The service, currently in beta, encourages users to "unleash your blah-blah-blah on photos...everywhere," and to "make the entire web your playground". With a quick download of the PhotoCrank browser extension, available for both Internet Explorer and Firefox (sorry - no Safari version yet), you can begin "cranking" photos, and adding them to a list on the site, called the "crank list".
I installed the PhotoCrank extension to my Firefox browser on Mac OS X, and after a quick restart of Firefox, I had a new PhotoCrank toolbar, and in the corner of each photo I ran into, there is now a blue PhotoCrank image. Clicking on the button opens the PhotoCrank toolbox. Click on the "Crank It" button, and you're given a whole array of preloaded sayings, ranging from "Your Mom!" to "Them's fighting words." as well as a host of preloaded images and clip art. When you select the desired note, you can expand or contract the size, and make your own pithy saying, as you wish. Below, you can see the steps I took to modify my colored iPhone image from Monday.
(You can see not only the "Woot!" thought bubble, but the addition of a radioactive label to my blue and gold iPhone.)
Assuming I keep the browser toolbar installed, and assuming I keep using Firefox, instead of Safari, I can see myself doodling with PhotoCrank on some sites, and adding my mischief to the crank list. After all, somebody already posted their own "worm in the apple" cranked version of my iPhone for the world to see.
When in picture cranking mode, the toolbox window contains a small ad. In the above screenshot, you can see an ad for the T-Mobile Sidekick. While the role of Internet advertising can always be up for debate, I doubt users will stop mid-crank to click on anything. I'd be more useful to get the advertisement at the conclusion of the photocrank, or just after, or even as an interstitial between making the edits and submitting to the site. If the goal to make money is to show as many ads as possible, then they're all set. If it's to get high click-through rates, changes would likely have to be made.
I added a link in my sidebar to PhotoCrank, as the only way the service will thrive is through viral adoption and sharing of user's creative edits of photos. Through massive use and sharing, the service could be fun to watch develop over time, whether they try to stay independent, or if they are purchased and folded into a bigger offering from some social network out there. Until then, I'll leave the badge up and keep adding my own Web graffiti to the world at large.