Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Embed zoomable images on web pages with Microsoft Seadragon

Microsoft Live Labs has recently released a new free service called Seadragon that lets you transform any image into a Seadragon-powered zoomable photo widget that can be embedded on your website or anywhere that accepts HTML codes. With Seadragon you can share large resolution photos that are impossible to embed on a page because of it’s size.

To use Seadragon you don’t require to signup for anything. However, you will require to upload the image you want to share to your website or any image sharing site because Seadragon doesn’t host images. After you have uploaded the image, get the URL of the full resolution image and enter it at Seadragon. Within a few moments, depending upon the size of the image, the service will create a zoomable version of the image.

You can then copy the link to the zoomable image viewer and share it with others or grab the JavaScript widget code and embed it on a webpage.

The best thing about Seadragon is that it uses both Silverlight and Ajax to display the widget depending on what the browser has. If the browser has Silverlight installed, the widget takes advantage of the Silverlight platform to deliver a smooth zooming experience. If the browser doesn’t have Silverlight installed or installed but disabled, Seadragon switches to the Ajax technology to render the widget. The appearance and features are identical, but the performance is a bit slower and jerky than with Silverlight.

The process is transparent and the user won’t even know which method is used to display the image. No messages asking to install Silverlight or any other such bothers.

You can test this yourself on the zoombale image embedded above. First disable Silverlight and refresh the page to see the performance. Then enable or install the plug-in and refresh the page again to see the difference.

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