5 Random Thoughts About Google Buying Nik Software

In News by Matt K48 Comments

NOTE: This is an old blog post. I was obviously very wrong about some of my thoughts in it, as it looks like Nik is officially dead according to the Google/Nik website and the message (at the very top in orange) that they have no plans of updating the plug-ins again. (Link)

If you haven’t heard the news, Google announced yesterday that it acquired Nik Software. Now, most of you reading this probably know Nik Software for it’s Photoshop and Lightroom plug-ins. And of course, I’m sure you’ve probably heard of Nik’s Snapseed (which won the App of the Year for 2011). But my guess is, you still know and like them just as much (if not more) for their Photoshop/Lightroom plug-ins.

Well, most of the websites I’ve been reading about this acquisition on, are writing about how Google really wants Snapseed. They’re reporting that Nik Software says Snapseed is used by 9 million people. So of course that’s the product that’s making all the news. Now…I personally don’t know the numbers so I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Silver Efex Pro or Color Efex Pro don’t have 9 million users 🙂 The plug-ins are really geared for the “pro” (or the pro-ish person) right? (yes, that’s you – even if you’re not a professional photographer making money at it every day, you’re still considered a pro, to most casual iPhone shooters out there). That’s usually a much smaller audience, so the plug-ins haven’t been talked about as much since the announcement. Anyway, figuring most of you either use, have used, or are thinking of using their plug-ins, I figured I’d write 5 quick random thoughts on the whole topic.

  • 1. I tend to agree with the masses that a big part of this acquisition had to do with Snapseed. I’ve seen a lot of people afraid that their favorite plug-ins will now fall by the wayside. But here’s the thing… Nik Software wasn’t just about Snapseed. They have a long history and many years of great plug-ins, so I have a hard time thinking that Google is just going to throw Snapseed into Google+ and call it quits on everything else. I mean, why not just buy Snapseed from Nik if that was the case?
  • 2. Going on the previous point, Google is into photography. Many of the high-level people in their photo departments really like shooting. So, again, I have a hard time thinking they’ll just abandon all of the great software that Nik has created over the years. (Update: Looks like I was wrong)
  • 3. In the short term, I don’t think anything changes. Your Nik plug-ins will continue to work as the same plug-ins that you purchased when you were happy to purchase them. Nik isn’t known for updating their plug-ins every year. So most of them are fairly new in their life cycle, and I’m not sure we would have seen any huge updates in the near-term anyway. I do think that unless Google or Nik come out and say something about what the future holds, it’ll definitely hurt future sales. When I was at Photoshop World the other week, I had a ton of people ask me if they should buy Nik’s Silver Efex Pro or onOne Software’s new Perfect Black and White plug-in. In the short term, with no clue how the software will be supported in the future (even though lots of people think it will still be supported just fine), this acquisition makes their decision pretty easy.
  • 4. I’d love to hear Adobe’s thoughts on all this. Were Nik’s plug-ins going to ever overtake Photoshop and/or Lightroom as the king of editing apps for photographers? They seemed to be creating products that worked “with” Photoshop and Lightroom, rather than in place of them. But Google on the other hand… this could get interesting. Could this eventually turn in to a competitor to Photoshop or Lightroom? (Update: Ummmm… no)
  • 5. I’ll finish with this thought. On the home page of Nik Software it reads “On Sept. 17 2012, Nik Software Joins Google”. All I can say is this. That strikes me as a company that’s happy about it’s move. I personally know a number of people at Nik Software. They’re passionate photographers and very committed to their software. I could totally be wrong here, but the message on their home page and the level at which I’ve seen the folks at Nik operate make me think this could be a good thing. Personally, I’m excited to see where it goes.

Question: What’s your thoughts on the acquisition? Good? Bad? Or you just don’t care?


  1. Eric Nadler

    Regarding Nik overtaking Lightroom… I believe Nik also created Nikon Capture NX 2. That is a competitor for Lightroom.

    Best case, Google releases all the Nikon Capture NX 2 code into Picasa for free and adds Canon support. This would seriously take on Lightroom and Aperture.

    Worst case, Google drops Nikon Capture NX 2 and forces its users to move to Lightroom, Aperture, etc.

