You Don't Need a Glossy Screen for a Mag-Like Experience Online

Media Morph: PicLens

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NEW YORK ( -- Every week Ad Age Digital's Media Morph looks at how emerging technology is changing the way consumers get their information and media companies and advertisers present their messages. This week: PicLens.

WHAT IT IS: A plug-in that users install on their internet browsers (it's a recommended add-on in Firefox 3) -- to reconfigure the way images are presented on the web. Static, 2-D images get a more 3-D, iPhone-like interface.

HOW IT WORKS: Download the PicLens plug-in, then visit one of the sites it modifies -- Google Image Search, Flickr, Facebook's photo site or YouTube's video search. When you're on a site that is PicLens enabled, a small icon will show up in the tool bar. When clicked, the page's content adopts the PicLens interface. Released in January, PicLens has 7.5 million downloads and 2 million active users, 40% of which are in the U.S.

WHO'S BEHIND IT: PicLens is created by a company called Cooliris, which creates technology that lives on top of browsers and allows people to surf the web in different ways. "We want to be the interface to the web," said Shashi Seth, former Google search product manager and head of monetization for YouTube, who was recently brought on to help figure out its business model. Cooliris is funded by Silicon Valley firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

THE MARKETING FACTOR: That business model Mr. Seth is cooking up? Advertising, natch. He believes the site will be great for brand advertisers who desire richer web creative, and a particular boon for fashion and luxury brands that have eschewed the web because it doesn't match the visual bar set by magazines. "The experience isn't dissimilar to flipping through a Vogue or GQ where content and advertising feel similar," he said.

Another business model the company is banking on is commerce and improving the shopping experience online -- making it, Mr. Seth said, as rich as the in-store experience or a glossy catalog. Already it has worked to enable some pages.
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