Google plots to free photo services from Google+, sources claim

Google is reportedly considering separating its photo-sharing service from Google+, making it accessible to people that don't use the search giant's social network.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to Bloomberg, sources said the move is aimed at encouraging more people to use its Google+ Photos service, which allows Android phone and tablet users to automatically back up pictures and share them online.

As part of the process, the service could be renamed, the sources added.

At present there is no word on when the separation could potentially take place, but the move could be considered a challenge to Facebook's dominance in the photo-sharing stakes.

The social networking giant purchased popular photo-taking app Instagram in 2012, while Facebook's billion-strong user base regularly use the site to share pictures among their friends.

The news follows a number of changes to Google+, with the vendor announcing last week that users of its Hangouts video conferencing tool no longer need to be members of the social networking site to use it.

Furthermore, the company also confirmed last month that people who want to use fake names on the social network are now free to do so.

Despite claiming to have hundreds of millions of users, Google+ has always trailed behind the likes of Facebook and Twitter in the popularity stakes since its launch in 2011.

So this latest development is sure to prompt speculation that Google might be planning to either pull the plug on the social network altogether or massively scale back its functionality.

Google isn't adverse to canning services, particularly those with a social networking slant, that haven't been adopted as widely as it would have liked.

In 2010, it announced that it was on longer planning to actively develop its messaging platform Wave, resulting in its eventual switch-off in August 2012.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.