    1. Author
      Matt Kloskowski

      Sorry Eric, but Capture NX2 isn’t a competitor to Lightroom. It was released in 2008. That’s when Lightroom 2 was out. Lightroom and just about every other program out there has surpassed NX2. In software time, 4 years might as well be 40. Now, they could choose to do something with NX2 and that could change things. But if they don’t, it’ll continue to die. When people don’t see an update for 4 years to their software, they tend to move on.

  2. Stefan

    I had just bought Silver Efex Pro two weeks ago and now this announcement. Not sure if I should care or not. I have now two NIK plugin sets (Color Efex and Silver Efex) but I use them only in rare cases. as they work with the current versions of Adobe LR and PS I’m good and I guess they will for another 3-4 years, since I do not necessarily intend to upgrade to the coming Adobe products. And 4 years is along time in Software or do you still use all the software you used back than (besides PS 7 ;)).

    In general I think it’s a bad situation when companies like NIK or Instagram dissapear but this also gives space for new startups and software stars. It remains exciting…

  3. Grant Luther

    It seems that there’s lots of people who have good luck and actually like Google products but I can’t say I am included in that group. However I love the Nik products and thus I am concerned the quality of any new Nik products will decline. That is if there are any new ones and if that is the case it would be a shame.

  4. Dennis Zito

    Hi Matt,

    Having worked in the corporate world for many, many years, I’m very skeptical about this take over. If Nik software doesn’t meet the corporate earning requirements, they’ll be history or sold off to someone else. These things are all about money and earnings, which is what corporations should be doing for their stock holders. Having been through about three of these in my career, three to five years will tell the tell for Nik software. Personally, I’m sorry to see this happen. I love and use my Nik software every day for one reason or another. I’m not a fan of Google and there operation. Very sorry to see this happen.


  5. John Richardson

    This is a tough one. Surely Nik will put on the happy face to the public. But for us consumers it is like how many times have we seen the writing on the wall with acquisitions? Happy face or not?

    I can only hope, Google has the sense to let the Nik Dev team continue to create and upgrade the desktop plug-ins that many of use use everyday, not because we have to but because we WANT to and love them.

    If Google only wanted Snapseed, I agree with you Matt, Nik could have just sold it to them. I can only hope that an infusion of cash into Nik Software will allow them to pursue their dreams/plans for different or better packages. This backing is a huge plus that Nik will have over their competition; only IF Google-ites keep their fingers out of the pie they my not truly understand because they aren’t the bakers. Nik has good pie, don’t mess with the recipe.

    I sincerely hope the products do not decline, I hope the support does not drop off, I hope the upgrades continue coming to keep compatible with OS’s and parent packages like LR4, Photoshop and Aperture. AND I hope the Snapseed Division stays intact and develops new products. Oh yeah, and no layoffs at Nik!

  6. Hilton

    Dennis, I don’t follow your logic. Of course the new kid on the block has to earn his keep but I doubt Google is ‘holding thumbs’ that it will get a return. I’m pretty sure the pencil necks did the due diligence thing.

  7. Leigh Catley

    I see this acquisition as an opportunity. Wouldn’t it be great to see some really completion in the Photo editing/processing space? I love Adobe PS and LR products and the added functionality and ease of use I get from my Nik Plug-ins, but all this seems too expensive to me. A little completion is always good for the consumer so, I for one am hoping Google can take Nik Products to the next level and introduce some real completion in this space.

  8. William Chinn

    You have omitted another option. Google has what it wanted. Possibly Nik said all or nothing. Now Google can sell what it doesn’t want to own and develop. Just another option…..

  9. William Beem

    It may not have been feasible to just sell Snapseed. Acquisitions aren’t always about the product, but are sometimes about the talent behind the product, acquiring patens, or even just as a defensive move to prevent another company from making the acquisition.

    I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see Google rip out the pieces of Nik that it wants and toss away the rest. Perhaps some key executives inside of Google are avid photographers, but I don’t see the value of buying a company just to let it continue as it was doing so before. As you said, the market share for those plugins isn’t significant enough just to bring it under the Google banner.

