By Harry McCracken | Friday, January 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm
Okay, it looks like Google really is serious about its oft-stated plans to focus on fewer services and do them better. (Also known as “more wood behind fewer arrows.”) It’s announced that it’s shuttering even more offerings, and one of them is Picnik, the excellent online photo editor which it bought in 2010.
The closure isn’t abrupt or catastrophic. Google is giving Picnik users plenty of warning–the service isn’t going away until April 19th–and they’ll be able to download their photos. But unlike some of Google’s shutdowns, closing Picnik isn’t a tacit acknowledgment that a service never found an audience. (I never heard of Google’s Gmail Message Continuity and Social Graph API until the company said they were going away.) Picnik is popular, and it’s good, and the world will be a sadder place place without it–at least for folks who already know and love it.
Why is it going away? That’s not entirely clear. Google’s blog post says it’s so “the Picnik team can continue creating photo-editing magic across Google products. ” But when you go to Picnik, you get a message that “Picnik is moving its easy yet powerful photo editing tools to Google+,” which is a slightly different message. In either case, though, it sounds like Google thinks that photo editing is less of a destination, which is what Picnik was, and more of a feature.
It’s also worth noting that Picnik was Flash-based. This is just guesswork on my part, but it likely hastened the service’s demise. It certainly made it harder to integrate its features with other Google services, and probably even reduced Google’s enthusiasm for pointing to Picnik from elsewhere on Google
If Picnik had lived, it would surely have required a rewrite to become a pure HTML5 service, which would have been a major undertaking. I imagine that Google is busily working on improving its HTML5 graphics tools, and decided it wasn’t worth it to try and roll them into an all-new version of Picnik.
In fact, it’s pretty clear that Google circa 2012 is generally less interested in managing a bunch of destinations, and more interested in beefing up Google+. It wants to give you every possible incentive to join and use its social network. In the future, I imagine, many new Google things that would have been independent services in the past will instead be launched as Google+ additions.
Side note: When I tried to visit Picnik on my iPad just now, I got the following message. You might want to update it, Google.