UPDATED TO FIX MISSPELLINGS AND TO ADD NEW INFO RE FOUNDERS, BUSINESS MODEL AND FEATURE AMBITIONS
Michael Arrington has the skinny today on all the new browser based photo editing tools. I've only used Picnik, which just launched last week in beta but which Arrington says is the best. Very cool stuff. Designed for both luddites like me who still use Adobe's stuff, or Picasa, or Iphoto as well as the new world of online photo management and sharing through sites like Flickr. If you've ever been flummoxed trying to go back and forth between your photo software and Flickr or annoyed by the time it takes to post photos on your hard drive to your blog you'll want to check this out. They don't store the photos, they just act as a middle man.
Messed around with the site a little bit last week after 30
mintues on the phone with one of the founders, Jonathon Sposato. It's
fast, it's easy and there is nothing to install. It all runs in a
Sounds like a good team. Sposato, who spent more than a decade at Microsoft before founding and then selling startup Phatbits
to Google in 2005, has teamed up with two college friends and former
Darren Mephema Darrin Massena and Mike HerringtonHarrington. They all have deep
marketing and programming experience - originally developing PC games.
Sposato says VCs have already come calling but they've turned them away for now. Getting a startup off the ground is dirt cheap these days - all you need is bandwidth and some cheap hardware; there are only six of them in an office in downtown Seattle; and having been at Microsoft during the 1990s none of the founders is hurting for dough.
Who knows how long these guys can make a go of this, but it's clear they have latched on to something very hot.
Below is an email q&a I had with Sposato after our telephone chat as well as a detailed FAQ he sent me on the company and its founders.
FV: does picnik organize my photos the way picasa or iphoto does in addition to providing editing tools?
[Jonathan Sposato] at the moment picnik's organization is minimal, as we merely conform to the same organizational schema as where your photos were pulled in from (i.e. flickr). but we plan on changing that in a future release with greater 'in experience' organization
FV: If not, where do I keep them so I can easily identify the ones I want? If so, how do I batch import?.
[Jonathan Sposato] batch import is something we are working on right now. you will definitely see this in a near release.
FV: I have a lot of pictures and if I
wanted to quit using one of those aps I’d want a quick and easy way to import
lots of photos into picnik ---- with all my photo edits. One of the reasons I
havent uploaded all my photos to flickr for example is that they don’t make it
easy to move all your stuff in one fell swoop. And one of the reasons I’m on the
fence about switching from picasa to iphoto is that I lose all my changes.
That’s prob with all these aps – they all have some kind of switching costs or
dare I use the word --- LOCK IN.
[Jonathan Sposato] ah yes. very astute about the pain of switching. we recognize this too and in addition to batch import/export, we will be other new ways to bridge even more seamlessly with where people's photos are.
Here's the FAQ:
What is this product?
Picnik gives ALL users photo-editing power tools right in the browser.
It's the easiest way on the Web to fix underexposed photos, remove red-eye, or apply effects to your photos. It's fast, easy, and fun.
Because Picnik lives in the browser, it’s accessible to everyone from any web device.
Picnik also integrates seamlessly with the websites where your photos are already stored. Picnik is leading a revolution as an entirely new breed of web application that combines the power and rich experience of a desktop application, with the convenience and connectivity of the web.
Traditional photo-editing products can be expensive and have a steep learning curve; Picnik fills a great need by offering users three critical things;
One; seamless integration with wherever their photos live.
Two; all it needs to run is an open browser.
Three; the fastest, easiest photo-editing UI, combined with ”under-the-hood” technical power.
We call it a ‘weightless’ solution for Great Pictures, Anywhere, by Anyone
What are some of Picnik’s high level features?
With Picnik you can quickly edit all your online photos from one place. Here’s 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!
Is this 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.
Who are you people?
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
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 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;
- Provide a great photo editing experience. Easy, powerful, fun.
- Take advantage of all
that the web can bring to photo editing and all that photo editing can
bring to the web.
- Bring the best
qualities of desktop and web applications together, without compromises.
How much more robust do you want to make it? (What are your long-term
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 see this as the beginning of software becoming internet-based? Do
you think Picnik could become full-featured 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. Its 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
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.