The Seadragon team in Live Labs has released a service that lets you easily turn your giant pictures into nice zoomable UIs. In order to try this out I went to the Smithsonian's flickr stream and grabbed a picture to see how it works. Go over to www.seadragon.com to check it out for yourself!

Here is the result:

There are some really neat aspects to this. For one, you get all of the Seadragon goodies that come with the file format:

  1. Images always load up really fast, no matter how big the image is
  2. You can zoom and pan smoothly to every detail of the image

 There are other parts of this that are really noteworthy. For one, this is an Azure service, so we can see that Azure is well capable of doing image conversion at a massive scale, as well as storage and retrieval. Very nice work guys!

Secondly, and more subtly - this service uses parts of Seadragon AJAX for its rendering. It's smart enought to determine whether to use AJAX (if Silverlight is not installed) or Silverlight (if it is installed and if you use a supported browser/OS combo). For that aspect alone it's a great example of how to bridge AJAX and Silverlight to take advantage of the advantages of both systems (perf will always be a lot nicer in Silverlight than in AJAX, but at least you can be assured that it will work even if Silverlight is not installed). Good example for showing that you can use Seadragon even if you can't count on Silverlight always being installed.