Ad Tech & Ad Ops

Decrypting Ad Tech with Ivan Kuckir, Founder at Photopea

The worldwide web wouldn’t be what it is without edited images. 

According to data analyzed by Keypoint Intelligence, approximately 1.4 trillion digital images were taken in 2020. Now, view this in number in terms of images uploaded, shared, edited, manipulated, and downloaded. 

What does it give you? A number that is not possible to calculate. 

Because the tech for recording, manipulating, uploading, and sharing media is so easily accessible, we perhaps take the technology behind it for granted. Now, tools for editing media are readily available and always at our disposal. 

This inspired us to connect with Ivan Kuckir who built Photopea from scratch and has now been able to monetize his business through ads and a subscription model. 

Photopea remains free for all users since the day it was first published on the Internet. It helps digital photographers across the world in editing and manipulating images without paying anything in return. Simply put, Ivan has built a web photo editor which is both advanced and affordable at the same time. 

In our conversation with him, we tried to understand his journey of building Photopea single-handedly, how he has been able to monetize it while keeping access free for users, and what advice he has for tech publishers like him.

Ivan’s Journey of Building Photopea 

What we understood from Ivan’s experience of building Photopea is that it’s completely possible from any person with talent and determination to build a successful website that can be monetized through ads, thus keeping the Internet free for all while making sure that the publisher also continues to earn and have a sustainable business.

I made my first website when I was 14, and I graduated when I was 26. During these twelve years, I made several websites (in my free time). I started to work with Javascript when I was 20 (I already knew several other programming languages) and made several web games (with tens of thousands of players, monetized with ads). When I was 23, I started working on Photopea which turned out to be my most successful project so far. So for several years, Photopea was just my hobby, but once I graduated, it became my main job.

– Ivan

On Monetizing Photopea Through Ads

As an organization that operates in the ad tech industry, we believe that programmatic advertising continues to be a profitable way for publishers to monetize their websites. This not only keeps the internet free but publishers can convert this into a full-time job. We see this with many large media houses who have a successful business through programmatic advertising and direct deals

This stands true for Ivan Kuckir as well who was able to monetize Photopea through ads. 

There are two ways to use Photopea. Either users can access it for free but they will have ads running in the background. Or they can opt for the premium version which is ads free for $3.3 a month.

– Ivan

On why he continues to monetize through ads, Ivan said,

my initial idea was to offer a free tool to those who cannot afford expensive software. For this reason, I started and continue to monetize Photopea through ads.

– Ivan

We all know how Google announced the impending demise of third-party cookies from 2022. These cookies have borne the burden of behavioural targeting by showing user targeted ads based on their browsing history. 

But as all good but privacy-invasive things must come to an end, third-party cookies will also share a similar fate. Even though many solutions are underway, such as the Google Privacy Sandbox, most publishers and the ad tech industry are still unsure on how they intend to survive this avalanche of a change. 

We asked Ivan about the same and he said,

To be honest, I haven’t read much but I know that some web browsers are trying to block third-party cookies, or delete all cookies completely. In short, to make it work like Chrome’s incognito mode at all times.

– Ivan

I believe that displaying ‘interest-based’ ads is better than playing ‘random’ ads not only for the publisher, but also for the user. When third-party cookies phase-out, I believe we can come up with other mechanisms which will involve user consent in use of their data. Of course that isn’t the ideal way and users might have to watch unrelated ads.

– Ivan

Impact on Photopea During COVID-19 Onset

We’ve already extensively covered how publishers’ earnings were impacted at the onset of COVID-19. The initial anxiety caused ad revenues to plummet causing layoffs, closures, furloughs, etc.

That impact has now subsided and thankfully, many publishers have almost recovered from the loss.

We asked Ivan about how Photopea’s ad revenues were impacted during COVID-19. He said,

the earnings from advertisements dropped significantly. But the silver lining was that the user base of Photopea is consistently growing. This helped in balancing out the final revenue.

– Ivan

On How Photopea Has Evolved 

Lastly, we asked him about the evolution of Photopea. Publishers already know how difficult it is to rank on search engines especially with a new website. We found that as a tech publisher, Ivan faced a similar challenge. 

On being asked about how Photopea has evolved from being his brainchild to a website that gets immense traffic, he said

it took many years and thousands of hours of work. The traffic barely grew more than 20% in a month and there were no noticeable ‘jumps’. Half of my traffic comes from search engines and I want it to cross the 50% mark but it has been this way a year ago and even five years ago if I recall correctly. It has taken years to convince search engines that Photopea is a reliable website that will help many people in the long run.

– Ivan

Ivan’s Advice to Publishers 

Finally, we asked Ivan to give other publishers and people like him the right kind of advice to begin, grow, and monetize a website of their own. 

Here’s what he said:

It’s hard to say really. If you are young, do not underestimate education. Do not be afraid of difficult goals that are hard to reach. You will have to spend decades of your life doing some kind of work anyway, so why not make it something you truly enjoy and (eventually) you could be truly proud of.

– Ivan

About Ivan

Born in western Ukraine, Ivan resides in Czech Republic and has built Photopea from scratch. He maintains the website on his own and continues to keep it free for users across the world. 

About Photopea

Photopea is a web-based raster graphics editor and can be used for image editing, making illustrations, etc. It is supported by advertisements and is completely free for users, except if they opt for a premium version. It is compatible with many browsers including Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Opera.


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