Adobe Debuts Free, Online Version of Photoshop

Last Updated Mar 28, 2008 10:06 PM EDT

Adobe introduced a free, online version of its popular Photoshop software Thursday. It's an interesting experiment to take one of its flagship programs and apply it to a business model that is becoming more popular online: let users use a limited version of it for free all they want, or to use all features for a fee.

Still, it's not clear whether Adobe is making this move because it wants to, or because it doesn't have much choice. Called Photoshop Express, the site lets members upload photos, edit and store them or share them on social network sites like Facebook. The editing features range from cropping and touch-ups to tweaks like saturation, white balance and image sharpening or distortion.

A blog post on Wired News gave Photoshop Express a largely positive review, although it also noted that there are already established sites that have similar offerings, including Picnik and FotoFlexer. Google's Picasa application also has an API that can allow it to interface with photo-sharing sites.

The Photoshop Express interface is somewhat nicer, but Picnik, for example, has already partnered with many photo sharing sites and the editor is directly integrated into those services. That means, at Flickr for instance, you can have unlimited storage (with a pro account) and the Picnik editor, all without leaving the site.
So while Adobe may be trying to seize a new market opportunity, it also has little choice if it doesn't want to lose users to these new photo-editing rivals. And some people are already put off by some conditions in Adobe's terms of use. As one alert commenter on the Wired item quickly spotted this clause:
Adobe does not claim ownership of Your Content. However, with respect to Your Content that you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Services, you grant Adobe a worldwide, royalty-free, nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable license to use, distribute, derive revenue or other remuneration from, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content (in whole or in part)....
In other words, Adobe doesn't want to own your edited photos, but it might as well.

Update: There are signs Photoshop may amend its terms of use to address widespread complaints.

  • Kevin Kelleher

    Kevin Kelleher writes a regular stock column at and is a contributor to Wired, Popular Science, and GigaOm. He has previously worked as a reporter and editor at Bloomberg News, Wired News, and The Industry Standard.