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Commentary

JS-Kit Provides An Instant Community Platform - Just Add People

JS-Kit provides a set of software tools and services to allow Web site publishers to add comments, ratings, and other community technology to sites, just by copying a couple of lines of JavaScript into the site's HTML templates. JS-Kit is potentially a good solution for companies of any size that need a cheap and easy way to add community features, without getting involved in a hairy IT project. JS-Kit can be deployed by anybody who knows HTML and can modify a site's pages. It doesn't require IT
JS-Kit provides a set of software tools and services to allow Web site publishers to add comments, ratings, and other community technology to sites, just by copying a couple of lines of JavaScript into the site's HTML templates. JS-Kit is potentially a good solution for companies of any size that need a cheap and easy way to add community features, without getting involved in a hairy IT project. JS-Kit can be deployed by anybody who knows HTML and can modify a site's pages. It doesn't require IT departments to get involved -- which is, of course, a great strength and also potentially a big problem for potential JS-Kit customers.JS-Kit is designed to make any site, no matter how small, as interactive as Amazon.com or Yahoo, without the seven-figure IT budgets those sites have to generate and maintain new features. "If you're not one of those guys, you don't have the money to build this and make it bleeding edge," said Khris Loux. I interviewed him at the Web 2.0 Expo conference in San Francisco the week of April 22.

JS-Kit provides a portfolio of community features for sites, including:

- Users can add comments to individual pages, including video comments

- Site publishers can allow users to rate content on the site

- Site publishers can provide navigational services that display the top-rated articles on a site, with optional categories

- Site publishers can can display a box listing editors' picks for best pages and articles on a site

The data and logic runs on JS-Kit's servers, and are embedded in the site publishers' pages using two lines of JavaScript. The content appears, to the site visitor, to be running directly on the page.

JS-Kit has been implemented on 65,000 Web sites, including JetBlue, Experian, and InfoWorld.

JS-Kit has two different revenue models: Site publishers can opt in to a program that allows JS-Kit to display ads inside its content, and split revenue 50-50. Or publishers that want the service, but don't want to run JS-Kit's ads, can pay 25 cents per thousand page views for pages that include content hosted by JS-Kit.

I asked Loux who owns the data. Site publishers (like InformationWeek) are always concerned about ownership; we want to be able to hang on to information posted to our site in case we can make use of that information later. Loux said ownership is shared by three entities: JS-Kit hosts it. The person posting a comment owns copyright and other intellectual property associated with his work. And the site publisher can subscribe to an RSS feed to get all comments on the site, then archive those comments locally for backup, data-mining, and in case they want to switch to another community vendor but keep their comments intact.

I asked Loux whether JS-Kit makes business managers into the enemy of IT departments. It's an old tug-of-war in companies -- business managers want to get new technology deployed quickly, often faster than IT departments can move. Frustrated business managers go out and deploy the technology on their own. That can often lead to a technology mess which IT departments then have to come in and clean up. JS-Kit sounds like it's flirting with that kind of disaster; if it can be deployed by anybody capable of cutting-and-pasting two lines of code, then it's going to be deployed carelessly in a lot of instances.

But Loux said that JS-Kit lets IT departments become more nimble, working in partnership with business managers to make sure that the new technologies work well. JS-Kit will work with IT departments to ensure that their service meets IT requirements, including security and standardization.

JS-Kit is one of several companies providing comments on Web sites as a service. Topix is a giant in this area, although it doesn't get a lot of attention from the Web 2.0 crowd because they mostly cater to mainstream news sites. I met with them a year and a half ago, when they shared some astoundingly huge subscriber numbers. I asked why I've never heard of them -- they said they're big outside of Silicon Valley, but relatively unknown inside it. If you read Digg, you don't use Topix, they said.

Disqus is an outfit I'm seeing talked about on Twitter and Friendfeed. Their twist on discussion is that they aggregate across blogs -- you can add Disqus discussions to your blog or Web site, and people can come and leave comments, and if you hover your mouse over the name of a reader leaving a comment, you see a pop-up profile showing comments, not just on that site, but on other sites and blogs in the Disqus network.