Home Primal: Publishing at its Most Basic

Primal: Publishing at its Most Basic

Tomorrow at the 2010 Semantic Technology Conference, Primal will launch a new publishing platform. It’s grandly described as a “semantic synthesis platform,” but simply put it’s a publishing platform that automates the production of content. What’s more, the resulting web pages include no original content. It’s all aggregated from other sources.

So in many ways this is reducing Web publishing to its most basic form, devoid of new content. Is this “automated content manufacturing,” as founder Paul Sweeney described it to me today, useful to people?

The stated goal of Primal is to deliver a “personalized content experience that is based directly on [a user’s] individual thoughts and ideas.” Primal Pages, the first application of this platform, is a webpage builder that enables a user to create a web presence based on their topics of interest. The content sources include Wikipedia, Yahoo! and Flickr.

The use cases of Primal, according to Sweeney, include a teacher building a website of course materials for their students and a small business providing information to support their product.

In my initial tests today, Primal seemed a little raw – although the UI is slick. The brainstorming and ‘find content’ aspects of the product are essentially search features that surface keywords and media from sites like Wikipedia and Flickr.

What’s most interesting about Primal is the publishing aspect, the webpage builder. This is well designed and easy to use. Within a matter of minutes I was able to ‘author’ a webpage about my favorite band, The Velvet Underground.

However, as noted above, it had no original content on it – which means it doesn’t add much value to the Web as a whole.

Primal appears to be competing with other lightweight publishing services, such as Tumblr and Posterous. More so, the so-called Geocities 2.0 startups like Weebly and Yola. The difference is that Primal is much more automated than any of those services, which takes a lot of creativity out of publishing.

I asked Sweeney how he thought Primal compared to Demand Media, the content farm that is pumping thousands of pieces of content onto the Web each day. He acknowledged that Primal will also pump a lot of (unoriginal) new pages onto the Web, but he said that Primal content is architected by the end user and not the company.

Despite the rather hyperbolic terminology in the company’s press release (an upcoming product called ‘Primal Thought Networking’ apparently “supercharges your thinking by remembering, organizing and connecting your ideas in your own machine-readable thought network”), the product itself is interesting because it takes Web publishing down to its very basic bare bones. Whether this is something that enough consumers need or want – and whether it’s good for the Web – is yet to be determined.

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