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Going ape over MySpace; Browster's new release

Start-ups, and the venture capitalists who back them, are going ape over the MySpace ecosystem.

They've seen how MySpace helped push YouTube and Photobucket into leaders. Now MySpace is even bigger, and its users can annoint new winners: The only thing a start-up needs is to have MySpace users rave about its features, and its growth will skyrocket.

"Without MySpace, I sincerely doubt that Photobucket would be where it is today," Pete Cashmore, an industry consultant, told us. He said MySpace referrals were responsible for 56 percent of Photobucket's traffic in June.

Here is our story about this in the Mercury News today, including a partial list of the companies that are targeting MySpace. The story also mentions how MySpace is taking away the punch bowl, forcing awkward upgrades that make it difficult to link to third-party sites. MySpace is clearly having difficulty figuring out its policy -- it is on the fence about how much to encourage other companies serving the ecoystem, or to discourage it. If a YouTube runs off with business that could have been MySpace's, that's not a great thing. A MySpace spokeswoman at first said she'd respond to our request for comment immediately. But after not hearing from her, we pinged her again. She then forwarded us to a PR firm, and said a response was again coming shortly. Again, nothing.

Browster, of San Francisco is the latest company to go after the MySpace community.

The San Francisco start-up owns a tool that makes it possible to see pages behind links without actually clicking on the links. You simply hover over the link, and Browster displays the page. The company has focused first on search engine results. You do a search on Google, and instead of having to click on the results, you can hover over them, speeding up the search...

Problem was, despite its coolness factor, fewer people than expected took the time to download the company's initial version to try it out.

So now it is taking a different tack. Today, it unveils Browster 2.0. It includes a tool especially for MySpace that allows users to see quick and easy profile summaries of their friends -- stripping out much of the garish graphics, automatic music players and other things that make many of them difficult to read. Here are two images to show the difference (click them to enlarge). The first image above is of an original page, somewhat ugly. The image below is what happens when Browster pops it up; it shows simply the "about me," "music" and "more pics" sections.

We should note, however, that Browster has made its browsing on Google and other search engines much easier. Instead of just popping up a thumbnail picture of the search result page, Browster now pops open the page within a full browser. (Again, Browster's thesis is that clicking through on links wastes time). So if the page is about a Spanish travel site, you can surf around within that page or site -- including clicking on links, if you want -- until you are done with that site.

Then, if you scroll your mouse out of the pop-up browser, the Browster browser closes -- leaving you back on the Google search results page. Google likes this because it doesn't make you leave Google. In fact, with your Browster browser open, you can continue searching through the Google results by clicking a navigation button to take you to the next page in the results.

Browster will try to make money by taking a cut of the revenue from advertising within certain areas of the pop-up browser. For example, if someone performs a Yahoo search from a special toolbar within the browser, Yahoo will give Browster a cut from the resulting advertising revenue.

For our Merc story, linked to above, we corresponded with Josh Kopelman, of First Round Capital, one of the more active investors in Web 2.0. He's made several investments into companies with a MySpace angle: Browster, RockYou and Snapvine. Another private investor in Browster, John Zeisler, has supported and encouraged Browster's bet on MySpace: "We said, 'Let's apply it to MySpace,'" he told us. "Let's see if that'll be a catalyst for further widespread adoption." Zeisler, who also works part time with WaldenVC, a San Francisco venture firm, added: "There are many more MySpace opportunities out there."

Other links:

--Pete Cashmore had an early post about the MySpace ecosystem.

--MySpace spokeswoman did say during our brief phone conversation that this BW article from a few weeks ago carries the only statement so far by MySpace about its support of the ecosystem. It reads as if it was lawyered.

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From: Menlo Creek Musings
Will MySpace Eat Its Young?
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CoolIris is another tool that allows previews of links and images when the user hovers over the link:


I've been using it for several months now, and find it very useful as I read most blogs and web sites via RSS in my browser (Safari 2.x). CoolIris aslo works with FireFox and Internet Browser.

