For the last few years AdaptiveBlue has offered a semantically rich Web application that understands things such as books, movies, and music. Clicking on text, such as a company or movie name, brings up a context-sensitive menu of related links. The company is taking its technology a step further, adding a social dimension and renaming the product, "Glue." Along with Radar Networks' Twine and Powerset's Wikipedia search engine (acquired by Microsoft), Glue offers a compelling glimpse into how the Semantic Web will add a new, powerful level of intelligence to the Internet.
Rather than just connect things to related data and services, it also connects things to people and people to people and their things. For example, when a Glue user visits a site with things the software recognizes, such as a movie, artist, wine book, restaurant, or stock quote, a bar appears at the top of the screen with a list of friends and other people in the Glue network who looked at that object. Users can leave brief comments to share an opinion with others.
"Glue works as a contextual filter," said Alex Iskold, founder and CEO of AdaptiveBlue. "We show relevant information from friends about the things they visit. They don't have to sift through lengthy lifestreams. For example, if you have 100 friends in FriendFeed, you are a human filter trying to sift through it and the information is completely out of context. The idea is to get the useful information 'chunked' contextually on the pages you visit. We are not asking people to change their habits."
The people surfaced in the Glue bar could have seen the object, such as a movie title, on a variety of sites. "People look at movies at different times and places, but the core semantic technology can understand the same thing and correlate it. As a movie fan, you just want to know what your friends think. It doesn't matter when or where the user visits things; Glue automatically connects them. There is no Glue destination site--the network is the user's context across the Web," Iskold said.
Glue also taps into existing social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, to add friends, or to "follow" other people. The Glue Navigator allows users to browse the network of people and things, and what friends have identified as a "like" and what they have to say about objects. Glue can display all the music that a friend has viewed and drill down, offering contextual shortcuts to find out more, such as reviews and shopping links, about things on the Web. Glue remembers only the last 20 last things visited, and the things "liked" or commented upon.
Each user has a profile page that shows likes and the number of followers and who the user is following. "It's a way of cross-pollinating interests. You can see what I am interested in and perhaps it is the same books or wine with which you have an interest," Iskold said. "Glue also allows you to claim pages that represent you, such as a blog, FriendFeed, or Twitter. It's an outlet where people know where to find and connect with you. For example, other Glue users could see what you are up to recently on your personal blog."
Glue impressed investors at RRE Ventures and Union Square Ventures (Series A Lead) enough to fund a $4.5 million series B round recently. The company has a good chance of making it through the meltdown.