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Tech Giants Compete ... For Your Vacation Albums


With summer arriving, there'll be family cookouts, days at the pool, and most likely lots and lots of photos. We are taking unprecedented numbers of pictures, but sorting them - that's an epic task. It's also become a big business. NPR's Laura Sydell reports on Google's attempt to beat its competitors at photo organizing.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: You can make albums on Facebook. Google's Picasa has albums. Apple organizes by date. But during a talk this week at Google's annual developer conference, Anil Sabharwal poked fun at all of them.


ANIL SABHARWAL: How often do we spend time just scrolling, scrolling, scrolling to find that one photo that we want?

SYDELL: Then Sabharwal introduced Google Photos, which he claims will end the purgatory of scrolling. For example, it can search using facial recognition. Sabharwal shows a pic of his niece.


SABHARWAL: The recent ones are at the top, and I can go back to when she was four years old as a flower girl in my wedding. But what's amazing is I can go all the way back to the week she was born.

SYDELL: Facial recognition is fairly common, but the app can also group by dog breed. It even recognizes monuments and food. It got all my food pics right but one, which was actually a Petri dish of volcanic rock, but not bad.

The app works across your devices. It's private and has free unlimited storage, though it does compress the photos. Still, it's a competitive world for photo apps. Analyst Rob Enderle thinks Google Photos is the best he's seen, but most people are already storing photos elsewhere.

ROB ENDERLE: The idea of moving those pictures becomes daunting, and so you can't be just a little better, you have to be enough better to motivate somebody to move. Or you have to go up to people that have never put their pictures up or just have a few pictures up on another service.

SYDELL: Which at this point, may not be very many of us. Ultimately, we might hope that others catch up with Google's new organization tools. Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Laura Sydell fell in love with the intimate storytelling qualities of radio, which combined her passion for theatre and writing with her addiction to news. Over her career she has covered politics, arts, media, religion, and entrepreneurship. Currently Sydell is the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and NPR.org.