SpringNote is a hosted Korean wiki service that's been in the works for some time but will make a public launch at the Web 2.0 Expo Tokyo next week. It's a strong product. The site offers a number of features that are worth a look, evidence too that there's still a lot of room for innovation in the world of wikis. There is also clear room for improvement in this particular offering.

There's a lot of nice touches in SpringNote. Edits are autosaved and each page has an accompanying memo or notes page. RSS feeds are widely available throughout the site and each wiki can have feed publishing turned on or off. I'm not sure why you would want to turn feed publishing off, though, and it ought to be on by default. There's an API and plug-in development community. There's a bookmarklet for copying parts of any webpage into your SpringNote wiki, there's MSN chat integration and there's an offline version of the product. It's an impressive application.

OpenID

The company is promoting SpringNote heavily as an OpenID friendly service. It is, and the OpenID implementation is fairly well done - if you're already familiar with the concept. People who just happen to have AIM, Bloglines, WordPress or Orange accounts but don't know how to turn those into OpenID URLs aren't helped any by SpringNote. This is a common problem and a real loss for companies who want to make the account creation process as easy as possible.

Templates

SpringNote has a long list of wiki templates: from recipes to web site reviews to diets to group projects and to do lists. That's very helpful for new wiki users, far superior to a blank page for example, but the site could use more clarity concerning the editability of every field and title in the templates. Templates are a delicate matter but they are important to demonstrate the broad usefulness of any wiki platform. Every wiki company should consider embedding CommonCraft's short video explaining wikis, too (see on the right and compare to SpringWiki's video on the bottom of this post). It's not nearly as good as the same company's video explaining RSS but it's still far better than nothing.

File Import and Export

I was very happy to see how SpringNote handles file import and export. You can import Word Doc, OpenOffice, text and HTML files into your wikis. You can also export your wikis onto your desktop, which is fantastic. Unfortunately, the company requires a 24 hour wait time for document export. I can't see how to export just a single document, perhaps they would let me do that immediately. I hope so, it's my document - not theirs. None the less, these are great features.

Language and Usability

Unfortunately, the English version of the site also suffers from some real usability problems. I don't mean to be overly provincial, but the company ought to hire someone more conversant in the English language if they are going to offer an English interface and market to native English speakers. I want to see projects birthed far from Silicon Valley thrive, but a small investment in a copy editor who speaks your chosen interface language as their native language could make a big difference in product usability.

The wiki world is far wider than just Wikipedia. Some say that editing a wiki is one of the first read/write experiences than many business users have online. As is the case with many related technologies, it's important for that reason as well to keep an eye on the consumer markets. That's where a lot of innovation comes from. SpringNote is a good example of that and a project well worth watching. To see a wide variety of wiki software options, check out WikiIndex.

SpringNote editing demonstration