Yesterday, Jonathan Sposato, the CEO of Picnik.com, came by my office to show me the slickest Webtop application I’ve seen in a while. It’s a fully-featured picture editing app that blows away iPhoto in many respects and is completely browser-based.
Picnik can ingest digital photos from your computer hard drive or from various photo-sharing services, including Flickr, Facebook, Photobucket, and Google’s Picassa.
Once you pick a picture, you can rotate, crop, zoom in and out, remove red-eye, resize, and add tons of effects from heat maps to sepia tones to doodles to borders. What is impressive is that it does all of this faster than a desktop application like iPhoto. For instance, it took me literally two minutes to create the image above from this image I had previously put up on Flickr.
The breadth and quality of features on Picnik fall somewhere between iPhoto and Photoshop. Sposato is the programming whiz who managed the team that built the Halo videogame for the first Xbox. Then he created a startup called Phatbits which was bought by Google and became Google Gadgets.
Picnik is free and has attracted about 300,000 users. Sposato plans to try to upsell members to a premium version to get access to some of the fancier effects that are now free in the beta version of the site (like heat maps and doodling). It's not clear how many people will end up paying for such extras, especially when desktop photo-editing software comes free on both Windows and Macs these days. It's also not clear how much time people will spend fixing their crappy photos.
But that's assuming we don't move away from the desktop/shoebox model. As people do more with their photos and put them up for the world to see on social sites, they should have more incentive to clean them up and make them look cool. And if Sposato can get them hooked on using Picnik, he might even sign up some paying customers.
If for nothing else, check out the site to get a sense of what a Webtop app can do these days.
(BTW, when I asked Sposato if he thought a video-editing Webtop app could ever be built with a similar level of functionality, he paused, a bit taken off guard by the question. Then he said very confidently that something like that would probably come out within the next 18 months. Not necessarily from Picnik, but stay tuned).