Yahoo Inc. is touching up its popular online photo-sharing service, Flickr, with free editing tools aimed at the growing number of shutterbugs who want to doctor their digital pictures.
The editing software, expected to be introduced late Tuesday in a partnership with Picnik Inc., represents Yahoo's latest attempt to broaden Flickr's appeal as the Sunnyvale-based company closes its older Yahoo Photos service.
"We think this is going to be very attractive to mainstream users," said Kakul Srivastava, Flickr's senior director of product management.
With its stock price stuck in a malaise that has lasted two years, Yahoo has been trying to make more money from all its services, including Flickr, which it bought in 2005. The profit push is one reason Yahoo is closing Yahoo Photos, which launched in 2000.
Although Flickr offers free accounts with limited photo storage to all comers, the service also sells $24.95 annual subscriptions that accommodate unlimited uploading. Yahoo is betting the editing tools will encourage more people to pay to show a larger number of pictures on the site.
Picnik, a Seattle-based startup run by an entrepreneur who sold his last venture, software startup PhatBits, to Google for an undisclosed amount in early 2005, is counting on the Flickr connection to help pay the bills now.
A more sophisticated version of Picnik's editing tools costs $24.95 a year.
The editing software fills a glaring void at Flickr, which has blossomed into one of the Web's busiest photo-sharing communities.
Most of Flickr's rivals, including Shutterfly Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Snapfish, Kodak Gallery and Google Inc.'s Picasa, already offer free photo-editing tools.
Flickr's decision to adopt Picnik's software reflects the rising demand for photo-editing applications now that people regularly post pictures they take with their mobile phones, said Gartner Inc. analyst Michael McGuire. Most phones don't have high-quality cameras so the pictures they produce beg for more touching up.
Even without the allure of photo editing, according to comScore Media Metrix, Flickr is the most-trafficked U.S. photo-sharing site that doesn't revolve around a social network.
Flickr attracted 14.7 million U.S. visitors in October, ranking only behind Facebook Inc.'s photo-sharing service, which had 23.2 million visitors, and Photobucket.com, which had 22.2 million and caters to MySpace.com users. Both Photobucket and MySpace are owned by News Corp.
Picnik's software provides more than 20 different applications that handle basic editing jobs, like removing red eyes from photos, and provide special effects that can jazz up photos with richer colors and fanciful borders.
"When they are using Picnik, people get the feeling that they are never more than one click away from being a rock-star photographer," said Jonathan Sposato, Picnik's CEO.
Sposato stayed at Google for nearly a year before leaving to take the reins at Picnik.
Neither Sposato nor Flickr's Srivastava would discuss whether Yahoo explored buying Picnik instead of simply partnering with the startup.