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Five Across and Bubbler: reinventing web publishing?

bubbler-hdr.jpgDoes 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 The technology that underpins it, he says, is clunky, outdated and far more complicated than it needs to be.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.''


If they want to compete in this market, they better spruce up their Web site -- no samples, no templates, etc. And, no way to contact the CEO. And for some reason, the CEO's blog is in blogger. Makes you wonder. Blink -- first impressions count.

Ken Leebow on February 18, 2005 10:50 AM
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We launched at the DEMO conference on Monday, and they required secrecy beforehand, so we *just* launched 3 days ago. I couldn't move my blog to Bubbler until after that from Blogger. But I'm easy to contact on the fiveacross.com web site, or you can email me: greid at fiveacross.com. I'm pretty accessible.

We have lots of templates but they're deployed through the client, not through the web site. I encourage you to check it out!

Glenn Reid
Five Across
"Bubbler" people

Glenn Reid on February 18, 2005 9:24 PM
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Hmm, looks like an interesting innovation in the blogging space. Anything that pushes the envelope of this nascent medium is worth considering.

At the very least, we owe ourselves a bit of time for a test drive before pronouncing judgement.

Carmi Levy

Carmi on February 19, 2005 2:48 PM
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I find it funny that Five Across claims to be "turning the web into a conversation" and yet doesn't offer comments or trackbacks in its software. Also? The web doesn't need Five Across to be a conversation -- it already is, and has been for years.

Max on February 24, 2005 7:16 AM
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A new protocol - SXTP ? I'd like more assurances from a security perspective before embracing a new protocol that's largely unexamined.

I noticed that immediatley after the desktop bubbler install, Microsoft's AntiSpyware was complaining that a 'Web Browser' named '()' had inserted itself into Internet Explorer. (Microsoft goes on to explain that "A Web Browser is a program inserted into Internet Explorer that gives the program full control over Internet Explorer."

I'd like Bubbler to talk to about the security implications to the user's desktop of this insertion. Why is it piggybacking on IE? Can't it stand alone? Shall it share in the continuing flaws of or even assist in creating a new exploit against IE?

notforprophet on February 28, 2005 10:48 AM
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Remember folks it's still in Beta! Many serious bloggers are dumping comments (I've never enabled them) and trackback is utterly overated and problematic (I don't use that either). Concurrent posting, making the blog work like IM seems a potentially more powerful tool for using blogs the way I think they will be used increasingly in the future. Blogging is changing and the days when everyone wanted to get into the top 100 are gone. Blogs in the future will be aimed at a very small audience and ease of use, stability (please note Blogger) and simplicity will be the keys. Drag and drop, static pages, multiple authors, and speed - that's pretty good to be going on with. There are a few thousand geeks out there who want more and MT, Wordpress etc will satisfy them ( I run a couple of Wordpress blogs myself, very good it is too) but MILLIONS aren't bothered about anything other than a simple, elegant way to get their words, images and sounds published. To that end Bubbler looks like a winner. We'll have to wait and see but I wish them well. Oh, and just a note to the Bloger users. Remember last year before the update/relaunch of Blogger? What a hopeless operation it was. No response, poor service etc etc and they had been up and running for years! Give these guys a chance

mike power on March 18, 2005 8:07 AM
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