For the first time in my adult life I am really proud of Web 2.0.
Forgive the shameless play on Michelle Obama’s words that sparked a controversy amongst GOP supporters, but I have to say that what I saw from a company named Apture, which has created a new way of communicating on Web pages, has definitely made me proud of Web 2.0.
It’s the part about it being the first time in my adult life that may be the problem, and that’s because I’ve been an adult for far too long to be impressed with newfangled things until they hit me over the head. I’ve seen a lot of tech trends come and go. As an old-school enterprise technology reporter, I just wasn’t feeling Web 2.0. I wasn’t getting immersed in it. I had dipped my toe in, maybe even waded in up to my knees, but that’s about it.
Of course, I know full well the value of the core of Web 2.0 — the Internet OS — and what it means for developers in particular. It’s just that the initial applications, other than search, have not knocked my socks off.
Then along comes a technology like Apture that has the opportunity to make some big changes in the way folks use and share content on the Web.
Apture, which calls itself an innovator of next-generation publishing on the Web, announced June 30 the consumer availability of its multimedia linking platform, the Apture Innovative Media Hub. The technology enables publishers and bloggers to bring Web pages to life with rich multimedia content by adding one line of code to their Web sites, said Tristan Harris, CEO and co-founder of Apture.
Harris said Apture is providing a new class of authoring tools to deliver a one-click multimedia linking platform. Apture provides a point-and-click interface to link and embed multiple sources of content on a Web page to quickly and easily create a multimedia experience for the user. Apture is taking away the cumbersome task publishers face today that requires copying and pasting codes and URLs from multiple sites to embed content onto to their pages.
The Apture solution also changes the user experience by enabling the user to simply point and click to view several media sources without ever having to leave the Web page. By integrating the Apture solution publishers will be able to add true context to what they are trying to communicate to their readers.
Using Apture, the Web page is no longer a flat piece of paper and can now be an interactive and intuitive experience where words are more powerful with the addition of multimedia content, Harris said.
I met with Harris in Washington, D.C., just before he was about to visit the Washington Post, which began using Apture in April for its Washingtonpost.com site. Harris was also scheduled to show his company’s invention to Walt Mossberg, the technology columnist/reviewer for the Wall Street Journal.
Apture provides access to some of the richest multimedia on the Web, including Wikipedia’s reference library; some of the largest video libraries in the world, including YouTube; Flickr’s global library of photographs, Imeem’s library of user-embeddable music and video playlists, Google Maps, and much more
Harris said the Apture Innovative Media Hub exposes media buried at the bottom of today’s decentralized libraries of multimedia, publicly available content that Web publishers have at their disposal that they may not be aware of.
In Harris’ view, Apture is pushing a paradigm shift in publishing and online communication that takes the world’s libraries and applies them in larger ways to enhance the Web experience of users.
As Harris and his co-founders, Can Sar and Jesse Young – all Stanford University graduates – set out to create Apture:
““We looked at the web in 2005 and we said with web sites at the time, information was getting published the same as it had been for years. But we had the richest communication mechanism and all of these resources and content was still buried.”“
So Harris and company turned to Stanford’s John S. Knight Fellowships program, which attracts some of the world’s top journalists to campus each year, for ideas. He said talking with the journalists sparked some of the ideas that went into Apture.
““We had an optimistic view of what we thought the web could be like back in 1995 with Microsoft Encarta, but that was better in ’95 than what we had 10 years later on the web,” Harris said.“
“We had some really cumbersome editing tools,” Harris said of the Web environment. “And we had to create a new standard for multimedia. The web lets you make content dynamic. Apture lets you present some empathy on the web.”
Harris said personal computing began with some arcane tools and later saw a paradigm shift with graphical tools that came along and democratized the way people used the technology. Harris said Apture can democratize the use of the web as a communications mechanism.
With Apture, a user can in one click: Link to a specific section of a Wikipedia article; link to a specific moment in a video clip, feature length movie, or TV show; link to a specific slide in a presentation file; or link to a specific page of a long PDF document.
