I first used Adobe Photoshop more than 15 years ago, as an editor at my college newspaper. It was too powerful for all but one computer in the office, and only a small minority of the people in the office even tried to learn how to wield this fiendishly difficult program.
The program I reviewed today shares the Photoshop name, but has little else in common with that image editor. You could say that Photoshop Express is to Photoshop as Microsoft's Outlook Express is to Outlook--but such a comparison would be unkind to Adobe's effort.
Photoshop Express needs a lot of work, but even in its embryonic state it's an impressive product.
Eight years ago, I would not have thought it possible to construct something as complicated as a photo editor inside a Web page. Now, I'm amazed by how many sites offer these functions. Of the others I tried, I found the most to like at Flickr, whose tools are provided by a third site, Picnik. Photobucket's editing features are mainly geared toward adding artistic effects of one sort or another, while Kodak Gallery, Shutterfly and Snapfish only provide basic stuff like rotating, cropping and removing red eyes from photos.
Considering this profusion of Web-based image-editing programs, it's clear that Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson was right when, in his "Findings of Fact" in U.S. v. Microsoft, he wrote that the Web browser could become a software platform:
Operating systems are not the only software programs that expose APIs [application programming interfaces] to application developers. The Netscape Web browser and Sun Microsystems, Inc.'s Java class libraries are examples of non-operating system software that do likewise. Such software is often called "middleware," because it relies on the interfaces provided by the underlying operating system while simultaneously exposing its own APIs to developers.... [T]o the extent the array of applications relying solely on middleware comes to satisfy all of a user's needs, the user will not care whether there exists a large number of other applications that are directly compatible with the underlying operating system.
What's not as clear is whether photo editing is something that is better done online. I can think of some scenarios where that would be the case: People who habitually use multiple computers, or who don't have a computer of their own at home, or who are uninterested, unwilling or unable to add any more software to their own machine. But all of the Web-based photo editors that I've tried have been built for use by one person at a time, lacking the collaborative tools that make Web-based applications like Google Docs seem such a breakthrough compared to disk-bound word processors and spreadsheets.
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