Microsoft Live Labs' Seadragon project now doubles as a social image host.
The technology, which allows large images to be loaded and scaled at high speeds while zooming and panning, powers a new media sharing and exploring service called Zoom.it.
Zoom.it can take any hosted image on the Web and place it within the company's Deep Zoom interface, allowing for large and complex images or graphics to fit in small spaces without a loss in quality or need for extra room.
The process of getting an image onto the service is as simple as pasting in a link to where it's hosted online, or sticking "http://zoom.it/?url=" in front of the URL of any Web page you're on. In either case, you get a hosted version of that image on its own page.
Included on each Zoom.it photo page is a short URL for sharing the end creation on places like Twitter, as well as code to embed it on any site, like I've done below with this shot from my CNET colleague Stephen Shankland (taken on a $55k camera, I might add):
In the case of the above image, you're looking at a 6874x4888 photograph, which gets redrawn as you zoom in or out. It also loads the whole image a whole lot faster than if you were to try to access the source file in your browser.
On the back-end of the service, Microsoft says Zoom.it is running on Windows Azure, the company's cloud computing platform. On top of that is an API, which Microsoft is giving developers access to in order to build Zoom.it uploading into their applications. There's also a bookmarklet, which users can drag up to the bookmarks bar in their browser to have the service fetch the entirety of whatever images are on the page they're looking at, as I've done below with the front page of CNET News:
You'll notice the links and text didn't come along for the ride, but otherwise the service could be used as a very simple and powerful archive of various Web sites. This is especially true of media-rich sites.
In case you're reading this on a mobile phone (like from our spiffy new iPhone app), Microsoft has made each Zoom.it page viewable on mobile devices that use a Web-based viewer. On the iPhone and multitouch-enabled Android devices, this even lets you pinch to zoom. You can give it a spin on this image.
Microsoft acquired Seadragon Software in early 2006, after which its members became a part of the Microsoft Live Labs team, whose other projects include Photosynth and Pivot. Several other Live Labs projects that have since been "retired," include Thumbtack, Listas, Deepfish and Web Sandbox.
Related: Microsoft launches 3D wonder Photosynth for consumers (2008)