Friendly Public Service Announcement: Google might delete some of your photos this week. If you’ve ever used some specific entries in Google’s lengthy instant messaging lineup, namely Google Talk (2005-2013) or Google Hangouts (2013-2022), the photos you shared with contacts landed in a space called the “Album Archive.” Album Archive is being shut down this Wednesday, July 19, and the data in it is being deleted.
Google’s communication around this has not been great. The support page says: “Content that’s only available in Album Archive will be deleted starting July 19, 2023,” but it’s unclear what that data is. Google says that “some Google Hangouts data from Album Archive” will be deleted, but also that “most Google Hangouts images and videos are still available and were migrated to Google Chat.” (Google Chat is Google’s current instant messenger platform, which launched and replaced Hangouts in 2021.) Other content that might get deleted includes “rare cases like small thumbnail photos and album comments or likes” and “background images uploaded in the Gmail theme picker prior to 2018.”
The bottom line is that you can view your Album Archive data here and download everything via Google Takeout.
Some people report being emailed about this around a month ago, but I have probably hundreds of pictures in my Album Archive and never got a notice. I’m also a regular user of Google Photos, so everything I sent to people was probably taken with my phone and was probably stored in Google Photos. Better safe than sorry, though, so maybe just take a look while you still can.