  10. gerry suchy

    I think the the comments of William Beem and William Chinn are spot on. When I saw this yesterday my first thought was this is a corporate move to keep pace with Facebook after their acquisition of Instagram. To think that Google as a company has an intrinsic creative interest in photography is just naive. There are a huge number of cell phones and camera enabled mobile devices out there that represent huge profits. While I both admire and use Google+ as a place to interact with both amateur and pro photographers, I am increasing annoyed with the sheer volume of rubbish being posted from the one click wonders who have discovered Instagram and Snapseed. My greater worry is that Google will quickly recognize that this is the cash cow and simply stop developing the plug ins for Photoshop and Lightroom. Perhaps a competitor like On One can buy those and keep the development going.

  11. Mark Power

    I think William’s point (just above) is spot on. When it comes to these acquisitions by the behemoths of the web (so, yeah…basically Google and Facebook), it tends to be about the talent that created the product.

    I simply don’t see that photography and the development of top class editing tools (ie. Nik plugins) fits Google’s core business.

    I think they see Facebook, they see Instagram. So they look at Google + … and they see Snapseed.

    I applaud the optimism and idealism of all those people that are hailing this acquisition as something potentially great. But I’m afraid I simply don’t share it. We’ve seen great products bought up, chewed up and spat out into the gutter time and time again in this battle of the web to control the social space. As photographers we know Nik and admire their products. The rest of the global web population? Not a clue. All the great plugins developed by Nik could be gone tomorrow and none of them would be any wiser. And as such, these acquisitions are essentially nothing more than spending some pocket change on a potential opportunity.

    I’d love my pessimism to be proven unfounded though.

    1. Joe Colson

      I couldn’t have said it better, Mark. This acquisition is all about people, patents and the ability of Google to compete with the likes of Facebook. Unless the Control Point technology is licensed to Adobe (or some other company whose core business is image processing software), I don’t expect much of a future for the nik plugins. And I’ve been a nik customer since their first product.

  12. Dean Malencik

    Google has no interest in keeping and advancing the plugins that Nik has developed. Nik has always had a first rate web site with many learning tools via their webinar series. I expect this will disappear also. The Nik owners have pocketed a lot of money; for Google it was chump change.

  13. Dean Malencik

    Just an aside. I was out an Nik’s site on 9/15 and noted that everyone of their 6 plugins had been updated that day with new version numbers. I downloaded all of them.

  14. Mike Spivey

    If the purchase was all about Snapseed I would like to see Adobe license the Control point technology. If Lightroom had control points alongside the gradient and adjustment brush, it would rule the world.

  15. T.J. Powell

    Unfortunately I do not share your optimism on this. I am very concerned that the Nik products will just get absorbed and then disappear. Hopefully they will not but google has done this before with other companies they have purchased.

  16. Scotty Graham

    I love the Nik filters…I use them daily…I use them on practically every photo I process. My fear is that once google gets a hold of these filters, the innovation behind the products will be lost forever…will there no longer be updates to Silver Efex Pro or Color Efex Pro or Viveza? I sure hope there will be…please google, don’t ruin our beloved Nik!!

  17. gerard_murphy3 (@gerard_murphy3)

    This acquisition shows the growing importance of mobile in our lives. Facebook has stated that they fundamentally believe that they are a mobile picture sharing service. This is why they shelled out a billion dollars for Instagram.

    Instagram isn’t in the same league in terms of editing capabilities as Nik, but they proved to be a force in allowing quick edits that look good enough to share with your friends.

    As William and Mark said acquisitions are a lot about acquiring talent. The talent Google might be most interested in acquiring are the marketers that got 9M people to shell out $4.99 each.

    This should serve as a warning to Adobe that they can’t neglect the mobile market forever.

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  19. Matt

    Google is all about advertising and steering traffic to their online services (again for advertising). Nik’s professional desktop stuff just doesn’t strike me as working toward this goal.

    I suspect the Nik products outside of Snapseed will be reduced to a collection of Instagram like filters for use on Google+ and maybe in Android.

  20. Bob Sachs

    We all know what happens when the bigger fish eats the little fish (think CyberStudio GoLive and Adobe).
    Let’s hope that Google lets the creative minds at NIK do what they do best, develop great plug-ins that work.

  21. Eric Fialkowski (@ericfialkowski)

    You’re right on in #3 about it hurting sales. I currently have HDR Efex and was about to pull the trigger on Color Efex versus upgrade my OnOne Suite since I really like the control point technology and can’t swing both purchases. Now, I’m waiting to see some sort of announcement from Nik on the future of their plug ins. One can hope for reduced prices.

