This morning Vysr is launching its browser plug-in and Web widget platform RoamAbout at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. The app has been designed to give you access to a slew of Web services as small, widgetized Web apps that can be called up in an instant without requiring additional software.
It was pitched to me as "a new way to browse the Web," which usually makes my stomach lurch, but it's actually pretty darn useful for giving you contextual searching and reference without mucking up the pleasingly simple experience of navigating Web pages.
Vysr works a lot like a browser toolbar, hanging out in the lower-right corner of your browser window and giving you access to a small grouping of Web services that can be used almost like the contextual menus when you right-click on something onscreen. However, instead of attempting to edit the sensitive ecosystem of your right-click menu, it opts to reserve that functionality to just the plug-in. When it's time to pick what service you want to use, you get to pick from its built-in directory, and custom-tailor the apps you want on hand to a short list.
To use RoamAbout, users need to install it in Internet Explorer or Firefox. It's unlike a regular toolbar, though it sits in the corner of your screen--out of the way of the important things you look at while browsing, but still readily accessible. CEO and Founder of Vysr, Guda Venkatesh, told me that he was tired of seeing start-ups go for the toolbar approach, and that users want something useful but that doesn't take up valuable screen real estate.
I met with Venkatesh last week to see the app in action. At the time there were just half a dozen tools that ran the gamut from maps and photos all the way to turning Web text into speech. In one instance he highlighted an address and used the MapQuest widget to look up the address. It showed up on top of the screen as an overlay and let us jump right back to the page when we were done.
The general idea is that you could do the same thing for maps that you could do with any other Web service and add it to the RoamAbout app shortlist for quick use later. Venkatesh says they're trying to put out one to two additional apps for RoamAbout a week, while expecting enterprising developers to beef up the directory with specially designed apps of their own.
This plug-in is definitely worth taking a look at. We'll get a hands-on soon.