSISCO, May 16, 2013 — -- Google isn't done trying to take on the behemoth social networks. That was the message from Google's Senior Vice President of Engineering Vic Gundotra at the Google I/O conference this week as he announced a new look for the company's Google Plus social network.

But Google is honing in on one major area in the competition: photo sharing. In addition to the new design, Gundotra announced some new photo features which he says sets the company's social offerings apart from Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram. One set of features allows users to adjust photo effects. Another feature set called Auto-Awesome automatically adjusts images or groups them together. For instance, "Auto Awesome Motion" takes multiple images and turns them into an animated image.

"Our goals are to make people happy and get technology out of the way," Gundotra told ABC News. "You know what makes people happy? Great photos of the people they care about. Today the steps involved to get people happy is very complicated. Take a photo, remember to get it off the device, get it on to the machine, edit it, back it up, share it."

SLIDESHOW: Photos of Google's I/O Developer's Conference

On an Android phone, Google has an auto-upload and back-up feature. As soon as the photo is taken, the full resolution photo is uploaded to their Google account, which includes 15GB of free storage space. Google points out that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram don't allow you to share the full high-resolution images taken on smartphones or with digital cameras. In addition to that easy upload process, Google is now trying to ease the photo editing process too and that's what Gundotra thinks makes Plus superior.

"We are a better photo service. You look better on Google Plus. You look more beautiful," he said. "It's more enjoyable to share photos in higher resolution with more beauty, across all your devices on Google Plus than in any other service. Other services are still beginning to catch up with us on automatic back-up."

Analysts and industry watchers are impressed by Google's additions, though they point out that they aren't putting social first. "Its image tools help everyone look like an amazing photography without any effort," Brian Solis, a principal analyst at Altimeter Group, told ABC News. "It's a different play though than that of Instagram. For example, you upload them to Google to give experiences and memories a home. With Instagram, you share experiences mostly to share with friends, engage and interact with your photos as well as theirs."

Gundotra points out, however, that with Google Plus you can decide specifically who you share your photos with. You can share one photo with all your friends, your circle of work friends or just one or two of your closest friends. Still, while the service might serve a different purpose than Instagram, Gundotra is clear that he wants Google Plus to be the place people think of when they upload their photos from their phones. "All of this is coming to mobile. It is days away from coming to mobile," he said.

While Google Plus has 190 million active monthly users, Instagram has 100 million monthly active users and 40 million photo uploads per day. Facebook has over a billion users and in 2012 said that 300 million photos are uploaded a day on the site.

But Google doesn't have to be the only mobile photo service out there to really compete, says Solis. "Many people will use multiple networks because people play out their digital lives across multiple platforms," he said. "No one place will reach everyone, but Google is doing its part to stay relevant and pervasive among the fray."