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Nearly everytime I write about NY-based AdaptiveBlue, I always note that while their technology is good, their ability to connect with a mainstream audience has been very limited. They seem to always push big tech words over what value the services actually provide. Last week I started playing with a new version of the AdaptiveBlue service which is a huge leap forward in attempting to reach out to the mainstream audience.
The AdaptiveBlue BlueOrganizer is no more. In its place is Glue, what the company calls a "contextual network." Here’s the basic concept behind Glue. You install the browser plugin and then as you browse the Web normally, a menu shows up on any pages where Glue has information to share. These are typically pages dealing with movies, music, books, music artists, restaurants and wine. You can also browse the full list of sites available in the Glue network.
The Glue bar shows up on the top of sites that Glue has a match for and is actually a HTML injection – this means it becomes part of the page and not a plugin that sits active at all times. The bar is a simple way to shows friends information related to the current item being viewed. You can see which of your friends like the item, which have commented on the item, along with where the person viewed the item. You also see a sample of others outside your network who liked the item – this helps with discovery.
You can click on a friend to see more information about them and the current item. From there you can select other services related to the current item including item purchase. There’s a "2 cents" option which lets you add comments about the item directly into Glue. I assume if they get enough traction on this 2 cents concept, it could lead to a very rich reviews destination site.
Their business model continues to be based on affiliate comissions through the use of the Glue bar. I hope they will look to diversify their revenue potential as I am a bit concerned that there won’t be enough sales to drive enough total volume. But affiliate revenue is good as a piece of the overall business model pie.
I think today’s launch is a great step forward towards the mainstream for AdaptiveBlue. Now the really tough work begins on getting mainstream user adoption – they need a strong number of users and friend relationships for the service to be effective.
Here’s a demo the company put together about Glue:
Tonight NY-based AdaptiveBlue is announcing the launch of the latest version of their BlueOrganizer Firefox (and Flock) add-on codenamed Indigo. I had a discussion with CEO Alex Iskold and Biz Dev Director Fraser Kelton about the new features and my notes are below.
Iskold loves to talk about "semantic Web" — I think he has used the term more than any other single person online today. In simple terms, BlueOrganizer is a "smarter" way to browse. It takes normal links and enhances them. It senses what a page is about and can switch how it handles the page based on content type. For example, if you are on a book page on Amazon, BlueOrganizer knows and adjusts the links it presents to you. If it’s a movie site, you might see Fandango but you wouldn’t see that as an option on a music page. The little icons on the toolbar change to reflect what type of page it is.
There is a tie-into many of the major social services including: Twitter, Tumblr and Lijit which lets you export your saved items directly. It’s a good way to get your favorites out to your friends quickly.
When you install BlueOrganizer, it filters through your Internet history to determine what initially shows up on your BlueOrganizer profile. Iskold says that none of this data is transmitted to AdaptiveBlue.
One of the interesting bits I noticed when watching the video is that if you install the Smartlinks widget (another AdaptiveBlue product), it automatically adds BlueLinks to the site. This is a very smart distribution move. Once you install the BlueOrganizer add-on, it scans Web pages and injects the SmartLinks into the page as it finds them. It’s a good idea but at the same time, could it take away my chance to earn affiliate revenue? If I have a link to a book on Amazon using my affiliate code, and then the person goes to Amazon thru the SmartLink, I lose that sale. Perhaps there is a way to engineer it so I still receive credit.
The add-on also makes the most out of microformats so if you click on an address (that has microformats in use), it presents the address with links including Google Maps and other location-based information. The system also recognizes 500 common names and by clicking on a name, it provides a menu of options including Wikipedia and Google Search.
Some stats that Iskold shared include: 1.3 million downloads of the add-on, 5000 blogs have installed SmartLinks and hundreds of thousands of active users of BlueOrganizer.
The company continues with the same revenue model we have written about previously — affiliate sales. When you click to purchase a book or movie through BlueOrganizer and don’t have the affiliate field set, the commission goes to AdaptiveBlue. Amazon came out last week with a strong notice about people using their own affiliate code for sales. Not sure how that impacts how the affiliate codes work with BlueOrganizer.
Here is a simple animation showing how BlueOrganizer/Smartlinks work on Amazon, with an address and on a Web page:
AdaptiveBlue has launched their latest version of their BlueOrganizer Firefox plugin. Named "Denim" it offers a variety of new features to help site visitors, publishers and plugin users. Richard and Duncan have done a good job of explaining the new features so I thought I would take a stab at the benefits for the site publisher.
The new smartlinks option allows you to setup links that offer the BlueMark panel which offers many options for that product. This works mainly for books, music, dvds, etc. So rather than just linking to Amazon (which still remains), a small bluemark box appears next to the links (only the ones you specify) and when you click the bluemark box, a layer opens (see image below) displaying all of the options available for that product and category.
What's great is that for publishers, you can now monetize most of the links. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. So whereas before, your link went to Amazon and if someone prefers to order from B&N, you see nothing, now you have an opportunity to monetize no matter what the customer wants to use. Your Bluemark box also offers more options as displayed below.
