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November 10, 2010
3 Min Read
MainCloud launched Wednesday a free service that allows users to aggregate locally hosted and external content, news feeds, and more.
Once users create an account with MainCloud, they can then create one or more pages, and, for each page, specify content to go in the page's columns. This content, generally referred to as "blocks." can include videos, photos, documents, music/audio, Twitter feeds, RSS news feeds, and more, such as widgits, websites, and searches.
Content can be drawn from other public or social networking sites, such as YouTube or Flickr, using the "embed" code provided by these sites. Alternatively, users can upload content directly to MainCloud's own storage. Users can move each item around within and among the columns on each page and add text notes.
Each page can be publicly available or password protected, allowing users to create different pages for specific audiences -- all comers, specific clients, or certain friends and family.
According to MainCloud founder and CEO Ed LaHood, what differentiates MainCloud from other social networking and media sharing sites is the page concept and the granularity. "Everything is put onto pages, [and] you can have as many items on a page as you like. For example, you can put 20 photos, three documents, and two videos on a page, and then publish it."
Additionally, MainCloud has a distinctively different revenue model. An account is free; if a user chooses to allow ads to be run on pages, MainCloud splits the ad revenue with the user -- 60% to the user, 40% to them.
MainCloud has its own searchable index for publicly available content, and this content is also findable by Google, Bing, and other Internet search engines.
The service should work with any browser and device (notebook, desktop, or mobile), according to LaHood. It does not have separate versions or native apps for smartphones. However, said LaHood, it supports HTML 5 and Flash, and it plans to open up its API to third-party developers.
"MainCloud is an interesting aggregator for online content," said Dustin Puryear, CEO of Puryear IT, , a managed IT service provider. "The concept is similar to iGoogle Home, but MainCloud aims to aggregate any online content, not just what is provided by a Google or a Yahoo. The concept is good, but MainCloud has some work to do on their interface, especially for consumer-level users. It's a bit clumsy right now, but it certainly shows real promise. To really make it viable, they also need to create apps for the iPad and iPhone, rather than relying on the web browser."
Is MainCloud something new, and if so, is it useful? Based on my own quick testing, MainCloud is a frustrating mix.
Using MainCloud, I created an account, FnordCorp, and then quickly created two pages: one that's publicly viewable and -- I thought -- a password-protected page, but I'm not seeing it. The pages are text-dense, and the layout relatively limited; help text takes a while to get the hang of.
I suspect that once mastered, MainCloud is easy to use and maintain -- and the price is right. The page-based password protection looks useful. On the other hand, you have to accept its format limitations... and, once again, Internet users are being asked to go for yet another social network content aggregating and organization site -- do we need yet one more? And the presentation is crowded.
Plus, currently, unlike most blog sites and web hosts, MainCloud doesn't offer the option to map your MainCloud URL to a top-level domain that you own.
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