Mixel is a free digital art and social networking app for iPad. It works beautifully; you and your kids will love it. The only downer is its unfortunate requirement that you link it to Facebook. No Facebook means no Mixel.
Let’s deal with the cool stuff first: Mixel’s essential function is the making and sharing of digital artworks, collages made of images and bits of images. You can use pictures from the web, from your own photos stored on your iPad, or from your Facebook account.
Then you cut, snip and mix them up. You can, with time and practice, make a gorgeous work of art. Some of the stuff in the shared gallery is amazing.
The image-grabbing and editing stuff is beautifully done. Using the app is a snap. It’s lovely.
It’s a social app, so that means you get to share with other Mixellers. You can view their work, grab it and make your own remixes. Brilliant idea, why has no-one thought of that before?
There’s only one downside. Mixel is inextricably tied to Facebook. You can’t even start using it without first granting it access to your Facebook account.
Once you’ve done that, Mixel starts checking your Facebook contacts to see if any of them are Mixellating too. It encourages you to follow them in Mixel.
When your artwork’s ready, you hit the Post button. What this does is post your art to Mixel’s internal social network, the one you started creating when Mixel studied your Facebook friends and tried to get you to hook up.
After that, you get the chance to share your image in other ways – on Facebook itself, or by email, Twitter, Tumblr, saving to your Camera Roll, and so on.
The experience is lovely. It’s creative, there’s a good vibe. It’s fun.
But why the close links to Facebook?
In a post on their blog just a day or so ago, Mixel’s co-founder Khoi Vinh wrote a lengthy explanation:
To be frank, I am not a big fan of Facebook myself, and I truly respect the power of anonymity and pseudonymity. But I don’t believe those are the only acceptable methods of identifying yourself in digital media. For the particular service that we are trying to build, we believe deeply that real names are essential, and at the moment only Facebook provides that. That said, we’re thinking hard about this problem, and if there is a way to incorporate an alternative that also lets us verify a new user’s identity, we’ll welcome it with open arms.
It’s the “real names” bit that Mixel is so keen to make use of, which is understandable. As it stands, the message that Mixel sends out is a blunt “Use Facebook or go away,” which Vinh points out was unintended. So perhaps a future update may remove the Facebook requirement.
I hope so, because there’s a lovely little scrapbook art app tucked away inside Mixel, but right now if you don’t use Facebook, you’ll never see it. It’s nice to have the option of linking to Facebook, but unfortunate that it should be made a condition of use.