Using Pixlr in a Rich User way….

The original World Wide Web was a platform for accessing static content encoded in hypertext markup language. User interaction was limited to navigating links and entering data in forms. This thin-client architecture was simple and universal but severely limited the applications that could be delivered over the Internet. The data was on the server and the user would download information when needed (Fraternali, Rossi, & Sánchez-Figueroa, 2010).

As early as 1992, active content has been delivered within a web browser. This active content was referred to as ‘applets’(O’Reilly, 2007). Early attempts included interactive objects, animated presentation effects, and input validation.

Nowadays, technology has progressed past HTML/HTTP and moved onto rich Internet applications (RIAs). These combine the web’s distribution architecture with a desktop’s interactivity and computation power.

Which are RIAs are being used in Australia. Check out

Some of the benefits of this technology include higher user satisfaction. As the functionality has moved more towards the user, the IT infrastructure is reduced on the server-side and the performance increases (Watson, 2012).


Pixlr is a photo editing service that offers a full photo editor or a vintage retro effect tool directly in the user’s web browser.

Pixlr is a great example of Web 2.0 application that demonstrates rich user experience. It is ‘connected’ because a user can save images to a URL for others to look, send the images via Facebook. It is also interactive as the user can capture and manipulate their own images, immediately seeing any changes to the image.

The vintage retro effect tool in Pixlr

The functionality of the photo editing software is as good as Photoshop. The speed of the manipulation would have you believe it was on your computer…… Unfortunately, Photoshop is a thick client that has to be installed on a desktop and it costs $US699.00.

This editing software is just like software but on the internet…..

Other similar Web 2.0 applications

Cameroid is another similar Web 2.0 product although it seems to only do candid photo manipulation and does not have the full editor.

Legal Implications

Are there any grounds for Adobe to sue Pixlr for copyright of their software? As I imagine they have lost a lot of sales of Photoshop these days, with Pixlr able to do everything that Photoshop does on the internet without a cost.

Pixlr mentions on their terms of service page that if a photo is uploaded, posted, shared, emailed or otherwise transmitted, Pixlr has the right to do whatever they like with that image but they do not claim ownership of the photo…… Interesting!

Future Directions

This is amazing software, I really can’t imagine how far they can go with this….. I guess that’s why I am not the millionaire owner of Pixlr….. they have apps for Android and Apple already!


Fraternali, P., Rossi, G., & Sánchez-Figueroa, F. (2010). Rich internet applications. Internet Computing, IEEE, 14(3), 9-12.

Pixlr. (2010). Pixlr Terms of Service. Retrieved 1st April 2012 from

O’Reilly, T. (2007). What is Web 2.0: Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software.

Watson, J. (2012). Rich User Experiences. On Web 2.0 Applications. Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology.


15 thoughts on “Using Pixlr in a Rich User way….

  1. Hi Nicole,

    Great Post! I was very interested in researching if there was any other alternatives to Photoshop available online which are completely free. If you are interested in Pixlr, may I recommend you check out my latest blog ( which talks about Adobe’s freeware version of Photoshop. Furthermore, a very interesting post you have blogged, especially the information about the legal implications of these programs.

    Joshua Flinn

    • Your blog compliments this one well. So for anyone, I would recommended reading Joshua’s blog after this one.
      I am fascinated by these Web 2.0 applications but there is always thoughts in the back of my mind about what could go wrong with it – whether it be privacy implications or legal implications. For me, before signing up for any app – I always check to see what data I am actually handing over!

  2. Your article makes me wonder what the future of Photoshop will look like in a few years time… I suspect that ‘casual’ users will more and more gravitate towards online photo/image editing apps such as Pixlr, while print and design professional will continue to use costly ‘heavy-weight’ (and higher performance, I hasten to add) desktop applications. Interestingly, I have chosen a similar rich web application for my blog entry this week, an online drawing program called Muro 🙂

    • You have hit the nail on the head there- I think Photoshop will continue to exist but will be used by professionals only. There will still be a market for the really intricate stuff that Photoshop (and only Photoshop can offer). But for the rest of us that pretend to know what we are doing with Photoshop these new simplifed version like Pixlr and Muro will be perfect.
      Adobe is not sitting back doing nothing though and as Josh explains above, they too have launched a Web 2.0 application that is free.
      This competition is great for the consumer!

