Earlier this week, Google expanded its cloud computing empire through the acquisition of popular photo-editing site Picnik. Moments after the news was announced on both the Google Photo blog and Picnik’s blog, users of both applications were asking one question: what happens next? Although no formal plans or changes have been announced for Picnik in the near future, the prospects for this new venture are receiving positive buzz. With this acquisition, Google has a golden opportunity to expand its Picasa user-base and product offering while connecting and maintaining relationships with online photo-sharing sites such as Yahoo!’s Flikr.
Picnik is the most widely used cloud-based photo editing site, with more than 2 million unique visitors each month. Although competitors like Aviary and Adobe’s online Photoshop boast more advanced editing features, Picnik allows users of every level to participate in the process of creativity, one of the aspects of the service that Picnik prides itself on. With the power of Google behind it, Picnik will be able to reach even more users, especially those who may not have heard about it before, or have just stuck to Picasa’s offerings. The Picknik team is excited about this aspect, saying on their official blog that, “with their [Google] worldwide infrastructure and world-class team, it is truly the best home we could have found. Under the Google roof we’ll reach more people than ever before, impacting more lives and making more photos more awesome.”
One of the aspects of this acquisition currently in limbo right now is the Picnik Premium service, which costs $25 a year. Google is known for offering its apps and services such as Gmail, Docs, and Books for free, so taking on a business that already includes a paid service may be a bit tricky. However, Google may surprise everyone by dropping the paid service and offering these premium services free of charge to all users. If Picnik is eventually integrated with Picasa – a prediction many users are banking on – those premium features would most likely be free, as Picasa is already offered at no cost. It would be smart of Google to make that move, because it would keep them at the top of the competition while expanding its user-base that much more.
On the surface, the Picnik/Picasa news seems almost too good to be true. Picnik’s team gets to keep their jobs and become part of Google, while staying true to their company. However, there is one company in this equation that isn’t so pleased – Google’s longtime rival, Yahoo!. One of the perks of being a Picnik user is having the ability to upload photos from a number of popular photo-sharing sites, including Facebook, Picasa, and Yahoo!’s Flikr. Currently, Picnik is Flikr’s default photo editor. Now that Google owns Picnik, it means they’ve entered into Picnik’s agreement with Yahoo! – a messy web that will take some time to get sorted out. While Google has stated publicly that it’s open to continuing Picnik’s integration with Flikr, Yahoo! isn’t saying much. Although they’re rivals, it would be wise for Yahoo! to continue this partnership for the sake of Flikr users and the service as a whole, as Picnik is an integral part of Flickr’s user experience.
Google obviously has a few kinks to work out with this deal, and needs a solid plan in place before moving forward. Still, the opportunity this deal creates will most certainly produce some great new features for Picasa and Picnik. Instead of launching an integrated client right away, Google should introduce the new features in limited-release beta to get valuable feedback while also creating positive buzz. Gmail and Wave were launched in a similar way, which helped Google spread the word by engaging the Internet community in the conversation. Though Google has fumbled in the past — TechCrunch’s MG Siegler points out that, “Google has a history of acquiring companies and then letting their products wither (Dodgeball, Jaiku, etc)” — they now have a great opportunity to make Picnik and Picasa utterly unique and competitive in the photo-editing market, combining the features of Picnik with the technology and accessibility of Google.