Joe Kraus of Jotspot came by my office today and we chatted for about 30 minutes about how his wiki-based platform and applications are evolving. Joe has ample Web 1.0 experience in building a Web-centric products and company. He was one the co-founders of the pre-Google search engine Excite (which then became part of the highly touted but now extinct Excite@Home and now lives within Ask Jeeves, which was recently acquired by Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp). Joe has thought considerably about entreprenuership (see his blog posting) and startups, and I could tell from our conversation that he is learning many new lessons from his Web 2.0 (the Web as the application platform, with lots of open application interfaces) effort with JotSpot.
He said that the first iteration of JotSpot was inspired by the basic wiki concept, but has become a "wiki plus plus," somewhat complex and difficult to explain easily to customers. He now plans to simplify JotSpot by creating three separate products within this year out of current and some future functionality. All of the products will be based on the JotSpot wiki-oriented platform (co-authoring, alerts, version control, calendars, attachments, aggregating mulitple data types, integrating with external applications, search, etc.).
First is a new, simplified version of the wiki, which will conform to the more canonical notions of wikiness. Second is CorkBoard, which puts a graphical user interface on top of the text-oriented wiki framework, making it easier for more non-technical users to get up and running with a networked application, such as a shared project management space. Joe said the company will make the APIs open so that users have the ability to tinker and build their own CorkBoard applications on top of the JotSpot platform.
The third application, called Application Publisher, allows users to create what Joe calls do-it-yourself (DIY) network-based applications. "If in under a minute you can make [the data] interactive like Google Maps and with good visual design, that's something fascinating," Joe said. For example, instead of passing Excel files around in e-mails, users could import an Excel file, such as a list, into JotSpot and turn it into an interactive, wikified (inheriting the wiki functionality) component. An early version of Application Publisher will be available in about a week. The current separate JotSpot blogging application, which was introduced in April, will not be part of future product family, Joe said. After decomposing JotSpot's original all-in-one vision, the company will eventually figure out ways for the family of applications and external components to play well together.
Just as desktop publishing transformed the publishing industry, Joe thinks that DIY tools can fill a huge gap between applications like Excel and programming languages like Java and C++. He is on the right track--it has to be easier to create easy-to-consume applications without painful assembly. It's a development area that is ripe for innovation.