Tag Archives | Picnik

Life is Not a Picnik: Google Closes Its Cool Photo-Editing Service

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.

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Google Picks Up Picnik

Picnik isn’t just my favorite online image editor–it’s one of my favorite Web-based applications, period, with a clever user interface that improves on that of desktop apps rather than just imitating them. And now Picnik is part of Google. Hearing that Google has acquired something I love always leaves me in a quandary, since you never know if the company in question will turn out to be the next YouTube or the next Jaiku. But this much is true: It should be pretty easy to figure out how to make Picnik’s cool tools into a welcome part of Picasa Web Albums


Picnik: Even Neater Than I Thought

In my last Operation Foxbook post, I said that when I edited screen images in the browser, I cheated on my Web-only regimen and saved them in Windows Paint first to get them on my hard drive for uploading into Picnik. Turns out that I could have done it and remained true to the spirit of Operation Foxbook–the Picnik folks wrote to tell me about their Firefox extension, which lets you grab images, screens, and even whole Web pages (including regions that aren’t on screen) for editing with one click. I stand happily corrected.

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Operation Foxbook: More Fun With Web Apps

The experiment known–by me, anyhow–as Operation Foxbook is winding down. By tomorrow, I’ll have packed up the HP Mini-Note I’ve been using as a dedicated Firefox machine, and I’ll allow myself to use desktop applications instead of relying on Web apps whenever possible. Already, I’m weaning myself off of my Web-only regimen–I may allow myself access to Photoshop later tonight.

But I’m still learning things from this project, and need to catch up on sharing them with you. Some notes on the last few days:

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Operation Foxbook: Life Inside the Browser, So Far

I’m typing this in Firefox on an HP Mini-Note netbook. In fact, I’m doing everything in Firefox on the Mini-Note at the moment, because I’m engaged in the experiment I call Operation Foxbook, in which I spend a few days trying to go cold turkey on desktop applications and my fancy MacBook in favor of working in a manner that’s as close to purely Web-based as possible.

How’s it going so far? Not bad, but not entirely free of bumps. A few notes on the Web-based applications I’ve been using:

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When Amazon S3 Goes Boom, So Does the Web

The Web is atwitter with discussion of the technical hobgoblins that are bedeviling Amazon’s S3 Web storage platform today. S3, which a lot of significant Web-based services rely on to provide the disk space that they need to store stuff, has been glitchy or altogether inoperative for at least the last six hours. There’s some good information and perspective over at SmugMug’s official blog–SmugMug being one of the services that uses S3 and has therefore been wonky today.

I happen to be working on a review of Web-based image editors for PC World. and found that a couple of them weren’t working today. One, the excellent Picnik, says that S3 is to blame. (I have a hunch that the other one also leverages S3, but I’m not positive.) The outages are a hassle–hey, I have a deadline to meet–but they’re also a sobering and useful reminder that Web-based services are extremely dependent on a lot of complicated technology and infrastructure working properly. Picnik may be problematic today, but my copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements, an old-fashioned piece of desktop software, is working just fine.

Not that desktop software is invulnerable: If my motherboard or hard drive croaked right now (and they could!) I’d be denied access to Elements until I solved things myself. All things being equal, it should make sense to throw technical challenges like keeping software working at a big company like Amazon or Google or Yahoo or Microsoft.

But it’s fascinating and sobering to see that Amazon–a company with oodles of resources, armies of techies, and, one hopes, a sophisticated game plan for keeping its services chugging along even when things go wrong–can fall victim to technical gremlins like this. The Amazon Web Services site refers to the Amazon platform as “robust,” and it is, mostly…but “robust” is not a synonym for “failsafe.”) With S3 as popular as it is, an awful lot of customers of an awful lot of services were inconvenienced today, even if they didn’t know that S3 was to blame. (In many cases, they didn’t: The error messages I got at Picnik didn’t mention S3, and I only learned they related to it when I checked out the Picnik blog,)

S3 suffered another major outage back in February, so this current one isn’t unprecendented in the least. I wonder if any of the companies that use S3 will reconsider the proposition. And I hope that Amazon explains exactly what happened and what steps it’s taking to prevent it from happening again.

(Wacky postscript: I uploaded an image of the Amazon Web Services logo to use with this post, and couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t displaying. Yup–WordPress.com uses S3, too.If you see an empty rectangle at the top of this post, S3 is still sickly; if you see the Amazon Web Services logo, it’s a good sign that it’s feeling healthier. I’ll say it again: When Amazon S3 goes boom, so does the Web…)