What I like about this new bluemark option is that I determine what links get the special treatment and which don't. This was one of the big beefs with Snap previews… they were on or off, no middle ground.
Also, the BlueBadge widget (as seen on left menu) will now also offer the BlueMark option. And as always you can monetize the widget as well.
One thing that I would suggest is that they look at offering me some custom options within the BlueMark. So I could add Viddler to the list of movie clip options or add Buy.com to the list of booksellers.
In summary, I think these new publisher monetization options should help AdaptiveBlue push their offering to new heights. Check out our previous AdaptiveBlue coverage including my interview with Alex Iskold, founder.
Editor's note: AdaptiveBlue is a current advertiser on CenterNetworks.
AdaptiveBlue has released the 3.1 version of their BlueOrganizer product. Some of the new features include:
- Improved BlueMenu
- RSS Links with BlueMarks
- SmugMug Integration
- Compact BlueBadges
- Performance and bug fixes
The BlueOrganizer supports almost 100 sites in about 15 categories. From the BlueOrganizer overview: BlueOrganizer is the new smart-browsing tool for Firefox and Flock. It unleashes the information hidden in the pages of your favorite web sites, and allows you to quickly do what you want to do: find, compare, upload, download, post, rent, reserve, rank, keep track, subscribe, share, and more… The Web is even more connected with BlueOrganizer!
I like the tool because it takes Firefox (or Flock) and makes it a truly personalized experience. And since I use SmugMug, this makes it that much better.
Check out the launch video from Demo last autumn with Alex Iskold, founder of AdaptiveBlue.
Disclaimer: BlueOrganizer is a current advertiser on CenterNetworks
The team over at AdaptiveBlue have received a ton of press since the DEMO conference last month. I wanted to find out more about AdaptiveBlue the company and BlueOrganizer the product. Even more importantly, I wanted to ask about what Web 2.0 life is like in New Jersey and inquire as to what has worked with marketing the BlueOrganizer product to help you with your web app creation. So I caught up with Alex Iskold, Founder and CTO of AdaptiveBlue.
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Allen: Can you provide a brief bio?
Alex: I am the founder and CTO, with 12 years of experience in software industry. This is my second startup, the first called Information Laboratory. We made a software analysis tool called Small Worlds. That company was acquired by IBM in 2003. I also recently worked as a Chief Architect at the leading grid computing company, DataSynapse, where I helped build GridServer and FabricServer virtualization technology. Through my career, I’ve been very passionate about complexity science and technology. I enjoyed building ambitious complex software, which exposes simplicity inside complexity.
Allen: What does AdaptiveBlue do?
Alex: AdaptiveBlue is smart browsing and personalization company focused on innovative tools in web browsing, attention and personalization space. The company was founded in early 2006, you can learn more about our vision and principles here: http://www.adaptiveblue.com/about.html
Allen: What is the BlueOrganizer?
Alex: The BlueOrganizer is a smart browsing extension for Firefox and Flock. This is the first product that we developed at AdaptiveBlue. The BlueOrganizer brings semantics of everyday things like books, music, movies, wines and restaurants into the browser. By focusing on semantics, the BlueOrganizer helps the users to be more productive and to get things done faster and better. The BlueOrganizer also focuses on making web sites and web services more accessible and easier to use.
Allen: How does BlueOrganizer know that a page is a page about a movie? (from your demo movie)
Alex: The BlueOrganizer uses unique dynamic parsing technology that we developed at AdaptiveBlue. There are two different ways right now for it to recognize the information on the page. First, it knows about product pages from many popular sites like Amazon, Netflix, Walmart, IMDB, CitySearch and so on. When the user navigates to such page, the BlueOrganizer dynamically loads the parser for this page and knows how to find information specific to the type of the object the user is looking at. The second technique that we use, involves Amazon eCommerce API. This is used on pages that do not have structured information. For example, on a movie blog you can highlight a title of a movie, then right-click and select ‘bluemark!’ from the context menu. This works because the BlueOrganizer first analysis the page and determines that it is a page about movies. It then queries Amazon eCommerce database for information about this movie.
Allen: How do I as a developer maximize the BlueOrganizer functionality on my web site?
Alex: This is a great question, and very timely one too! In just a few weeks, with the release 2.8 to be precise we are going to open up the BlueOrganizer for developers to extend it. There are will be three extension points: BlueOrganizer Actions, BlueOrganizer Collections and BlueOrganizer parsers. I will talk more about each of these in the next question, but basically the developers will be able to write custom parsers for any site.
Allen: What is the technology behind BlueOrganizer?
Allen: Do you use Microformats with BlueOrganizer?
Alex: Not yet, but we will be soon. Right now the objects that we collect, like movies, books and wines do not have microformats. We are working on People’s collection as well as Events and other things that have microformats. So very soon, the BlueOrganizer users’ will be able to have enhanced experience on all pages that feature microformats. On the related topic, we are engaging with the community to develop standards for data representation in the Attention space. You can learn more about attention community at http://www.attentiontrust.org and you can read my thoughts on what should be the attention architecture on my blog.
