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Flowgram: Like a screencast, but with live pages

It looks like a slideshow... but the pages it shows are interactive.

Flowgram is cool tool for anyone trying to lead others through a thicket of web pages and ideas. With it, you chain together pages, photos, Microsoft Office documents, RSS feeds and custom pages, overlay each link in the chain with your own voiceover and annotation, then put the flowgram out on the the net: on your site, at YouTube, wherever you want people to find it.

Here's my first flowgram - a Brief Intro to Twitter - that I created in about an hour. Learning how to enter URLS (there's a handy bookmarklet available too), select images (from Facebook or Flickr or your own Mac or PC), add annotation and record a voiceover for each segment was extremely easy. In fact the hardest part was trying to speak coherently about each image.

A Flowgram is more than a Flash movie: each web page is live and you can interact with it while seeing the author's annotation and hearing their narration. Behind the scenes Flowgram's servers are grabbing the HTML of what you see on the screen.

Flowgram - in open beta and currently free - has about 5,000 users today, according to Flowgram CEO Abhay Parekh. Abhay has been around the startup block a few times - he sold his last startup, FastForward Networks, to Inktomi for over $1 billion in 2000, then joined the VC firm Accel as a partner and became and adjunct professor at UC Berkeley.

Where did Abhay get the idea for Flowgram? "Services like Digg, Flickr or Stumbleupon are really optimized for sharing one thing, one link, one cool thing that somebody found. As opposed to a way to explain to people something that might be on multiple websites, where you want to point out things. Where you want have your message, where you want to give it your own take."

Abhay hasn't decided to monetize Flowgram by embedding advertising, or by selling the product to companies who are looking a tool for training, marketing or support.

Flowgram is a worthy tool for capturing insight, commentary and viewpoint. More than a pre-programmed screencast, it lets you take people by the hand as you show them things they need to know, yet it also keeps them from going completely off the rails and getting lost, as a more open-ended tutorial might.