Headup finds new connections on Web pages

The Firefox extension gives you the "back story" on people, places, and things you see in your browser, unobtrusively and quickly.

Bob Walsh

Bob Walsh is the co-moderator of the the popular Joel on Software Business of Software forum and a consultant to startups and microISVs. He writes a blog at 47hats.com, and is the author of two books, Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality and Clear Blogging: How People Blogging Are Changing the World and How You Can Join Them.

Bob Walsh
2 min read

If you've been looking for a tool to connect what you see in your Web browser at any given time with other stuff on the Web and in your social networks, Headup, a new Firefox extension announced Thursday, is something you'll want to spend some time with.

Headup gives you what could be called the "back story" on people, places, and things you see in your browser, unobtrusively and quickly. For example, let's say you're looking at your page in FriendFeed and see an item by someone who is LouisGray? Click the small yellow plus sign Headup adds to the page when it recognizes a term and you get:

Bob Walsh
Headup is the creation of Tel Aviv-based start-up SemantiNet, and the brainchild of CEO Tal Keinan who in September nailed down $3.4 million in Series A funding.

"We (Tal and his partner, Tal Muskal) were early adopters of a lot of services," Keinan said. "And we felt there was just too much of going to the content instead of the content coming to us going on."

Headup uses Microsoft's Silverlight 2 technology--and I had no problems with it whatsoever on my MacBook Pro. Headup provides you with two kinds of information: what's out there on some of the major social sites like Flickr, Pandora, and Twitter about that person, place or thing, and what the people who make up your personal amalgamated social network think of it.

For example, if you go to Amazon to check out a band you've just heard about, with Headup you could see:

  • How many of your Facebook friends like this band;
  • The band's music via Pandora;
  • The band's Wikipedia info;
  • Band pictures on Flickr;
  • The best tickets for the band's next concert in your city via Zvents;
  • How many of your Twitter or FriendFeed contacts have discussed the band;
  • And geographically useful info about where the band is performing, using Yahoo's Fire Eagle technology, such as what restaurants near the concert hall are top-rated by Yelp.
Headup isn't a search engine; it's more an inference engine that looks for meaningful connections, spurred by what the people in your personal social network have talked about. As an example, I posted at my non-CNET blog yesterday about what Joe the Programmer could learn from Joe the Plumber: Headup found a similar post that was along the same lines; one that Google did not, at least not in the first 100 items found.

While Headup is still in private beta, if you want to give it a try, the first 400 people using the invite code of CNETINV will get in.