Apture enables publishers to implement links without having to copy and paste long links or embed code or URLs. All users need do is let their cursor hover over an Apture-generated highlighted icon to gain access to the multimedia content it represents. A new window pops up on the page displaying an article, photo, video, map or other content, without the user having to leave the page.
The Apture Innovative Media Hub allows for a mixture of user generated content and publisher content, Harris said.
““All it takes is one line of code embedded into the source for your web site,” Harris said. “And your users can get instantaneous access to a seemingly endless amount of information – all of these libraries we have access to. The whole idea is to make it possible to go from not knowing anything about a specific subject or person, to having an entire experience about that subject or person” based on the information unleashed by Apture,” he said.“
Harris said Apture also comes with a monetization model based on the number and type of ads served with each use of the Apture technology to access information. “There is revenue sharing on all the ads we help publishers serve,” he said.
“Apture enables new forms of storytelling, of journalism, of blogging,” Harris said. In addition to the Washington Post, Tim O’Reilly has used the Apture software. Others who have used the software include ProPublica and some educational organizations.
Harris said the key audiences for the Apture multimedia linking platform are news organizations, publishers, and bloggers who are trying to make online reading a richer, more powerful and easy experience for their readers.
The Apture software works with all the major blogging platforms. And the list of libraries Apture pulls from includes: For reference information — Wikipedia, Amazon and IMDb; for videos — YouTube, Google Video, Blip.TV, Metacafe, Veoh, ESPN, Comedy Central, Hulu, BigThink, Revver and Imeem; for images — Flickr and Wikipedia Commons; for music — Imeem; for news — WashingtonPost.com; for documents — PDFs, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents via Scribd; for maps — Google Maps and MyMaps; and podcasts and MP3s. Apture also enables publishers to upload images, presentations, text, and PDF documents to link directly into the page.
“It’s in our interest to make this list as large as possible,” Harris said. “And we’re going to focus on all the new things that people haven’t even invented yet so that we’ll be able to offer them something to appear on.”
For his part, Harris said Apture is the only solution that enables linking several media into one experience without making the reader leave the page; it requires no client downloads or browser plug-ins; it does not add spam to your pages, and “Apture is the only solution that handles it all: search plus integration plus presentation plus monetization,” Harris said.
Louise Maine, an educator who has used and reviewed Apture, said:
““I have played with Apture on one of my blogs too, and also used it successfully on one of my wikispaces pages as well. I plan to use it next year with my classes as well and on more of my blog posts. It is a great tool and so easy to use!”“
Clay Burrell, another education blogger, said: “Apture rocks. … I don’t have to spell out how rich a tool this is for every use, educational and otherwise, you can think of, do I?”
The Apture development team is fewer than 10 deep, Harris said. The company’s in angel funded by a group of veterans of the technology and media industries, including Beau Vrolyk, who is executive chairman; Steve Taylor, founder and chief operating officer of Boston.com; and Paul Maritz, formerly a senior Microsoft executive and now president and general manager of EMC’s Cloud Computing division.
And the startup also has veteran help in spreading the word about it. Cathy Caplener, who has promoted some paradigm shifting technologies in her day, is helping Apture with its public relations effort. Caplener also helped Borland launch its move into object-oriented programming (OOP), which provided a boost to software development; and she also helped Sun Microsystems promote Java in the early days of the technology.
Caplener has a knack for picking winners to support. It seems pretty clear Apture will be a winner; the question is just how big a winner.
I asked Harris where the name Apture came from.
“This was actually something we struggled with for over a year,” Harris said. “You could draw connections to -capturing’ the world’s multimedia into your page, or the -aperture’ effect of opening and closing windows within one page view…”
But the truth, as in so many cases of naming a product, was that most of the names they wanted to use were taken so “Apture” won out among what was left.
Harris said the company plans to at some point open up its APIs to enable outside developers build on the Apture platform.