Allen: How do you plan to monetize (if you do) BlueOrganizer/AdaptivebBlue?
Alex: We are a business, so we are definitely working on monetizing the BlueOrganizer. I am happy to share with you a few of our revenue ideas. The first one is affiliate revenue. Every time when a user buys via BlueOrganizer from an affiliate site we make money (so if you like the BlueOrganizer, please do not forget to do that :). We are also planning to charge sites to be integrated into the BlueOrganizer, and we have started these discussions with a few sites already. Beyond this, our revenue streams are still secret, but I can tell you that they all focus on personalization.
Allen: Can you speak about your marketing/PR activities to gain users for BlueOrganizer?
Alex: We are happy to share, and hope that others will find this useful. We quickly realized that traditional PR is not going to be helpful, and that mainstream publications are not going to drive the traffic. So instead we approached web 2.0 blogs starting from Brian Benzinger’s SolutionWatch and Sid Yadav’s rev 2.0. We also were lucky to be mentioned and then later interviewed by Emily Chang’s eHub. We also actively blogged and commented on different blogs that resulted in a fair bit of individual posts. At the same time, I also started writing for Web 2.0 magazine and Read/WriteWeb blog. This was a great exposure as well as excellent opportunity to learn more about the space. All this culminated in us being selected to launch at DEMOfall. This was an amazing experience that also propelled us to the next level. We got favorited by TechCrunch and ZDNet. That followed by more press and interviews, including this one.
Allen: What does the AdaptiveBlue team look like? Where are you based?
Alex: We now have 3 engineers, one designer, one QA person and myself. We are all in different locations from New York to Paris.
Allen: Being based in NJ, do you find that hinders you against other competitors based in the Bay Area?
|“If anything, I would say that it is an advantage not to be in the valley, as it keeps the reality check on all the time.”|
Alex: Not at all. I do not believe that geography matters. What matters is people, ideas and execution. If anything, I would say that it is an advantage not to be in the valley, as it keeps the reality check on all the time.
Allen: Do you see offering a version for Safari or Internet Explorer?
Alex: Right now this is not in our business plan. We believe that Firefox is THE browser of the future and we’d like to contribute to its success as much as we can.
Allen: Is BlueOrganizer for the mainstream or the tech market?
Alex: We think that it is for both. Smarter browser should benefit everyone. In terms of bringing the best web services right to the user’s finger tips, we think that this approach clearly makes web 2.0 more accessible for the main stream.
Allen: How has the feedback been since your launch at DEMO? Any stats you can share?
Alex: As I mentioned above, the DEMO was simply amazing. We did a good job presenting the BlueOrganizer and VC, press, thought leaders and users were very positive and very encouraging. Since DEMO, we have grown the user base a lot. We can’t disclose exact numbers, but look at our progress on Alexa to see that we have been doing very well (remember we are not a website, we are an extension, so people download it and then comeback to the site for tutorials, etc.). You will be seeing some other effects that DEMO had very soon.
Allen: Where is AdaptiveBlue going in the next 1-2 years?
Alex: We are going to ramp up on the BlueOrganizer features. You will be seeing Images, Video and People collections soon. Also, support for microformats is coming soon. Many new other collections, including much asked for Travel will be available soon. Longer term we are going to be building other related technologies in the personalization space. Our next product is going to be called BlueSyndicator and that is as much as I can tell you now.
Allen: Where is the browser going in the next 1-2 years?
Alex: Hopefully, the browser is going to be smarter. I think there are two broad axises here: productivity and semantics. I applaud the features that found today in Flock. They make a lot of sense and boost people’s productivity, by simply putting a better interface and bring web services and web concepts right into the browser. The second aspect is semantics, is just long overdue. This is what we are trying to solve in the top-down way via BlueOrganizer. Not sure if the top-down will be the way to go in the end, I have nothing against the bottom-up semantics if people actually do it (i.e. microformats everywhere), but I am convinced that one way or another we are heading towards semantics-rich web experience.
Allen: Which web apps do you use on a regular basis?
Alex: We use Basecamp as our project management tool. Its nice and simple. I also use Gmail and Google Calendar a lot.
Allen: What do you think are the most important characteristics that are needed for a startup to be successful?
Alex: Passion, People, Focus, Speed.
Allen: What would you say is the top thing you have learned since you started AdaptiveBlue? positive or negative?
Alex: I sold my last startup in 2003, and boy, did rules of the game have changed! Everything moves with unimaginable speed. I love it!
Allen: Anything else to share?
Alex: We are just starting to build smart browsing, personalization and attention technologies at AdaptiveBlue. As a young company in the space, we always reaching out to the users and community for feedback, suggestions and discussion about what we should be building, please send us your thoughts.
Thanks Alex for taking the time for this interview. You have an interesting product and I am certain the CenterNetworks users have learned something about BlueOrganizer and hopefully some marketing do’s and don’ts.
If you would like to participate in a conversation on CenterNetworks, or if you have any comments or questions, let me know.