Prezi, my thoughts

Everyone is loving Prezi, people are totally raving about it. But I have serious problems with the technology behind Prezi.

As far as I can tell Prezi generates a huge flash file which is bad enough but on top of that is it seems to suck everything into it and nothing much seems to come out. So for example it can injest pdf file, images, text, movies, etc. But can you export to a presentation file which people can take away? Can you export to a printable for format? Can you export to a movie? It doesn't seem very clear from any of the information I have seen. In actual fact you can only export to a format which requires another Prezi player, to play it back! The business model is also worth mentioning, 119 dollars a month for version which includes offline editing but not much else. All the payment grades are tied to there online storage too, which is very expensive for what you get. For example how would you pay for 2gig of storage? Certainly no where up from 30 dollars, which still assumes the offline editor is worth 90 dollars. From a Data Portability angle this is like the spawn of satan surely? And I'm sure from a open source and free software angle, this has got to have Tim Oreilly and Richard Stallman in chills at night? Lastly, what on earth are TED thinking sponsoring this stuff?

I have been thinking maybe some enterprising group of people could take the SVG specification and build a tool which generates these exact same presentations. So first up you can use scripts on every element including the viewpoint attribute. There seems to be a load of things you can do with the Canvas coordinate system. SVG 1.1 has the ability to embed certain multimedia but SVG Foreign Object could be used to place a browser or a complete video within a SVG.

You could imagine a specially made tool which worked like Prezi but wouldn't need to be propitery and locked in. They could even create and sell a player and editor backed with its online space, so the business model isn't totally shattered. Even if a rival tried to create the same, OpenPrezi as I'm coining it would be first to the market and have a wealth of knowledge of what works and what doesn't. Even a track record might go down well. So in my mind, there's no way I will be using Prezi till its a lot more open. I'm sure even I could with a bit of time construct something using the SVG methods I mentioned. I'm not questioning the method or even the concept, it actually reminds me of mood boards. Its the implementation which winds me up.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.