Photosynth

Microsoft‘s Photosynth is a simple, easy to use iPhone app to take a 360° photo by simply moving your camera around and snapping areas, then store them as interactive panoramas on Bing Maps, Facebook or on photosynth.net. In their own words:

Today, we’re introducing the official Photosynth app which lets you capture amazing panoramas of your favorite places to share with your friends and even the world with Bing Maps. […] Photosynth’s interactive panoramas allow you to look left, right, up and down, letting you capture and view more of the places you visit.

It sounds cool. It looks cool. It even works really quite well. And since the iPhone app is free, there’s really no barrier for you (if you have an iPhone that is) to give it a try.

But here’s my frustration with this whole thing: it requires you to install Silverlight if you wish to actually see and use these interactive panoramas. I’m sure most people are relatively unfazed by this, but anyone who cares about the betterment of the Web as a platform will be frustrated by this proprietary plugin’s requirement.

It also strengthens the argument that Microsoft is a company where one arm has no idea what the other arm is doing, and vice versa. Less than a week ago, Dean Hachamovitch gave us the “Native HTML5” announcement on the IE blog which, weird stuff aside, at least suggests that Microsoft remains committed to the open web as a platform, but then today they go back to pushing their proprietary plugin onto the world.

In case you’re curious, Google Maps Streetview—easily the closest simile in terms of what it is and does—uses either the (far more ubiquitous) Flash plugin, or, if that’s unavailable, standards-based JavaScript, HTML and CSS3.

I truly hope that Microsoft will add the latter as an implementation to Photosynth, because until then, this product is somewhat of a frankensteinian creation: an iOS app (only) to capture with, a Silverlight requirement to view, and all designed to extend a standards-friendly, web-based maps platform.

UPDATE: As a couple of readers pointed out to me, Photosynth itself as a service and technology has actually been around for years, it’s only the iPhone app that’s new. I did not notice that it had been.

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