Dieter Bohn, writing last week for The Verge:
After five years of offering unlimited free photo backups at
“high quality,” Google Photos will start charging for storage once
more than 15 gigs on the account have been used. The change will
happen on June 1st, 2021, and it comes with other Google Drive
policy changes like counting Google Workspace documents and
spreadsheets against the same cap. Google is also introducing a
new policy of deleting data from inactive accounts that haven’t
been logged in to for at least two years.
That “five years” link makes clear that “free and unlimited” was a big part of the appeal of Google Photos all along. And it’s not really a 5-year-old product — Google bought Picasa back in 2004, 16 years ago, and they’ve been giving away some version of free hosted photo storage ever since. And they’ve surely lost billions of dollars doing so. Even if their “free” storage costs, say, $1 a year (which I think even at Google’s scale is way low), with one billion users, that’s $1 billion year.
Google earned $11.2 billion in profits last quarter and uses all
your uploaded photos to train its ML algorithms, which offers it
other enormous competitive benefits.
Also seems notable that free Google photo storage helped to drive
tons of startups out of this market — Everpix, Loom, Ever,
Picturelife. Now that they’re gone, and Google is tired of losing
money on Photos, the revenue switch flips.
It really is that simple.
(Everpix was a favorite of mine — so damn good.)