Google+, struggling against the perception that its days as a full-fledged social media network are numbered, released two promising new updates today: Stories, which automatically create multimedia timelines from users’ photo and video libraries, and Movies, which creates highlight reels from the same.
The new features are really quite slick. If your photos are already automatically backed up on Google+, chances are Stories and Movies have already been created for you, grouped in a timeline that includes maps if your media have been geotagged.
And who couldn’t use an auto-generated vacation travelogue or recounting of a night on the town? Anil Sabharwal, a Google Photo product manager, drove home the point in a blog post:
No more sifting through photos for your best shots, racking your brain for the sights you saw, or letting your videos collect virtual dust. We’ll just gift you a story after you get home. This way you can relive your favorite moments, share them with others, and remember why you traveled in the first place.
So could these be features that prompt more people to use Google+ and rescue the network from speculation about its demise sparked by the departure last month of longtime Google+ chief Vic Gundotra? Or is it an enhancement that will be spun off into a separate Google Photo product with Google+ eventually falling by the wayside?
Still too early to tell, I’d say, although the fact that the Google I/O agenda doesn’t mention Google+ could be a hint that the latter is more likely.
Either way, however, Google needs to do better at making this content shareable outside the G+ environment. At least assuming it wants people to use these new features regularly. To go beyond a novelty act, they will need to be easily shareable on Facebook, which frankly is where most people would want to share them.
Currently, the only way to do that is to copy and paste a URL. And the resulting display is definitely not click inspiring:
The Auto Awesome Movies, which include background music and professional-looking transitions, are slightly ahead of the game. Because they are created as .m4v files, they can be downloaded and then uploaded to YouTube or other video sharing sites. The results are quite nice (see sample below), but a fewer-click solution would be welcome.
Rundown Of New Features
The new features will roll out today on the web and in the Google Play store and are “coming soon” for Apple users (although some features, like Auto Awesome Movies are already available on iOS).
Dave Besbris, Google+ VP of engineering, posted a full list of new (mostly Android) features:
- Auto Awesome Stories now combine your photos, videos and the places you visit into beautiful travelogues. You can read more at http://goo.gl/JGgzil.
- Auto Awesome Movies are now available on Android, iOS and the web, so lots more people will receive highlight reels of their photos and videos. Here’s one example: http://goo.gl/9ljcdj.
- You can now create animated GIFs and photobooth-style images on demand. Just tap the new plus button in Photos, and select either Motion or Mix.
- Really big photo libraries are now supported on Android, so you can access your many thousands of photos quickly and easily.
- You can now browse your entire photo library, as well as your highlights, by date. Just drag the new scroll bar to move forwards or backwards in time.
- Profiles now display total content views on both Android and the web. (You can choose to show or hide this number via settings.)
- A new navigation menu makes it easier to switch between your favorite circles and communities, as well as other places in the app.
- It’s a lot easier to share content from your phone or tablet. To give it a try, just tap the new pencil icon at the bottom right of the stream.
- The app menu now slides away as you move down the stream, letting posts fill the entire screen.