Five Across and Bubbler: reinventing web publishing?
Does the world really need another blogging tool? The instinctive answer is no. With TypePad/Movable Type, Blogger, Spaces, WordPress, pMachine, Xanga, etc, etc, we seem full-up in that department. But Bubbler, a new product by a Palo Alto start-up called Five Across, is not an ordinary blogging tool. Creator Glenn Reid says it represents a new way of looking at Web publishing.
"It sounds a bit audacious, but we have a great engine and a great platform,'' Reid says.
At its simplest, Bubbler is a hosted a blog service, not unlike Blogger or TypePad. But instead of updating their blogs through a browser-based Web form, users post entries through a Bubbler desktop application (downloadable for free). This makes it simple to drag photos, audio and video files, office documents or just about any other type of file into a window and have them uploaded to your site.
Other features let users easily change the look of the their web sites, create individual Web pages and invite friends or colleagues onto their blogs as authors. One feature called Reporter allows users to post real-time entries to their blogs in much the same way they would send IM messages. Multiple users can even post concurrently, creating an IM-like conversation on a single blog.
The service doesn't offer many of the features that bloggers have come to expect, such as comments and trackbacks. But Reid says those may come.
All of this is powered by a new Web server platform that Reid and his small company developed called the Bubbler Server. The server architecture is faster than traditional Web servers, he says, and designed specifically for serving up dynamic Web pages.
Reid built the Bubbler client and server in part because he's unimpressed with the current crop of blogging tools. "The software used to get these snippets of text up on the Web is primitive,'' he said.
More broadly, Reid is critical of the state of present-day Web publishing. The technology that underpins it, he says, is clunky, outdated and far more complicated than it needs to be. In a white paper (pdf file) detailing the new Bubbler Server, Reid derides the Rube Goldberg-like chain of events that often occurs whenever a Web page is served to a user. He calls XML – used more and more to move text and information across the Internet – "one of the most overrated phenomena."
"We built this from the inside out to handle any content, intending to reinvent Web publishing,'' he said. "In a sense, we're replacing Apache (the dominant Web server platform) and all that sits on top of it.''
What Reid is trying to bring to Web publishing – design simplicity and ease-of-use – is reminiscent of what Apple did for personal computing. And for good reason. Reid is an Apple vet, having led the development of iMovie and iPhoto. He left Apple in November of 2003, after the team working on those applications grew from a few dozen to many hundreds.
"I guess I'm a small-company kind of guy when it comes down to it.''
For now, Five Across (whose first product was instant messaging software) is a seven-person company. It's taken $2 million in Series A investment from Granite Ventures and Adobe Ventures LP. Standish O’Grady and Tom Furlong of Granite Ventures sit on the board.
Five Across offers Bubbler as a hosted blogging service. It's also pitching it to Internet service providers that want to offer hosted blogging as a service. And there is a corporate package that includes instant messaging and the Bubbler Server for companies that want internal blogging.
Reid said the goal is to ultimately move the tool beyond blogging into "complete Web site building.''
"Whether this becomes part of the ecosystem remains to be seen.''