Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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7/28/2009
07:50 PM
Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson
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ReviewCam: Glue Sniffs @ Social Integration

Are you logged into Facebook? MySpace? Twitter? LinkedIn? What about your e-mail? Any Wikis? All at the same time? Are you crazy?! Now, if you could just take your social and business relationships with you around the web, getting and giving feedback, learning and sharing along the way . . . Glue, from two-year-old startup AdaptiveBlue, is just scratching the surface of this concept, and demonstrated its technology in our latest ReviewCam.

Are you logged into Facebook? MySpace? Twitter? LinkedIn? What about your e-mail? Any Wikis? All at the same time? Are you crazy?! Now, if you could just take your social and business relationships with you around the web, getting and giving feedback, learning and sharing along the way . . . Glue, from two-year-old startup AdaptiveBlue, is just scratching the surface of this concept, and demonstrated its technology in our latest ReviewCam.

Glue runs as a plug-in to your browser. For now, that means Firefox and Internet Explorer, with Chrome support just around the corner. It pulls other Glue users from your social networks. For now, that means Facebook (using Facebook Connect) and Twitter. Then, any web site that Glue recognizes gets a Glue bar on the bottom, where you can see your friends (and "neighbors," or simply Glue users who seem to be interested in the things you're interested in; you can also "friend" or follow these people), and whether they shared information on the item you're examining, including whatever comments they shared.

That's damn nifty, but the caveat is that it all happens through the Glue context. That is, a comment made on a book in Amazon or The New York Times must be made through the Glue interface. Fair enough, but AdaptiveBlue CEO and Founder Alex Iskolde admitted that the context ultimately shouldn't matter: if you've rated something on the NetFlix site, it should populate Glue regardless. Likewise, Iskolde said, it shouldn't matter whether your friends are on Glue or not. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Glue's success depends, like any other social network technology, on how many people use it. Iskold says there are 40,000 active Glue members. I'm no barometer, but only a couple of my Facebook friends pop up in my Glue bar, along with nine people I follow on Twitter. (Come on, people! Glue it up with me, please.)

The company's success will also be a factor of how many sites take advantage of it, and for now there are dozens to start out with, including the Amazons and Pandoras and numerous other sites where people might share consumptive tastes and provide input into those systems. One site I found oddly missing from that list was YouTube, and given the gobs of links people forward, a friend filter would surely be a great way manage my own consumption of that site.

While sites like Pandora and Amazon have built their own, well-documented ideas on how to make recommendations to site visitors (each using its own and appropriate paradigm), Glue promises to bring all of those together -- recommendations based on your tastes, based on what the site's engine provides, based on what's popular, based on what your friends like. That's a compelling proposition, but again, it's early days: on Pandora, while listening to more alternative rock playlist I created, Glue thought I might want to listen to a couple of Michael Jackson selections, along with Miles Davis, Bob Dylan and The Black-Eyed Peas. Rrrrrriiiggghtt.

Iskold (originally I spelled it Iskolde; kind of like my way better) said the above was because I hadn't "liked" enough for it to adequately make recommendations.

Nevertheless, I'm sure Glue will get there. It is attempting many interesting tricks at once, including pulling from site APIs, learning simply from where its users travel on the web, pulling in what's generally popular, sorting through what is popular among your friends, and letting its users link back to to those friends and those sites using the Glue interface. As more people use it, as more sites get on board, as it has time to learn, the impact could be substantial.

Any site can become recognized by using what Iskolde termed a semantec markup, called AB Meta. It's a fairly simple tool that helps sites identify object types. Although a few sites already use it, AdaptiveBlue will have more heavy lifting to do in order to convince sites to take advantage of it; one way it could do that is to have a massive customer base.

Starting to see the chicken/egg dilemna?

Still, ideas like Glue are part of the future of the web, so while it's not entirely flawless, it is compelling. I'm stuck on it.

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