30Boxes takes a Web 2.0 approach to shared calendars

Sharing information with family, friends, and co-workers is a phenomenon driving more and more application development. This is especially true of online services like Flickr and del.icio.us which make sharing photos and links (respectively) point-and-click simple.

An eagerly awaited online calendar called 30Boxes goes live today. It's been receiving rave reviews from those granted an early peek. The first mention I recall was when Scoble mentioned it on his blog "way back" in December. Thomas Hawk heralds it as the reinvention of the calendar. Om Malik says that 30Boxes will be to calendars what Gmail is to e-mail. Technorati is all abuzz with conversations.

I received an invitation to create an acount yesterday and spent a few minutes during a particularly dull portion of the Super Bowl setting up my calendar. 30Boxes provides a simple, uncluttered UI with a month calendar, a prominent event entry box, and a few links. The deceptively simple interface is viewable in one of three skins: OS X gray, Gmail blue, and Flickr white. To add an item to your calendar you simply type something like "lunch with Bob Wednesday 12:30 pm Scalo" and the engine parses the text and creates a new appointment. A detailed entry form is also available that allows you to enter information in a more conventional fashion and assign tags to the event.

You can associate your calendar with a number of other online services including Flickr or Webshots for photos (Narendra Rocherolle - the idea guy behind 30Boxes was also the founder of Webshots), LiveJournal or MySpace for blogs, Yahoo! for weather, and any other RSS feed you care to bring in.

Of course a calendar is just a calendar and all of this connective tissue is fine as far as it goes. What makes 30Boxes the recipient of so much blogger passion are the sharing features built into the service. You can build a list of "Buddies" to share your calendar with. You can also subscribe to your buddies' calendars. Feeling more adventurous? You can share your calendar publicly on a Public Buddy page, generate a vCard with your contact and calendar information, download files for iCal or Outlook, and very soon now, create an RSS or JavaScript badge to display on your web site or blog. Public OPML (pOPML) is also promised.

For this to be really useful, I think there needs to be a way to populate the 30Boxes calendar with all of my current information from Outlook, iCal, or even another web-based calendar like Yahoo! I have hundreds of items already scheduled for this year that I'd like to be able to import into 30Boxes if it's to be really useful. Re-entering all of this information isn't somethng I'm prepared to do.

So while I'm not prepared to call this the second coming of the calendar, it's a fine start and an easy way to set up a public-facing calendar you can share with others. It is a beta and moe features and polish are certainly in the works. The 30Boxes Blog promises an API for developers who wish to hook into the engine - a smart move and one sure to generate any number of mashups. I'd like to see a calendar that picks up pictures of the person I'm meeting from my Flickr set, adds a map to the location we'll be meeting, and autoomatically adds a link to that person's calendar, contact record, or blog. Heck, maybe even their Amazon wish list if I feel like sending them a thank you.


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