The future of photo sharing: what's next after Instagram?

We’ve looked at where cameras have come from and where they’re going; but what about how you’ll be sharing and publishing your thousands of digital photos in the future? The O2 Gurus take a look at the image sharing phenomenon and give you a heads-up on what’s coming next.

Facial recognition

Sharing your photos with friends, family, ex-colleagues, people you met at a wedding once and straight-up strangers has already become the norm. Facebook alone sees over 350 million new photos added every day, so working out who’s in what pictures is going to become more and more important.

Facebook’s tagging system is leading the way, with its optional facial recognition tech currently getting it right as often as it gets it wildly, hilariously wrong. The company says it has developed new software, known as DeepFace, that is 97.25% accurate at telling whether two photos are of the same face – that’s about the same level of accuracy as the human brain.

The possibilities of this are quite interesting. Potentially, you could allow Facebook to tag you in any photo in which you appear, even if you just show up in the background of a stranger’s holiday shots. And imagine being able to search for every photo of a particular person on the internet by face – it’s both strangely tempting and quite intimidating.

Many people are understandably a bit wary of Facebook or any company knowing them by face. It gives Facebook the potential to track users not only across the internet but through real life too.  Because of these privacy concerns, it’s hard to tell how far facial recognition tech will go. But where Facebook leads others will follow, so expect to see more smart photo tagging tools coming in on other social networks and photo sharing sites.

Automated reminders of times gone by


Digital cameras have only really been mainstream for about 20 years, but how many photos have you amassed in that time? Now consider what that number will be in another 10 years. And then another and then another – realistically, how many of those thousands and thousands of photos are we going to dig back through to relive times gone by?

Automated apps that pick out photos from your past could make this a lot easier. Timehop, for example, sends you an automated reminder of what you were up to on the same day a year ago using your social media posts. We could start to see more apps using the metadata in your digital photos to serve up relevant photos on anniversaries, birthdays or when you visit a certain place.

The Internet of Things

It’s not just your smartphone that connects your photos directly to the internet: many cameras now come with built-in Wi-Fi receivers so you can upload directly from them. This skips the need to transfer photos to your desktop before you can do anything with them, and means cameras can interact directly with your other smart devices.

For example, smart photo frames could automatically pull in the best shots from your camera as soon as you get home. Further along the line, a receiver in the photo frame could register when a friend is visiting thanks to a signal given out by their smartwatch when they arrive. This signal would then trigger the frame to display a selection of photos of you and that friend together.

Having a drink in the kitchen instead of the lounge? The photo frame has worked that out thanks to its built-in movement sensors, and has told your fridge to display the photos on its built-in screen instead. And if your friend comments that she particularly likes one of the photos, the fridge can upload it to Facebook, tagging her in it as it does so.

Something that hasn’t been invented yet

Cast your mind back to the bright and over-exposed days before Instagram, when all your digital photos were too harsh and realistic to show off. Instagram came out of nowhere and now we can’t imagine ever not applying retro filters to our photos and sharing them directly with friends.

The next big thing in photo sharing is probably still just a twinkle in a developer’s eye, but before long we’ll be wondering how we ever lived without it.

Do you share your digital photos or do you prefer keeping them private? Tweet us at @O2 or leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

For more on how technology is changing the world of photography, tune in to LBC Radio on Saturday at 8.30pm when O2 Guru Davina will be talking about the best camera tech. Find out more here

You can also find us on O2 Guru TV or visit an O2 Guru in store.