Google Photos will start charging for storage once more than 15 gigs on the account have been used. The change will happen on June 1st, 2021, and it comes with other Google Drive policy changes like counting Google Workspace documents and spreadsheets against the same cap. Google is also introducing a new policy of deleting data from inactive accounts that haven’t been logged in to for at least two years.

The news comes courtesy of a blog post at Google’s site, with Google admitting it “may come as a surprise” — that’s a bit of an understatement. Still, this continues an otherwise logical trend over the last few years. Google’s Pixel 4 didn’t come with “original-quality” backups at all, and the Pixel 2 only gets unlimited original quality backups until the end of 2020, though the original Google Pixel is still promised backups forever.

All photos and documents uploaded before June 1st will not count against that 15GB cap, so you have plenty of time to decide whether to continue using Google Photos or switching to another cloud storage provider for your photos. Only photos uploaded after June 1st will begin counting against the cap.

The company will send alerts and warnings when you begin to approach that cap. Google is also putting new storage management tools into Google Photos, including a tool that makes it easier to find and delete photos you might not want anyway, like blurry images or screenshots.

Today, more than 4 trillion photos are stored in Google Photos, and every week 28 billion new photos and videos are uploaded. Since so many of you rely on Google Photos to store your memories, it’s important that it’s not just a great product, but also continues to meet your needs over the long haul. In order to welcome even more of your memories and build Google Photos for the future, we are changing our unlimited High quality storage policy.

As for the inactive account policy, it seems fairly reasonable: if you haven’t touched your Google account for two years and don’t respond in any way to the multiple warning emails and notifications Google sends you, the company may delete data from your account. Here’s how Google explains it:

If you’re inactive in one or more of these services for two years (24 months), Google may delete the content in the product(s) in which you’re inactive. […] Similarly, if you’re over your storage limit for two years, Google may delete your content across Gmail, Drive and Photos.

We will notify you multiple times before we attempt to remove any content so you have ample opportunities to take action. The simplest way to keep your account active is to periodically visit Gmail, Drive or Photos on the web or mobile, while signed in and connected to the internet.

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