      • I think this is a development you see, not only in this pic editing service, but in a lot of places. You have googledocs instead of the microsoft package. And probably so many more examples. I suspect a lot of businesses are going through their business strategy at this time..

  3. No doubt there are a lot of online photo editors that are cutting into Photoshop’s bottom line. I need to investigate which ones are collaborative. I know there are very basic virtual whiteboards for groups to sketch on, but haven’t seen much more. I’m just waiting for the day when Adobe has to price Photoshop much cheaper and place it in the cloud. They should at least have a streamlined version that syncs up with the desktop application. Anyway.. I’m rambling. Nice blog. Have a splendid rest of the day.

    • I did a quick search around to see if there are any apps that allow collaboration of image editing. I could not find any. That certainly doesn’t mean they are not out there but just that they are not up there with the best yet. I had a quick look at Aviary and it does mention collaboration with other users but I gather it is more how to questions and tutorials and not the actual editing.
      There is certainly plenty of talk about the ability to edit collaboratively as just one example I can think of would be a great tool for designers who send an image to a client who can then edit the ideas.

  4. I don’t agree with the comment “As the functionality has moved more towards the user, the IT infrastructure is reduced on the server-side and the performance increases”. It’s pretty much the opposite – computations are being performed on the server side and then fed back through the presentation layer to the user – they’re not being computed on the desktop side which is why they appear to load so fast (backend compute/memory/IO is much higher performing than your regular desktop).

    Just playing around briefly with Pixlr I can see it’s pretty powerful and the response time was impressive.

    • Thanks for your feedback. It is interesting you say this….. As I think a little more research may be required into this to see whether Pixlr has actually had to purchase more computing power to provide it’s users with the fantastic response time that they have. My thought is, that even if each user’s device does just some of the computing then it would still reduce the levels of hardware that Pixlr requires. But I am certainly not the expert on hardware requirements for Web 2.0 applications! Your comment has certainly got me thinking, thanks.

      • Yeah I may have been a bit quick to jump the gun. From doing more research I’ve found that the power of a lot of Web 2.0 applications is that they are able to store some of their javascript files and XML on local disk for when the APIs call them.

        I’m not too sure how it all works to be quite honest, all I know is Pixlr is pretty quick 🙂

  5. Thank you give a diagram to show the popularization of web technology, that’s really direct observation. even Flash still be the most popular technology to rich user experience, I believe it will be replaced in several years. I cannot deny that some traditional desktop software like Adobe Photoshop, even it is facing the challenge from web application. as a professional software, most desktop application still have large space to develop!

  6. Pixlr seems to be way more functional the the freeware version of Photoshop. Friends that I know who have CS5 on their desktops are very disappointed with the Photoshop app but what do you expect for free, for children is a phrase I have heard once or twice. Interesting how they claim to have no ownership of the data held yet they can do whatever they like with it. I wonder where that could lead…

    • Interesting you say that about Photoshop’s app. I guess they are feeling the pressure to produce a web 2.0 application but may not be focused in that area.
      I guess my question is – Is it worth Adobe publishing a poor Photoshop Web 2.0 app or letting others take all the glory for far more polished applications?
      If I was Adobe I think I would get my foot in the door somehow!

      • Maybe their user research/testing was focused more towards a ‘fun’ app for manipulating photos to be uploaded to FB and other apps like Pixlr focused more on a more serious photographic manipulation package.

  7. Great poast ! I like how you used a specific example to structure your entire post. Interesting application, too, as an infrequent user of photosohp, I think this may be a good alternative for your quick-and-dirty work on the go.

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