I'm always eager to get my hands on new publishing tools. We've got our own in-house blogging tool at CNET, but on the side I like to stay well versed in various other platforms both big and small. A new one from Profy.com (whose blog is actually a competitor of ours) launched on Wednesday and has been garnering some buzz from some of the other blogs. I thought I'd give it spin and see if the hype is well deserved.
What I can say after spending some time testing out its features is that it's off to a good start, but far from a Wordpress killer for people who are seriously thinking about launching any sort of commercial blog. It's more in line with Blogger and Ning's offerings in setting up a vast network of interconnected social sites that your users can navigate to and fro while retaining the feeling of being on the same service.
Besides having a fairly standard WYSIWYG blogging interface, and integrated RSS feed reader, the real draw to the app is its interconnected social network. You can add other Profy users and blog owners as friends and contacts. The service goes as far as integrating instant messaging and presence management to let you know when someone's online. Once you've added people as friends, you can then keep track of their new blog posts, along with what they're reading if they've opted to share what RSS feeds they're subscribed to. The RSS reader itself isn't too shoddy either. While not as feature rich as the big guys, I actually prefer its layout to Google Reader's (at least on our RSS feed) because it displays who the author is on the title of each post.
Everything seems designed with a simple user in mind. There's no access to your blog's CSS, instead everything is simplified down to a fairly sizable collection of templates that can be custom-tailored (very much like Ning) with the user picking where they want each site element to go. The same goes for the domain, which lives under the Profy.com moniker and can't be linked up to one you already own. All these things make it very simple to get started and make changes on the go, but power users will likely want a little more.
The site is currently in private alpha with no timeline on when it'll be open to the general public. For now, they're offering Webware readers 100 invites to get their own blogs going. To get yours, go to this page and enter "Webware" in the description box.
Screens below. There are two more after the break.