Free photo storage, and other fairy tales.

Google is ending its free unlimited photo storage option in June 2021.

By the way: all the media, including this one, has missed a chance by not having articles with titles like “Google is ending!” with subtitles “…its free unlimited photo storage option”. But hey, there’s always another service that Google is ending, so maybe next time.

So, we could say, yet another fairy tale of free service is ending, but hey, this is the fairy tale: who doesn’t remember that other famous piece of tech market analysis — the story of Hansel and Gretel, the two youngsters lured into the hands of a cannibalistic witch living in a house made of gingerbread, cake, confection, sweets, and many other treats and pastries” (as Wikipedia so graphically puts it.)

Maybe comparing Google to a cannibalistic witch is a tad overblown, I have nothing against Google ending their free tier of course. Google is a company and there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

The joke is on us, really: yet again, the old “lure in → lock in” fairy tale approach has worked out. Both for the cannibalistic witch, and for Google.

Normally I’d have a list of another 2-3-5 services with photo storage as their main profile that the free Google Photos tier suffocated to closing before Google would  start abusing their now established monopoly. I don’t. I guess Flickr could be one, but I’m honestly not sure how much a facture Google Photos was in Flickr’s failure amongst bad management decisions and simple incompetence. Then there’s Apple and iPhoto, but it would seem a bit funny to start feeling sorry for Apple losing market share. I think they are fine.

(To stay with the Grimm metaphor, I think the cannibalistic witch also didn’t have much competition. There’s no tale about the witch in the house made of chili, and the witch in the house made of broccoli and peas and other veggies. We all heard about the kings living in castles built from shit, but that tech industry metaphor is for another blog post.)

My feeling is Google Photos had mainly eaten up the homebrew photo storage “market”, the NASes, the Zenphotos, the MediaGoblins, the Lychees. I doubt a lot of those users will return to these solutions, it will be much easier to pay up than to migrate many Gigabytes of photos out of Google. Even though I’ve been storing my photos in Nextcloud for the past 2 years (out of which I would consider just over 1 year as real usage), I also haven’t gotten myself to migrate my old library out of Google — cleaning up this and the related workflows are still on my unclouding backlog.

We’ll see. To put a positive spin on it, at least now it’s going to be a bit clearer that products have prices. Maybe there will even be room for some real competition again – with Google Photos having more than a billion users, even a portion migrating to another platform can keep one or more competitors successful.

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