Will you have to pay to use Google Photos from next summer?

One of the reasons we tolerate Google, despite its questionable tax contributions to some countries and its relentless hoovering up of everyone’s personal data, is that so many of its services are both free and useful. But two of its most popular offerings are about to become less so.

Entire collections had been uploaded to Google Photos. Picture: Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

Google Music, which comes preinstalled on many Android phones as the default player for the songs in your collection, has already ceased to exist, with users being directed instead to YouTube Music, a Spotify rival which requires a monthly subscription for anything other than the most basic package. This arrangement is fine for keeping abreast of new releases but not for playing tracks you own already.

It’s a relatively minor inconvenience; there are dozens of alternative – indeed better – music players available from third-party developers. PlayerPro, Poweramp and Music Monkey are among the better ones.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But the move towards charging us to store our photograph collections is a more significant obstacle. Google announced the other week that from next June, it will no longer allow limitless quantities of pictures to be uploaded, and that anyone exceeding a quota of 15 gigabytes would have to pay for the extra space.

Worse still, that limit includes all the other documents you upload via Gmail and Google Drive on the same account. So the more pictures you store, the faster you will run out of space for emails.

Google Photos is the service most affected by the decision. It was launched five years ago with the promise of unlimited free photo storage in close to the original quality, and its arrival followed the rundown of a previous Google service, Picasa, which relied on users storing their pictures on their own hard discs. That model, Google said at the time, was outdated in an age of portable handsets; the future was in cloud storage. Since then, around four trillion pictures have been migrated to Google Photos, a movement that has had the effect of diminishing other picture sharing platforms. Many have uploaded years or even decades worth of scanned pictures.

For those users, there is some relief in Google’s decision to exclude from the quota photos that are in place before next June. But the service is nevertheless not going to be the free-for-all that it was.

It was an inevitable consequence of effectively giving away hard disk space, a policy that will almost certainly have cost Google money in pursuit of market share. Its about-face now has led competitors to accuse it of unfair and even monopolistic practices.

The change means that from next summer, it will cost around £8 a month to use Google storage above and beyond the free quota. Its rival Flickr, which more or less invented the idea of storing whole collections of photos in an online repository, charges about £38 a year for a terabyte of space – about 200,000 pictures. Until two years ago, it was free.

Two other rivals, Shoebox and Ever, which also used to offer free storage, have fallen by the wayside completely.

So with no new free service currently on the horizon, your best course of action is to take advantage of the last few free months of Google Photos. Use the time to upload all those old pictures you had been meaning to archive but never got around to doing. It might also be a good idea to open a second or third Google account and upload pictures to those, too, using the option to share them between multiple accounts. It’s a loophole that has yet to be closed. But from next June – at the very time we can hopefully begin taking holiday snaps again – we may have to be more selective.

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click here to subscribe.