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Windows 95's Lead Architect Is Making a Vine for Comic Books

Satoshi Nakajima debuts Swipe at Silicon Valley Comic Con and explains how he got Microsoft sued.

Eric Johnson for Re/code

Speaking today at Silicon Valley Comic Con in San Jose, Calif., Windows 95 lead architect Satoshi Nakajima opened by acknowledging two “billion-dollar mistakes” in his career.

The first mistake was building a small feature into Windows 98 that integrated one of his projects, Internet Explorer, into the Windows operating system.

“I thought it was a great idea, but then Microsoft was sued by the government,” Nakajima said.

The second mistake was choosing not to take any venture capital funding for PhotoShare, a company Nakajima founded that developed the first photo-sharing app for the iPhone. Despite early popularity with iPhone users, a legal battle stunted the app’s growth and Nakajima walked away … leaving the door open for Instagram to eat his lunch.

“I’m going after another billion-dollar challenge,” he said self-effacingly.

That challenge is making comic books work on smartphones. Nakajima unveiled Swipe, an open source standard for turning still images into animations that move when a user swipes his or her finger along the screen.

He showed off a scene in which two characters moved down a street at a speed of his choosing, with speech bubbles fading in and out. That example was made by overlaying several still images, but Swipe also supports animated GIFs, he said.

Nakajima’s pitch to the artists and programmers in the Comic Con crowd was that this would be a mobile-friendly middle ground between static images and longform animation, which he said is hard to consume on the go.

He said his ultimate goal is to get artists using Swipe’s open source standard and then convince Amazon to integrate that standard into the Kindle. One potential hitch in that plan, as one audience member pointed out: Amazon already owns a digital comics platform, ComiXology.

A for-profit app for making animated comics, Swipe Studio, is currently in private beta, Nakajima said.

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