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Free Web-based Photo-editing App Picnik Offers 'Great Pictures, Anywhere, By Anyone'
Like many people I have a deep emotional reaction to software. I either "click" with it or I don't and I mean much before evaluating its strengths and weaknesses, or even understanding exactly what it can do. It's the proverbial first impression. And Picnik charms me to no end. It's clean, it's simple, it's fast, and it's just so much fun. A photo-editing tool that you call up by typing in a web address I love it!
Picnik offers you a quick and easy way to fix underexposed photos, remove red-eye, or apply some beautiful effects to your photos. It also integrates seamlessly with websites where photos are already stored, like Flickr, and is part of a new breed of web app that combines the power and depth of a desktop application with the convenience and connectivity of the web.
I took a stock image they offered (of Pike Street Market in Seattle) and within 30 seconds I had sharpened it, adjusted the image temperature, adjusted the brightness and contrast, and zapped it with a good boost. Then I created a dreamy foggy effect. Just a click here and there in the Creative Tools > Special Effects palette and I was done. So simple.
Picnik fills a great need by offering users three critical things 1; seamless integration with wherever their photos live. 2; all it needs to run is an open browser. 3; a fast, easy photo-editing UI, combined with ”under-the-hood” technical power.
We sent some questions to the top guys behind this amazing little program and got some very interesting answers. So here we go with the complete Q&A...
Who are you people? Tell us about your background.
We’re a new Seattle based company founded by 3 former game developers who are committed to making photo-editing as easy and fun as games. Picnik was founded by Mike Harrington, Darrin Massena, and Jonathan Sposato, [who have collaborated several times since their teenage years] all of whom have experience building world-class teams and products. Mike cofounded Valve Software, and led the development effort for Half-Life, which sold more than 10 million copies and won more than 50 Game of the Year awards. Half-Life was also named “Best PC Game of all Time” by PC Gamer magazine.
Darrin is one amongst a handful of ‘Distinguished Engineers’ from Microsoft who received the title directly from chairman Bill Gates. Darrin also cowrote “Warfare Incorporated”, which was named ‘Best Game’ by Palm Computing. Mike and Darrin worked as systems developers together at Microsoft before their love of games and passion for building great user experiences led them to break away and start their own software companies.
Jonathan most recently built a company called Phatbits that he sold to Google. Phatbits has become a key component of Google’s overall desktop apps strategy and continues to reach many millions of users daily. Prior to starting Phatbits, Jonathan was a director in Microsoft’s consumer division and drove the development of ‘threedegrees’, a teen-focused social application awarded the ‘most innovative internet app’ from several publications and touted by Walt Mossberg as ‘the coolest product from Microsoft’.
With Picnik, Darrin, Mike, and Jonathan want to combine their love of fun, world-class consumer software and deep systems experience to create a new type of application that will continually delight and amaze. This team understands how to make great software and loves doing it.
What are some of Picnik’s high level features?
With Picnik you can quickly edit all your online photos from one place. Here are some of Picnik’s features;
- Easy UI & workflow
- One-click photo fixing or in-depth tweaking
- Crop, rotate, and resize in real-time
- Tons of special effects, from artsy to fun
- Communicates directly with many photo sharing sites
- Pull images in from any website
- Email images out to any website, or anyone
- Works on Mac, Windows, even Linux
- Amazingly fast
- No download required, nothing to install!
Will Picnik remain free?
Right now, Picnik is still in beta. All Picnik’s features are available for free during the beta period. After beta we will offer a free version with basic photo-editing, and a premium version with advanced editing features, more tools, more fun, increased storage, and greater content. The pricing of the premium offering will be reasonable and considered a great value by today’s internet customer.
What is your business model?
There are several potential revenue streams, but we will focus on the basic tenet of providing highly useful and fun software that people can’t live without and will pay a fair fee for.
We also aim to forge strategic partnerships with other companies who consider photo-editing an important part of the experiences they offer. Photo storage sites, photo communities, or social networks are all web companies Picnik wants to partner with, in order to truly deliver on the vision of ‘Great Pictures, Anywhere, by Anyone.’
What’s your time-line for improvements and added features?
The Picnik team is constantly making improvements and adding features to Picnik. Registered Picnik users receive update mails from us on a regular basis.
Now that much of the basic framework for Picnik has been figured out, picnikers can certainly expect more creative tools and special effects in the near future. You can also expect that there will be more bridges to more sites, offering greater seamlessness and interoperability with where users’ photos are.
What was the inspiration behind it? And what are the goals for Picnik?
The goals are three fold; 1. Provide a great photo editing experience. Easy, powerful, fun. 2. Take advantage of all that the web can bring to photo editing and all that photo editing can bring to the web. 3. Bring the best qualities of desktop and web applications together, without compromises.
How much more robust do you want to make it?
We plan on making Picnik much more robust. We’re in a constant feedback loop with our users to learn what capabilities they most need and how they’d like them delivered. We don’t see any limit to the capabilities that can be offered in a web-based photo editor.
Picnik is architected in highly extensible ways, thus dropping in new features can be done easily and with low risk to the product’s overall stability and performance. Long term, we want Picnik to be the first and last solution for anyone on the web who has to do ANYTHING with their digital photo. We have a very compelling and innovative roadmap for Picnik’s future, and plan on divulging more specifics shortly.
Do you feel that software is becoming more internet-based? Do you think Picnik could become as full-featured as a desktop app one day?
Yes. We do think software is becoming more and more ‘internet-based’ and already users are starting to not be able to distinguish between what is a ‘desktop’ experience vs. a ‘web’ experience. Rich applications like Picnik blur this line even further and we want to push this envelope and have Picnik be every bit as ‘full featured’ an application as many of today’s desktop client apps without losing the simplicity and convenience people expect from the web.
What has the feedback been like?
In brief; tremendously positive. It's been fun to see that almost all the feedback so far has spoken to how much Picnik adds to people’s lives and makes their photos experience so much easier. We’ve democratized powerful photo-editing tools for the masses. But we are careful not to take the overwhelmingly positive feedback at face value, as we strive to make Picnik even better and something people will return to over and over again.
How is this authored? What is the technology?
Picnik has two components, client and server. The client builds on Adobe’s Flash and Flex and runs in any web browser. The server is a custom application and the two communicate via a proprietary protocol over HTTP. The primary design objective was to balance responsibilities between the client and the server so Picnik is as responsive as any desktop application while having access to all the resources of the web.
Why Flash? Why not Ajax?
Flash was designed to deliver the kind of rich real-time graphical experience people expect from a photo editor. AJAX-based photo editors require the image processing work to be performed on a remote server while the user waits for the results to be downloaded. Picnik performs these operations instantaneously with no communication to a server at all.
Thanks for the interview, and we wish you continued success!
So now it's time to go to the Picnik site and give it a spin. I guarantee you'll be wowed, you'll have fun, and you'll end up sending 5 people to try it out as well!
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