Facebook’s photo-sharing Moments app debuted to little fanfare earlier this year, when the social network launched it as an optional tool for uploading photos to your private photo gallery. Part of the problem? Moments was a mobile-only experience — you needed a phone to view the photos your friends circulated. But no more: On Monday, Facebook announced a lightweight version of Moments for the web.
It’s not Moments’ web debut, exactly — Facebook rolled out limited web support for moments this year, when it introduced a way for Facebook users to send and share Moments albums via a hyperlink. Now, it’s been fleshed out. The new interface, accessible from Facebook’s left-side navigation menu, launches a lightweight version of the Moments experience. You can view shared photos, albums, and slideshows, and that’s about it. It’s bare bones — uploading your own pics and albums, “liking” photos, penning comments, and creating slideshows requires the mobile app.
Moments’ conceit — a shareable, social photo stream — initially played second fiddle to Facebook’s contrived means of promoting it: threatening to delete users’ synced photos if they didn’t install Moments alongside the Facebook app. That’s not to say it isn’t useful. Moments automatically identifies folks in photos using an AI-powered recognition system; notifies friends in Facebook Messenger when you’ve sent them a photo; and lets you share photo albums with contacts who aren’t on Facebook. And a relatively new feature, dubbed “Joinable moments,” lets you add videos to Moments slideshows.
The Moments web rollout follows on the heels of an upgrade to Google Photos, Google’s picture-sharing service on the web and mobile devices. Earlier this year, the search giant enabled third-party pic uploads: If you shared an album with a friend via a link, they’re able to contribute content of their own.
Moments’ web interface might be perceived as another attempt to boost the service’s usage. Facebook’s concerted promotional efforts — particularly the July 7 removal of Photo Sync, a feature that automatically uploaded photos from smartphones to a private “Synced from phone album” folder — rocketed Moments to the top of the charts. It ranks No. 171 in the iTunes App Store and No. 131 on Google Play, and Facebook said in May that more than 600 million photos had been shared in Moments.
It’s a controversial climb, but it isn’t the first instance of forced adoption by Facebook. In 2014, the social network spun off Messenger as a separate app, later removing chatting functionality from Facebook on mobile and the web. That move made Messenger one of the most popular apps in the App Store and Google Play.
And it’s not the only controversy Moments has generated. In the EU and Canada, privacy laws forced Facebook to replace the app’s facial recognition tech with a less accurate solution. The modified version of Moments groups together multiple photos that “appear to include the same face,” and prompts users to identify subjects who haven’t been tagged.