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Google Gobbles Up Photo Editing Web Site Picnik

Google acquired photo editing Web site Picnik this week, marking the company's third acquisition in less than a month.

Picnik's Web site offers photo editing within a Web browser for a variety of image formats. The site is compatible with Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems, and Picnik's service also allows users to pull photos from Google's own Picasa photo sharing service, as well as Flickr, Facebook, Photobucket, and other sites. The basic service on Picnik is free, along with premium memberships that run between $4.95 and $24.95 a month. While Picnik only has approximately 20 employees, the site pulls in 40 million unique visitors a month.

"More than ever before, people are sharing and storing their photos online," wrote Brian Axe, product management director at Google, in an official blog post. "But until recently, you had to edit your photos using client software on your computer." Now, Axe wrote, Picnik allows users to perform "photo editing in the cloud" and stay in their Web browser rather than working with a cumbersome or expensive application. The acquisition clearly strengthens Google's play in cloud computing.

The Picnik team will be integrated into Google's Seattle offices but will retain its brand name and Web site. Both Google and Picnik have stated that Picnik users will not be forced to sign into Google to use the photo editing site. "We're not announcing any significant changes to Picnik today, though we'll be working hard on integration and new features," Axe wrote.

The deal marks Google's third acquisition in less than a month. The company recently acquired Aardvark, a company that offers a social search service, and ReMail, an e-mail search program for mobile devices that was previously designed for Apple's iPhone but has since been discontinued for that platform.

The Picnik acquisition may be another jab from Google at budding rival Apple. Picnik has long been viewed as a hot acquisition target, and a recent Time Magazine article listed on Picnik's press site speculated that Apple might buy the photo editing company. In fact, Jonathan Sposato, Picnik's founder and CEO, was quoted in the article as saying that Picnik "would add tremendous lift" to Apple.

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