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Picnik's editor now built into Picasa Web Albums

Google's recent acquisition of Picnik has led to deep integration of the photo editor into Google's Picasa Web Albums site.

It was only a matter of time, but three months after acquiring Web-based photo editor Picnik, Google has gotten around to integrating the service into Picasa Web Albums.

Now, if a Picasa Web Albums user wants to make a quick edit to a photo, they can do so without leaving the photo page. Previously a user would have needed the software version of Picasa installed, or to use an external editor (such as Picnik)--both of which made for a disjointed experience.

While a seemingly minor move, it's the first step by Google to integrate the Picnik editor into additional Google services, and a sign that Picnik will live on as its own entity instead of being re-branded or absorbed into another Google property. "You will see that theme moving forward in time," explained Jonathan Sposato, who was Picnik's CEO and is now lead product manager of photos for Google. "Things will become more rationalized, more consistent."

According to Sposato, whom CNET spoke with on Monday, that consistency can still be found with Picnik's core product, which will contain the same feature set, even in on partner sites like Yahoo's Flickr and Mail properties. More importantly, the paid version of will continue for the foreseeable future. "Essentially the free and paid partition is staying the same," Sposato said. "People who are Picasa Web Albums users--if they have already used Picnik's paid version, will be preserved. If they find Picnik on Picasa for the first time, they're already signed in."

Sposato says that Google's photo team is in the process of simplifying the experience for Google account holders, who will soon be able to log into the photo-editing site (from Picasa) without having to sign up for a new account.

The new Picnik edit option in Picasa
The new Picnik edit option in Picasa Web Albums. Google
The new Picnik edit option in Picasa
Once clicked, the Picnik editing interface opens up on top of your Picasa Web Albums workspace. Google

As for whether Google intends to keep Picnik's existing integration in places like Flickr and Yahoo Mail, Sposato said that's not something that's changing anytime soon. "I am delighted with our other partners. Everyone acknowledges that our users benefit from Picnik, and it makes sense to keep on keeping on," he said.

One benefit of joining Google's ranks is that Picnik is moving from its own servers, which were located a few miles away from its Seattle headquarters, to Google's server farm. Sposato said that move has freed him and his team up to refocus on developing the product. "It was a big load off my mind. I used to be presented by some of the bills and invoices for servers, or from our engineers, who would say 'I might have bought some new machines.'"

That move is now nearly finished. "Less than 10 percent of our machines have not yet migrated," Sposato said. "It takes a long time to migrate data, and we have reached such sufficient scale. I would say moving forward, another month and we will be at 100 percent."

As of March, Picnik had been used to edit more than 1 billion photos, and for the month of June the site topped 20 million unique users. Sposato said he expects both of those numbers to grow once the feature goes live later today.