New York-based semantic technology startup AdaptiveBlue yesterday unveiled an update to their Glue product, and the world's technology writers were unable to contain their enthusiasm for the obvious puns. I spoke with AdaptiveBlue's CEO, Alex Iskold, ahead of the launch to hear about the latest enhancements.
Currently offering an iPhone App and a Firefox browser extension, Glue provides useful functionality in aggregating interactions with identifiable objects such as films and books from across the various sites on which people find with them. As I described when Glue originally launched last year,
"There are plenty of offerings that will put you in touch with your social network on a single site. Glue is interesting because it escapes the tyranny of the site and connects people to things across a growing number of sites. My interactions with Social Networks and the Semantic Web on Amazon.com are visible to members of my network who prefer to shop with Barnes&Noble, and those who are amongst the 32 owners of this book hanging out on LibraryThing. My personal preferences are respected, as I only need to interact with the item on a site of my choosing. Members of my network gain the ‘benefit’ of that interaction without needing to change their habits and visit sites of my choosing. Behind the scenes, semantic technologies are hard at work reconciling the 0387710000 with the 978-0387710006, the 4561465 and the various other ways in which we choose to refer to a single body of intellectual expression. When a match is found, the Glue Firefox plugin does a nice job of subtly highlighting the fact… without getting in the way of whatever task you are trying to complete."
Since that launch there have been 110,000 downloads of the browser extension, and Alex reports 35,000 'active' users.
Yesterday's visible additions to the product mostly appear quite superficial, but they'll be important in converting more of those downloaders to active users, especially once the pool of potential users is expanded by the upcoming version for Internet Explorer.
First, the Glue Bar at the top of a browser window is 25% thinner. Even though the Glue Bar is 'contextual,' and only appears on pages where relevant content (a book, a film, a person, etc) is detected, the old version could still intrude quite a long way into the browsing experience. For those who actively engage with the bar only occasionally, it's now an awful lot less intrusive and therefore more likely to be tolerated in day-to-day browsing for the benefits it brings.
More significantly, the '2 cent' comments that users of the previous version were able to make are now aggregated and made far more visible to other Glue users via what Iskold described as 'Connected Conversations.' As with the core Glue offer, users' 2 cent comments about a film on Netflix, Wikipedia or IMDB are pulled together and made visible to their peers, regardless of the site on which they happen to be viewing details of the same film. These comments can also be shared via a user's social graph on Twitter, Tumblr and Friendfeed, reaching a community beyond Glue.
By aggregating the interactions of every Glue user with items scattered across the Web, Glue is also now able to compile - and display - lists of the most popular books, films, etc. Unlike traditional measures that might track rentals from Netflix and sales from Amazon, Glue is able to measure a far more complex set of interactions with a given resource. Users might buy from Amazon or rent from Netflix. They might also demonstrate their interest by reading about a film on Wikipedia or IMDB... and Glue would track those interactions too. Below, for example, we can see that Knowing is the most popular film on Glue this week.
These lists are calculated daily, and are based upon the aggregate of all user activity over the preceding seven days.
The list of sites that Glue understands is growing, but remains heavily biased to the US market. Alex suggested that the team were keen to consolidate their US position before devoting more attention to adding international sources. However, with a Glue API to follow their Internet Explorer release, it's possible that a sufficiently motivated community will soon be able to start adding some of these new resources for themselves...