A little while ago Mark Hendrickson posted about Blist [Screenshot Gallery] on TechCrunch. He described it as a web-based database application and gave it a pretty good review. The Blist team is up here in Seattle and they are one of my favorite startups. As a result, when I saw the post on TechCrunch I was really happy but I couldn't say anything because they weren't ready to talk about the technology they're using. I finally got the okay to blog about the fact that they're using Flex. And they're doing great things with it.
Blist really continues with the sophistication we're seeing from Flex applications and it does so with an office slant that I think intrigues people. We have a word processor (Buzzword) and a Power Point competitor (SlideRocket) but we didn't have anything close to a spreadsheet. Now we do. Blist is an advanced, web-centric spreadsheet because it takes some of the ideas and themes from Excel but with more of a database model. The application is very intuitive and easy to learn and their design team has put a TON of work into making sure the user experience is solid. It's one of the most well-designed Flex applications that I've seen and it's still in the early stages. Kevin Merritt, the CEO was very careful about choosing technologies. He has a solid technical background and the choice between Flex and Ajax was one he took a lot of time to evaluate. In the end, he said Flex simply got them closer to their main goals:
"We want to empower mainstream users with the ability to organize their own data. The only way to succeed is to create a new metaphor for modeling data, with new behaviors and new visualizations. If data matters, it's likely going to be shared and need to be accessed from anywhere, so we knew we were building a web application. Ajax could only get us about 80% of the functionality we wanted, and with a lot of browser specific hacks. Flash is ubiquitous, supports the richer interactivity we want and runs consistently across all browsers and operating systems. It's been a great decision and we're thrilled with the results."
As a rich Internet application, it's one of the best I've seen. They have managed to load a ton of functionality into an application that has a solid user interface. They've bitten off a big problem but by combining technical smarts with good design they have added features that make creating a database easy for every day users. Keep an eye on this application. I have a feeling I'll be writing a lot about them. In the meantime, check out the screenshots and sign up to be notified when invites go out.