A month after Google+ chief Vic Gundotra's departure caused much ado over the social network's future, a Tuesday update hints at where Google+ is going. Not surprisingly, the answer is photos.
The network on Tuesday introduced Google+ Stories, a new feature that, like a few other G+ tools, works behind-the-scenes to make your photos and videos more compelling. Stories sifts through all the content you upload to G+ or Google Drive to create a timeline of your day, your vacation, or your event. Because your photos and videos are geotagged, Stories can figure out where you went--restaurants, hotels, airports--and create an easy-to-sift-through collection of your finest work. Google+ will send you an email when a story is ready to view.
A story feels less like tabbing your way through a Facebook photo album and more like flipping through a curated hardcover album in chronological order. Your best photos, like scenic views and portraits, are featured prominently while smaller establishing shots are dotted throughout. You'll have to write your own captions--Google knows a lot about you, but not enough to narrate your life. (I think.)
Stories is available on the Web and in the G+ Android app under Photos with an iOS update on the way. If you have auto backup turned on in your Google+ app or on the Web, Stories won't even need you to upload a slew of photos to start putting together your collection. Of course, you'll be able to share your Stories, but they'll default to private.
Google has realized that while its free photo editing, sharing, and storage features are leaps and bounds above what other social networks are offering, finding and using those tools can be a chore. Google+ can automatically create photo albums with Stories, lightly edit your photos with its auto-enhance feature, and create GIFs with a fun tool called Auto Awesome--now available on all devices--which makes using the network a whole lot easier.
While the network's critics are predicting its inevitable demise in the wake of Gundotra's resignation, the G+ Photos team is clearly hard at work creating the future of Google's social network--and they've realized that future isn't competing with Facebook, but creating a photo-sharing niche.