If cookies were the multi-billion dollar magic for much of the web's first iteration, tiny technologies to power conversation could play a similar role in the future of business online. More fun than that, though, is the innovation we hope to see in the technology of conversation.
Comment and review plug-in suite JS-Kit announced today a new round of funding and the hire as an adviser of one of the web's most forward looking innovators, Data Portability Working Group co-founder Chris Saad. Though JS-Kit has a funny name, the company has a big installed base. In addition to being very easy to install, it recently partnered with red-hot content sharing service ShareThis and acquired the early market leader in plug-and-play commenting, Haloscan. What does the future look like for JS-Kit and how might that relate to the web at large? We asked Chris Saad for his thoughts this morning.
RWW: The biggest lesson I see in this momentum is this: just like cookies secretly powered billions in ad revenue during the web's first iteration, now it seems like powering conversation could do something similar. Big time data capture. Just like ShareThis. [See this post for an example of the data that company captures.] Thoughts?
Saad: I think that there is certainly an opportunity for new types of data capture through these sorts of plugins - and if transformed into something useful like APML it can certainly be used for personalizing all sorts of things, including ads. The difference in this iteration of the web, however, is that the user will and must be in control. They will have visibility and utility from the resulting data acquisition.
RWW responds: Saad can't disclose too many specifics here and perhaps it's not in the company's interests to disclose any at all. APML seems like a non-starter at this point, but we'd like to see things like recommendations, pattern detection, benchmarks and time-based analysis of conversation around content.
RWW:How does your engagement with JS-Kit jive with your work on data portability? Isn't off-site discussion hosting the opposite of user (in this case publisher) control over data?
Saad: JS-Kit is unique in that it does not have a destination site so it does not host discussion off site. In fact, the commenting widget specifically syncs all comments back to the base CMS platform so that the publisher can uninstall at any time and not lose any of their comment data.
Also JS-Kit's social plug-ins make it possible for all sites to become social, making 'social networking' a feature of any application a user visits. The question now is how do these sites and applications, as well as other technologies, inter-operate for a web-wide data portability enabled social network?
Saad: Both are great companies doing great things; the question is scale, pace and sustainability. The sustainability piece is important too - the fact that JS-Kit is nailing big commercial accounts is very important. Evite, Worldnow, Jetblue, Sun etc.
JS-kit has 550,000 sites, 20 people and has revenue (and now lots more capital). Don't forget breadth of product line also - JS-kit does comments AND ratings and Polls etc. It's well known that ratings are used 5x more than comments on sites.
RWW:One of the biggest critiques the data portability has faced is around "usability," clarity of value proposition and ease of implementation. JS-Kit seems fabulously usable, but we haven't seen much of the deeper possibilities emerge from it yet. What do you think the data portability community can teach the publishing community and what do you think JS-Kit in particular can demonstrate to other vendors?
Saad: I think that proprietary forms of data portability such as Facebook's app platform have been very usable (if not lacking utility). The trick is to achieve the same easy user experience on a web-side platform. As you rightly point out, JS-Kit's widgets are very usable - look for deeper possibilities emerging in the coming months. I think that JS-Kit has a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate data portability principles to publishers and other widget vendors as well. With the scale of JS-Kit we are no longer talking about starting from zero.
RWW: We're excited to see what all the vendors in this space can do. We hope to see developments coming from a data-driven strategy that places a premium on innovation and data portability. The first player in this sector that cries uncle and turns into nothing but an ad network will deserve some derision. These days things are looking good for JS-Kit, though.
Photo Credit: Brian Solis