Startup Turns Wikis into Development Platform
SAN FRANCISCOThe co-founders of early search engine and portal Excite.com are bringing a new concept to the Web: the wiki as an application development platform.
JotSpot Inc., the brainchild of Joe Kraus and Graham Spencer, was unveiled here on Wednesday during the Web 2.0 conference and began offering invitation-only access to a beta of its hosted wiki.
Wikis are essentially collaborative Web pages that are open to editing by anyone. They have become increasingly popular in technology circles as a way to manage development projects and create documents.
But to Kraus, JotSpots CEO, wikis increasingly are becoming a platform on which to develop basic Web applications. JotSpot combines more typical wiki functions collaborative editing, version control, support for attachments and full-text searchwith a tool for writing applications and tying together outside data from RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, e-mail and Web pages.
"Today simple Web applications are not simple to build, and we wanted to make it so that simple Web apps were simple to build," Kraus said, in an interview before his conference presentation.
JotSpot, based in Palo Alto, Calif., was formed about a year ago by the Excite.com founders. It began testing its wiki services over the past six months and has received $5.2 million in its first round of funding from venture capital firms Mayfield and Redpoint Ventures, Kraus said.
Excite.com, once one of the leading search and portal sites, was sold to Ask Jeeves Inc. this year as part of that search companys acquisition of Internet properties from Interactive Search Holdings.
In the beta, JotSpot provides a gallery of about a dozen application templates that users can install into their wiki pages. They include applications for tracking job candidates, managing help desks and organizing projects.
Kraus agreed that the user interface of typical wikis has been one of their drawbacks for mainstream users. While JotSpots design still follows the more bare-bones look of todays wikis, it does include a WSYIWYG editor similar to a word-processing application for posting pages and content.
Over time, JotSpot plans to focus on sprucing up the look and feel of wiki pages, he said.
E-mail also plays a central role in JotSpot. Users can send an e-mail directly to wiki pages, where the messages can be stored and associated with a specific set of information, such as combining e-mails about a job candidate with a wiki page on recruitment, Kraus said.
"We came up with the notion that every page is an inbox," Kraus said.
JotSpot also has developed a prototype for integrating through SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) into SalesForce.coms customer relationship management service and plans to expand the types of data integration it can support, Kraus said.
In the enterprise market for wikis, JotSpot is joining another Silicon Valley startup, Socialtext Inc. Formed in 2002, Socialtext has about 50 customers and recently raised more than $500,000 in funding.
Kraus said he expects the JotSpot beta to last about three months with general availability following soon after. The beta is free, but the pricing model for the full launch has yet to be determined.