  22. craigl303

    Well, we’ve seen Adobe gobble up Frame Technologies and make Framemaker virtually disappear until most of its features were rolled into InDesign. On the other hand, Corel bought Painter and has improved it vastly. What will Google do with the Nik plugins that are so essential for many of us, professionals or not? If their past performance is a guide, they’ll keep all of the Nik plugins, but lobotomize them down to 8-bits because the masses don’t like large files and don’t understand the advantages of 16-bits.

  23. Pierre

    There are 2 possible motivations for a corporation to acquire a small company:
    1. Fill a small hole in your product line with existing products and/or
    2. Hire talented people with an experience in specific domain knowledge, along with technology to speed up a new project.
    Without Snapseed, it is unlikely that Google would have considered Nik Software. But If you look at the Snapseed vision: “…Make the digital innovations pioneered for photography professionals and bring them to everyone – all the millions of people around the world snapping photos with their phones and digital cameras”, it is pretty obvious that it fits a hole in the Google product line that has not been filled by the Picasa team.

    There are 3 things you may get when you acquire a company:
    1. the technology (products, patents etc.),
    2. the talents (people, processes…), and
    3. the brand (with its market share, its fan base…)
    And realistically, Nik offers the 3 to Google, thus is very attractive whatever their motivation is.

    There are 2 possible motivations for a startup to be acquired: Money and/or Growth. With the current valuation of any startup in the mobile space, I’m pretty sure the money is good and that should make them happy! The other reason is having the opportunity to grow a business without worrying about funding. But that has its drawbacks like dealing with corporate red tape, merge/forced collaboration with other groups like Picasa, shift focus to the part of the business that is important to the corporation…

    Anyway, the outcome is NEVER a Status Quo.

    So yes, the acquisition is about Snapseed. What about the plugins then?
    The fact that Nik+Google does not even try to reassure their pro users is not a good sign. It likely means that the plan is not ironed-out yet, and the more they wait, the less power Nik people will have to impose their own vision for their PRO products. But then, what is/was the vision for Nik Plug-ins ? What else needs to be done? Where is the growth there?

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  25. Kevin

    Well, I am currently trying to decide what plugin package to buy. Nik, Topaz or onOne? I tried the first two and liked Nik better. The price is steeper, though. Right when I made my decision to follow my liking and extended the saving plan, the acquisition came and sends me back to the drawing board. Unfortunately money matters and I can’t get all of them.

    People here and elsewhere are pretty much split up about what this means for the Nik products. Now, as much as I’d love to share your optimism, Matt, the decision did not get easier.

    So the question for me is, do I trust in Niks future (and Google) and spend my money for my favorite but also the most expensive tool set or do I go for a cheaper one, that is good but not really what I want?

    Advice is appreciated (though most people advice to buy Nik and onOne).

  26. Andrew Lashley

    I believe SketchUp owners were happy that Google bought them out a few years ago . . . . they recently offloaded SketchUp to another company after driving the use of SketchUp models in Google Earth for a few years . . so who knows.
    All the other big boys Autodesk, Adobe, Microsoft etc. over the years have bought up companies to use element of their creative output and/or to kill off possible competition! In analog days the petro chemical and motor industry bought up/killed off many innovations that they thought would adversely affect their product line.
    Use the software until it is no longer available or you find something better . . .thats how I see it.

  27. Ed Davis

    Sadly it has been my experience with purchases that the company buying has gotten to the level of “money” matters. Not the other way around “product” matters.

    May I be dead wrong!!!!

  28. Roland Dobbins

    No updates to Nik plugins for Lightroom since before the acquisition.

      1. Fraucha

        I was optimistic 6 months ago. I still am. I can only think they are under wraps a-la-Google X. 6 months to restructure and take a hard look at directions as well as the new CS6 and LR4 and 6 months to see what OnOne and Topaz have done. Now we can see what those two have done the question is what will (not CAN but WILL), Nik/Google do to beat them? Will they, can they improve CEfx4? or even Silver2? Perhaps. The proof will be in the waiting and see what a massive amount of cash for resources that Google has to put into this division that OnOne or Topaz can’t hope to match will do. They didn’t Buy Nik to toss it in the rubbish heap. I am willing to bet that we will see something major from them and keeping their mouth shut in this case is paramount to countering the offerings OnOne and Topaz have laid on the table. It is Nik/Google’s play next.

