Pluck 4 is a social media application server that comprises a full presentation, scripting and data management framework, Will Ballard, executive vice president of technology and engineering for Demand Media, told eWEEK in an interview.
Pluck hosts this application server, which will be announced and become generally available Sept. 8, on its own servers. As with the previous Pluck platforms, customers will subscribe to use Pluck 4 over the Web, paying anywhere from $50,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year depending on their consumption of bandwidth and other computing resources.
Pluck is one of the stronger players in the so-called white-label social media market, in which companies provide blogs syndicating RSS feeds, forums and photos, and video tools that other companies license to use, customize and brand as they choose. Pluck, under the aegis of Demand Media, competes with Wetpaint, Onesite, Pringo Networks and others.
Pluck 4 will still let customers accessorize Websites with profiles, blogs, comments, ratings and reviews, as it has done for media outlets like USA Today. But it will also let customers build their own widgets to run on the application server.
"We have groups that are making applications, such as a comment widget. Now instead of just being a tool we offer, the comment widget is an application programmed on our application server that we're offering to customers," Ballard said. "Customers can take that app, copy and paste it and change it if they'd like, or use it as a sample program and write their own."
Pluck 4 has an application container programmers may use to create, deploy, host and deliver custom applications. This customization capability will help developers boost search engine optimization for their Web pages and content inclusion in their existing sites.
The platform also includes an community manager for user, content and abuse management, an analytics manager to track user activity, and an application manager for controls and configurations.
Matthew Lees, analyst for the Patricia Seybold Group, said Pluck 4 has to deliver on the ease-of-use and scalability fronts, but said he is comfortable with Pluck's position:
"What I like about Pluck's chances are its experience, its existing customer base (it's nice to have some built-in beta testers and early adopters), and the relatively deep pockets of parent company Demand Media. So they're well positioned to market and support Pluck 4, yet not entirely reliant on whether its customers fully leverage all it has to offer."
Pluck isn't the first vendor to try its hand at marketing an application server for social media. Ringside Networks offered an open-source application server targeted toward social apps before it went belly up a year ago this month on Sept. 24.
While Ringside never got off the ground, Pluck has found purchase in 400 Web sites, including those of the NFL, the MLB, Kraft Foods, Lowe's and other brand marketers looking to use Pluck social media tools for CRM.