How to share Dropbox-style links in iOS 12 Photos app

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You can now share links to your photos, including photos of grapefruits.
You can now share links to your photos, including photos of grapefruits.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

iOS 12 beta 3 added a great new feature in the Photos app. Now, when you share a photo, you can choose to copy a link to that photo, and share that instead. This is a lot like sharing a file from Dropbox. You can even copy a link to a whole slew of files and share them by sending a single URL.

Shared photos are stored in iCloud, and the link is accessible to anyone that has it, for up to a month. Let’s see how it works.

How to send shared iCloud photos

The new Copy Link button.
The new Copy Link button.
Photo: Cult of Mac

To try this out, head over to the Photos app, and pick a photo you want to share. Select it, or open in, and tap on the share arrow as usual. There’s a new option in the bottom, B&W, row of icons: Copy Link. Tap this to generate a link to the photo or photos you have selected.

The link will be copied to your clipboard, ready to be pasted. If you paste it into an iMessage, then it looks like any other rich link, complete with a thumbnail of the photo you’re sharing.

Receiving a shared iCloud photo

Anyone opening this shared link will be taken to an iCloud.com web page showing the image or images. It’s a simple page right now, with one option: Download the images (as a zip). If you have shared multiple images, then they are displayed in a grid, with one of the images used as a banner at the top of the page:

Shared iCloud photos page.
Shared iCloud photos page.
Photo: Cult of Mac

If you open that link on one of your own devices, you are sent straight to a new section in the photos app, where you can see all the photos you’ve shared:

Recently Shared photos get their own page.
Recently Shared photos get their own page.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Here you see the page for this particular set of shared images. You can see the expiry date, as well as stop sharing the photos, and copy the link, at any time.

iOS 12's For You tab gets a new section.
iOS 12’s For You tab gets a new section.
Photo: Cult of Mac

And above you seethe new section added to the bottom of iOS 12’s For You tab.

Privacy

This is a brand new feature, so the specifics are quite likely to change. Right now, images, and groups of images, are named after the place they were captured, at the level of the neighborhood. For individual images, the generated URL also contains this title. For instance:

https://www.icloud.com/photos/SDFERgfeTgfh9er98yfe#City-_Neighborhood_Name

That’s one I made up with nonsense letters in the URL, but it follows the form of the link for a single shared photograph.

The images themselves contain full metadata when they are shared. There’s location data, for example, as well as everything else, inclusive your iPhone model (or other camera, if that’s what you used to take the picture). This will hopefully change before the final release of iOS 12, but if you’re using the beta, be aware of this possible privacy leak

A great feature

This is a solid new feature for Photos in iOS 12. There are plenty of times when sharing a link to a photo, or group of photos, is more appropriate than sending all the images. If nothing else, it means that you can share a lot more photos with a single email, because all you’re sending is a link.

I wonder if this feature will come to other kinds of files in future, not just images. Either way, I like this new addition quite a lot.

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