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Jive jumps into Web collaboration

Looking to bring Web 2.0 technologies to business, the company is introducing a "team collaboration" suite. Images: Collaborating via Clearspace

Jive Software, best-known as a provider of online forum software, plans to ride so-called Web 2.0 technologies into the world of corporate collaboration software.

The Portland, Ore.-based company is developing a new product, called Clearspace, designed to let employees share documents, write blogs and discuss topics of interest in forums. Now in testing, the software is slated to be generally available in February, according to the company.

Jive's Clearspace is one of many attempts to translate the popularity of Web 2.0 technologies--including blogs, wikis and tagging--to the corporate world.

These Web-based products are meant to be a more effective communications system than e-mail by centralizing shared information. Typically, these Web 2.0 business applications are marketed as lightweight alternatives to traditional document management systems.

"Information should be flowing between employees, customers and partners without a lot of technical barriers," said Dave Hersh, CEO of Jive. "E-mail is over-used, and chiseling away at the e-mail problem is certainly something big companies have asked us to do."

The Clearspace server allows people to submit and view information of different kinds, including jointly authored Web pages called wikis, as well as blogs and documents.

Jive has built the server so that information is organized by topic, rather than by the tool being used. This is meant to make the software more intuitive to end users, Hersh said.

When people log on to the system, they can see if colleagues are online and view what projects they are participating in. Information is meant to be classified by tags, or labels, submitted by end users, Hersh said.

Over time, Jive intends to introduce Web-based instant-messaging systems and to integrate with e-mail programs, Hersh said.

Other companies building Web-based collaboration systems include IBM, which is adding blogs and threaded discussions to its Lotus collaboration products. Last month, Intel introduced SuiteTwo, a bundle of Web 2.0 products, including Socialtext's business wiki software.

Hersh argued that Web-based collaboration systems that use wikis and blogs are being used in corporations but have yet to be used in large-scale applications. Clearspace, which is built in Java, is designed for high-volume situations, including collaborations within a company and between different organizations, he said.

"We've got a lot more structure than point solutions, but it's not as complex a structure as a document management system," he said.

Hersh said that Jive is also designing features aimed specifically at corporations, including integration with network directories, search, support for the WebDAV file system protocol, and the ability to have an administrator moderate discussions.

Pricing for Clearspace has not yet been established, but the company expects to charge on a per-user, per-year basis, Hersh said.