Services & Software

Scrapblog: Wow (with caveats)

Srapblog is a gorgeous service for creative people who want to build online scrapbooks

Here's a new Web app that will knock you flat: Scrapblog. In development since last year, the site finally went public on Monday, April 2. It's a service for creating online multimedia packages, in particular, collections of photos and videos. As you might gather from the name, its designers want to deliver a level of flexibility that's similar to what you get when you're building a real-world scrapbook.

With Scrapblog, it's easy to place photos anywhere on a page, rotate them, crop them, and so on. The same for videos--but so far, you can get video in only via YouTube URLs. You can also set presentations to music (Scrapblog's canned selections only so far), and set transitions between pages. You can then embed your presentation in a blog or a social network page.

Building a Scrapblog CNET Networks

Notwithstanding those restrictions--and a few bugs, especially around publishing projects--nothing that I've seen, Web-based or not, does the job of creating free-form presentations as well as this application (disclosure: I have not used Keynote). Here's one I created in a few minutes.

CEO Carlos Garcia told me that Scrapblog has attracted an unusual demographic for a Web service: 80 percent of its users are female. A lot of them are what he calls "mommy bloggers": mothers setting up pages to document what the kids and the family are up to.

Certainly, you can create a more engaging presentation with Scrapblog than you can with a photo-sharing site, or even a blog such as Vox (review). However, the free-form nature of the system means that getting your presentation just right will take time. There are good templates on Scrapblog, but since the whole point of this system is to let you express your creativity, I think that even users who start with a template will spend a fair amount of time modifying it to create just the look they want. Scrapblog is no replacement for PowerPoint--although I'll give bonus points to any CEO who uses Scrapblog instead of PowerPoint in a presentation.

As I said, Scrapblog is an excellent online application. It's based on Adobe's Flex and uses a lot of the fancy user-interface options available on that platform. However, because it's online there are a few snags. Mostly, the speed of uploading photos is limited by your connection, and if you have a lot, it can be frustrating to wait (although if you already have images Flickr, Yahoo Photos, Webshots, or PhotoBucket, Scrapblog has a simple interface for quickly "sideloading" the images into it). And, of course, you can't use it if you're offline. This summer, the company will release a standalone front-end to the service using the Apollo (review) runtime, Garcia told me. It will allow you to import photos directly from your hard disk and upload them all to the service when you choose to "publish" your scrapbook.

The service is free. In the future, premium services may include printing options and licensed content (graphics, themes, and music).

See also: Vuvox, Tabblo, LetterPop, and Apple's iWeb.