With Photos for OS X not being released until early next year, it seemed like there would be no way to view your photos backed up in iCloud Photo Library away from an iOS device for Mac customers. However, screenshots and error messages from iCloud.com show that a Photos app is in development for the website, so that users could access their pictures in some fashion on a computer. This will likely act as a stopgap before the official native client is ready.
The above screenshot is captured from an Apple help page, clearly showing a Photos app in the menu, which is currently absent from the public site. The app features the same icon as the Photos app, but its unclear what exact functionality it will bring. Poking around a bit, we discovered something that means it is unlikely the screenshot is simply a Photoshop mistake.
Although iCloud.com/#photos currently does nothing, visiting beta.iCloud.com/#photos causes the following error message to show.
This alert does not appear for any other URL string, so it is not simply a generic message shown for any non-existent URL. It clearly indicates that some form of ‘Photos’ app is in development for the website. The fact it shows only on the beta site is interesting, as iCloud Photo Library is also currently denoted as ‘beta’ in developer builds of iOS 8.
It’s hard to guess how capable the Photos app for the iCloud site will be. Although most of the apps are stripped down reproductions of their native counterparts, the iWork suite is very full-featured. In the last update to iCloud’s online offerings, Apple added Settings and iCloud Drive apps to the main screen, allowing users to get basic access to their documents and data in iCloud Drive.
The state of iCloud Photo Library is unclear. It was prominently featured on Apple’s promotional materials until just before iOS 8’s debut. Developers are currently ‘grandfathered’ into a beta of the service. A date for public launch is not known, although is expected before the end of the year.
As the addition has not been officially acknowledged by Apple, there is a possibility the app will never see the light of the day. This seems unlikely, though, with both the Apple support doc screenshot and the above error message strongly suggesting otherwise.