Photoshop is a quarter of a century old today. That's actually a ripe old age for a tech company considering Google is only fifteen, Facebook just turned 11 and the newly $19 billion valued Snapchat is not yet four years old. Photoshop started out as an excuse to procrastinate. Instead of finishing his PhD in 1988, founder Thomas Knoll began building some image processing tools for his kid brother who worked in digital effects at Industrial Light and Magic. Two years later, Adobe had bought the software and Photoshop 1.0 shipped on Feb. 19, 1990.
The software has proved remarkably resilient to changes in the tech landscape over the last 25 years. Its first customers were manipulating images taken on film and it has survived the rise of the Web, the onset of digital photography and has most recently has had to change its business model to compete with free photo editing apps like Instagram.
These days, users pay a smaller monthly subscription fee to access Photoshop rather than having to shell out for the pricey software up front. This change, which began in 2011, represents a significant risk for the company. The bottom line has already taken a hit as the revenues from larger purchases have disappeared. Net income declined 65% in 2013 and fell another 13% in 2014. However, Photoshop has now grown its subscriber base to 3.5 million users and if these customers are retained annually the annual revenues look set to soon match the $3 billion raised from upfront purchases back in 2011.
Perhaps its rarest achievement has been to become a verb in the English language in the same way as Google or Xerox. This has largely come about as the result of 'photoshopped' fake images that abound on the internet. Arguably, the most famous example is the spectacular image of a great white shark jumping out of the San Francisco bay at a military helicopter. It was part of a hoax email purporting to be the winner of the National Geographic Photo of the Year prize as far back as 2001. It is of course fake and is the result of splicing together a U.S. military training operation in San Francisco bay and a shark hunting seals in South Africa.