PhotoSynth released as a Worldwide “Software + Services” Download, to become part of MSN

By Kip Kniskern | In News | Posted August 21, 2008 8 comments

photosynthlogo Photosynth, which was initially released as a Microsoft Live Labs Technology Preview, is being released as a new free service, to become part of MSN.  The new product, available at, combines a 20gb online storage and presentation piece, an add-in to Internet Explorer or FireFox, and a downloadable 8mb installation to create one of the first true “Software + Services” offerings coming out of Ray Ozzie’s Microsoft Live Labs.

We’re going to stick with the announcement, here, and strongly encourage you to sign up and play with PhotoSynth.  It is available immediately worldwide, for free, but in English only at this time.  There are some computer restrictions:

­ A Web browser (Windows Internet Explorer 7 is recommended; Internet Explorer 6 and Firefox 2 and 3 also are supported, but not all features have been tested in all browsers); a small, 7MB plug-in available free at; a broadband connection; and the Windows XP SP2 or Windows Vista operating system.

Our ace reporter Sunshine is busy playing with Photosynth, and she’ll have a much more in depth review of it soon, but you really need to head to the website, download the app (I installed it in in something less than a minute), and check out the SeaDragon seamless zoom, the PhotoSynth viewer, and the ease with which this whole experience comes together.


Currently stocked with some preview “synths” from the likes of National Geographic and some Microsoft employees, users will be able to log in with a Windows Live ID, download the app, and begin immediately to create, upload and share “synths” of their own.  I talked today to Alex Daley, General Product Manager of Live Labs, about the process.  “In about the time it takes to upload the photos”, the client app will create relationships between the photos, and upload them to your catalog on  If you have been following along, you may remember Robert Scoble and others showing off early versions of PhotoSynth, and commenting on how it at that time took about a day and a half to create a “synth”.  With this new version, creating a synth may take just a few minutes.

The PhotoSynth site recommends using between 20 and 300 pictures (which can be from any camera at any resolution, from camera phone to DSLR, in any combination), but really there is no limit on the number of photos except for the processing power of your local client computer, on which all the relationship processing is done, and the 20gb limit of a Live ID account.

Daley also explained the ease at which one could get the best experience from PhotoSynth: for example the site will know which photos you have already uploaded, so if you create a new similar synth, or revamp an old one, even from a different computer, PhotoSynth will only upload the photos it needs.  PhotoSynth will also grade your “synthiness”, that is give you a score on how many of your photos are related by the calculations.  You could then, for example, create a synth, see that you had some holes, go back and take some more photos, and create a new version.  The best way to do this, Daley said, is to keep a folder containing your synth files, as you won’t actually edit a synth, but create a new one.

The site also mentions what Daley referred to as “crowd-sourcing”, that is taking photos from a number of users and combining them into a “synth”.  Currently that can only be accomplished by gathering photos together manually and creating a synth on a single account, but Daley said that long term, more “crowd-sourching” options were definitely being considered.

With this release, PhotoSynth moves out of Microsoft Live Labs and joins MSN as part of the Virtual Earth team:

Photosynth will begin to become a key part of the experience for MSN’s 550 million monthly visitors worldwide. Synths will be prominently featured on To create a more absorbing experience for its visitors, MSN will use synths of popular destinations and notable events in many of the places where static images are used on the site today.

We’ll have a lot more on this new fun technology soon, but for now, head right over to, and make your own synth now!

Posted August 21st, 2008 at 1:01 pm
Category: News
Tags: PhotoSynth
  • quikboy

    All right! It’s fantastic! I’ve been using it for a bit, and it’s absolutely awesome. I can’t wait for the crowd-sourcing bit to come.

    I don’t like the new controls however. I’ll kinda miss the camera angle display thingy, and the 3D fly-around was pretty fun. I also miss the old grid view that showed the select photo right in the center, with similar photos around the edges of it.

    It’s great to see them finally finish though, and now a lot of people can use it. I’ll try to get as many pictures as my high school I can, before I make a synth. Can’t wait to check out all the news ones.

  • Alber1690

    It’s very interesting how the picked MSN as the marketing brand, considering all the picture-related stuff they’re doing on the Windows Live front.

  • Chris

    Albert1690: yes that is an interesting choice. However given there is no MSN anywhere near the name, it seems to be more of a strategic “where do we place this final product within the org?”. If they’d called it MSN Photosynth then that would be annoying!

  • Kip Kniskern

    PhotoSynth is part of the Virtual Earth team, as was reported here on LiveSide. According to the PhotoSynth press release tonight “Following this release, the Photosynth team will join MSN — an important step in continuing to improve Photosynth and share the experience with an even wider audience. ” So “joining” MSN may be more of a marketing phrase than a re-org – we’ll try to get confirmation.

  • quikboy

    Hey, they took down the Deepfish browser page. I saw this blog entry and it said they gave up:

    That really sucks. Microsoft really needs to start rethinking the idea of a mobile browser. As well as doing a whole redo on WinMo and pushing the hardware makers to do a consistent form factor to work on.

  • jntowers

    I’m not trying to be a cynic, but is there any practical use to Photosynth? If you have to go to the effort to take pictures in an appropriate manner for it to work correctly anyway, I don’t see how it’s much different than just creating a slideshow with a fade effect. That, to me, seems to be what a majority of these look like so far anyway. I mean, it’s a cool tool, especially when you get the high “synthy” percentages – but I don’t really see a practical use. But hey, I tend to be shortsighted, so please educate me!

  • Kip Kniskern

    @jntowers – certainly there’s a cool factor, also creating 360degree views required special equipment that can now be done with a simple camera. For practical use, we’ll have to see how MSN puts it to use, but especially with “crowdsourcing” there could be some very cool use cases.

    And btw did check on VE/MSN. “In terms of VE/MSN, they are both part of the same organization.” – that from an MS spokesperson.

  • joeale

    How will this used msn and can it bee used on windows live spaces.