In addition, tools like CoolIris can offer additional advantages to the visually impaired (currently it does a nice job of clarification/magnification) . I look forward to integration with screen readers. Of course, that pre-supposes that the source web sites are constructed in accordance with WCAG or other accessibility guidelines.

Anon on August 13, 2006 3:28 PM
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Correction: In the post above, the sentence should read "CoolIris also works with FireFox and Internet Explorer".


Anon on August 13, 2006 3:39 PM
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Sceptical, I don't see browster being more than a feature. There are free plugins that do similar (though you can argue differences):


nik on August 13, 2006 8:10 PM
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I, too, have been using Cooliris (and have tried Browster). I don't know now how others feel, but I like Cooliris more than Browster. Browster seems too more "complex" for its own good(servers, ads, icons, an exe. file, etc.). Cooliris, on the other hand, is add-on and does the job and does it well. There's a certain elegance to effective simplicity. I also like the fact that Cooliris works on Mac.

dannyc on August 13, 2006 8:32 PM
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I don't think it is fair to make it sound like MySpace made Photobucket possible. I think it cuts both ways. Photobucket has played a material role in the growth of MySpace.

MySpace is smart and gets this. It's why they haven't closed the site down to outside links like Photobucket.


Dave Yeager on August 13, 2006 11:24 PM
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Browster is an interesting and enjoyable tool for workloaded Power Searchers and Researchers.

It is resource demanding, but most techies have powerful systems.

There will probably be many innovative, AJAX-type browser helpers flooding the markets in the upcoming years.

Searching will truly be an awesome and productive experience

Search Engine WEB on August 13, 2006 11:59 PM
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I have tried Browster and CoolIris, and CoolIris is a much more elegant solution, and it works on a MAC. Browster does not appear to have a business model, rev share from a thin amount of potential revenue generated in this model does not scale.If its Kopelman investment, it raises a red flag for me.

jeff reynolds on August 14, 2006 6:40 AM
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Why the "red flag" on Kopelman? Can you explain?

Matt Marshall on August 14, 2006 6:50 AM
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Great post, thanks.
I have been using the Girafa toolbar for a long time now*[http://www.girafa.com] which is the greatest browser helper when searching the web. (try using the "visualize" button on their toolbar - it is magic.
I will definetely give a try to Browster and Coollris, and will look forwrd to any new technologies that will make my life on the web easier.

Sandra B on August 14, 2006 7:03 AM
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It's a cool feature, but I think if it ever becomes popular, the MySpace execs will definitely block it because it strips out the Ad Banner on the top of each user profile page. It's totally against the MySpace policy and rev. model.

As for the question of why MySpace hasn't closed down the Photobuck links-- I think they want to, but they know it's a bit too late for that. Too many users are using it (and happy with the Photobucket service), and blocking it will be a total PR disaster. People will be screaming "Oh, look, the corporate machine FOX is trying to kill the little guy..."

Jay on August 14, 2006 8:11 AM
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thanks for writing aobut Browster! We really appreciate the kind words. We plan to continue with interesting 'personalized' or 'enhanced' viewing beyond what you see on a click through as a a second option for web users as they surf. Look for more soon!

Scott Milener

Scott Milener on August 14, 2006 9:19 AM
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Browster does not strip out the Ad of the MySpace view. In fact you can see it in Matt's post, above, the little Chipmunk, click-here Ad.

Also, Browster will do two other good things for MySpace (1) increase page views as users tend to look at about 2x the number of pages in Browster as without, (2) Browster decreases the load on MySpace servers causing a positive impact on their site performance and decreased costs.


Scott Milener on August 14, 2006 9:25 AM
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Browster2.0 is a great idea.
I love myspace and hope it can help me on it!

ifmyspace on August 16, 2006 4:15 PM
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