Wednesday, May 04, 2005

'Intelligent' Bookmarks

Joshua Schachter, a rather clever chap of Memepool and GeoURL fame has just received funding (undisclosed but less than $5m) for his social bookmarking venture from Union Square Ventures,, Marc Andreessen, BV Capital, Esther Dyson, Seth Goldstein, Josh Koppelman, Howard Morgan, Tim O'Reilly, and Bob Young.

That’s quite a board and quite a network....!

It’s an old idea revamped though, riding on a new wave of VC investment in all things that leverage the communities and related intelligence around what we do on the web. "Social bookmarking" is close to my heart. Back in good old '98 when I was fresh out of Uni, I co-founded Skip2 Technologies, an Internet software co that enabled users to store, manage and share bookmarks via the web. The idea was good, but the business model and execution was poor. Despite a number of interested VC's we never raised any funding, but did sell the company to MyNet, my second start-up in 2000. So if you’re wondering what Social bookmarking is, let me try and explain....imagine in your browser you have a set of folders, lets call one "Holidays", and another "restaurants". As you chug along through life, you add links to your favourite hotels/holidays cottages, beaches etc in the "Holidays" folder. Likewise with "Restaurants". Now, connect that information to your social network (friends, family, colleagues etc) and you have a very powerful and socially relevant source of information on where to eat, where to stay etc. It’s powerful because you are more likely to visit somewhere that as been referred to you by a friend. Google ads are all very well, but the most accurate, trustworthy and relevant referral is from someone you know, who can provide feedback, experience, tips, other links and info. has quite a few features up and running already. Each user has a separate URL from which you can access your personal links via the web. You can see the number of other people who have listed the same link, and then see their link lists. You can also link to other people through interests or key "tag" words within the context of the link. So if I link to a site about "cornwall cottages" I can also see who else has tagged the same link, and others can search the links to see if there are any links that reference "cottages cornwall". The service doesn’t appear to have any privacy controls at the moment.

The business model isnt clear yet. At Skip2, our plan was to mine the aggregate demographic information of the user base that visited a specific site which we then intended to sell to site owners to improve insight, advertising accuracy and experience. Another option was to enable users to sign-in to other sites using their Skip2 username/password - the .Net passport approach. Blink tried to do a similar thing. faces competition from (an open source copy), and is very basic and a bit geeky, but with the new influx of funding, Joshua and his team will be able to transform it into something more usable, consumer focused, and clever. Good luck to them...

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