  29. craigl303

    Google-Nik has restarted the beta testing program! I think that indicates that serious work is being done on the pro plugins. I cannot say more due to a non-disclosure agreement, but the time to be worried is past!

  30. Frank McKenna

    There have been zero product updates from NIK since last July almost 8 months ago. NIK used to release something (either an upgrade on new product) at least every other month. Now…nothing. How has this acquisition been positive for professional photographers- I can’t find anyway it has.

    1. craigl303

      Patience is a virtue! As I said in a post a few days ago, Google has restarted a beta testing program that indicates that they’re at work on new versions. Also, note that despite speculation that Google bought Nik to get Snapseed, with Google’s announcement that Snapseed has reached “end of life”, that speculation has proved wrong.

  31. Nathan Smith

    I really don’t feel the price drop of Nik software to $149 means that it’s going away. The photographic market has changed drastically in the last five years. I have been a professional photographer for over 30 years. Before the economy, the advent of digital flooded the market with photographers. Then the dip in the economy made that even worse. Today’s modern cameras make it possible for someone with little photographic knowledge to produce very good quality pictures. I still shoot professionally, but I am now in the business of photographic education.

    As a reminder, Apple’s Aperture program was originally $499. Version 2 came out at $199. Version 3 came out at $79.

    Adobes Lightroom program was originally $299. Versions two and three were the same price. Version 4 came out at half of this price, $149. Adobe Lightroom is used by over 90% of the professionals that I know and it’s not going away anytime soon.

    At $500, only serious professionals and rich amateurs were buying Nik’s complete collection. I personally used to own the black-and-white and color collections, which sold for $199 each. Now that the price had dropped to $149, Google could easily sell 5 to 10 times as many copies of this program, so financially they will come out way ahead. The research and development costs have already been paid. There is also competition from onOne software, which now offers their complete collection for $149 to Nik users.

    I believe that Google will continue to develop the software. It will be a very good moneymaker for them. And they can market it to a wider audience. My only regret is a serious professional photographer is that now, like digital cameras, every amateur will have access to this software.

    On the positive side, I now have the complete collection, and many more potential student clients!

  32. Michael Dutton

    I’m a little concerned that Google-Nik won’t allow you to just install the plugin modules you want anymore. Now, you have to install the whole thing. I had a compatibility issue with Color Efex Pro 3 and Photoshop CS5 on Windows 7. Having Color Efex Pro 3 installed disabled my ability to paste items into Photoshop documents from other programs. After uninstalling Color Efex Pro 3 everything worked again. The other plugins like Silver Efex Pro and Sharpener Pro still worked fine and didn’t cause any issues. I’ve since upgraded to Photoshop CS6 and Color Efex Pro 4 and haven’t had anymore issues.

    I should mention that I worked through the copy/paste issue on the phone with someone from NIK Software tech support, but now Google has removed all support phone numbers from the website. They give you the option to submit your phone number and wait for a call back, but you can’t call them directly anymore. I tried this one day and they never called me back. From what I understand this is the typical Google support experience. I hope and pray they don’t acquire Topaz Labs!

  33. tony sweet

    not good, Matt. I see nor hear any indication either way from google, hence I expect the worst.

  34. craigl303

    Tony, my friend, did you miss the release of the “Nik Collection by Google” on 25 March? There were no new effects, just an optimization of the code resulting in an impressive increase in speed of all of the plugins. To me, that meant that the Google people think of the Nik acquisition as a “keeper” and will continue development.

  35. Greg O'Connor

    You will never see another upgrade to your favorite NIK desktop applications. Trust me, Google has a laser-like focus on the mobile platform and they have no interest in keeping a desktop suite of applications up-to-date. Their interest in NIK consisted of Snapseed only. All of you B&W photographers out there…start looking for alternatives to Silver Efex Pro 2.

  36. Fred Chapman

    Sadly, those who predicted that Google’s acquisition of the Nik Complete Collection signaled the end of its development were correct. Google released the entire collection for free in 2016 and announced that it has no plans to add new features.

    Nik’s products were among the best in the world, beloved by serious photographers everywhere. Google bought the collection and let it die. I had hoped this wouldn’t happen. Kudos to all who saw it coming!

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