Picnik Crashers

Why did Google kill Seattle’s prized picture-editing site?

By Matthew Halverson March 23, 2012 Published in the April 2012 issue of Seattle Met

Photo: Nelson Marques/Shutterstock

WHEN GOOGLE ANNOUNCED in January that it was shuttering Picnik—the Seattle-based photo-editing site it bought in 2010—it was such a “WTF” moment that Kyla Fairchild thought it was a joke. “I’m a commonsense, straight-shootin’ kind of person,” says Fairchild, who logged into the user-friendly site to resize, crop, and clean up photos for her online Americana music magazine No Depression. “So when I read things that don’t register, it’s like, ‘Huh? Does not compute.’”

She had good reason to be confused. For starters, Google reportedly shelled out anywhere from $50 million to $100 million for Picnik. Why invest that kind of cash just to kill it? And the site was popular—60-million-unique-visitors-a-month popular. The mommy bloggers and Etsy store owners who used it dug that they could polish their GIFs and JPEGs without having to learn Photoshop. And when news of the closure hit on January 20 many of them went full-on Internet insane, choking Picnik’s blog with more than 1,800 comments like, “This literally has me in hysterics” and “I might die.”

But what may be most surprising about the shutdown—scheduled to take effect April 19—is the rumor that Picnik’s founder, Jonathan Sposato, was rebuffed by the search engine behemoth when he offered to buy back his baby. Sposato isn’t commenting publicly, and a Google spokesperson dodged questions about his reported bid, saying only, “We feel the time has come for us to retire Picnik so the team can continue creating photo editing magic across Google products.”

Picnik devotees haven’t stopped searching for a solution, though. Tennessee teenager Jorden Albright, in an effort to convince Google to reconsider, launched an online petition, which as of late February had amassed more than 4,000 signatures. “People have told me that they’d like to buy Picnik as a piece of software,” she says. “So hopefully if we don’t get Google to stop the shutdown, we can at least arrange something like that so Picnik doesn’t completely vanish off the earth.”

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