Bessemer Venture Partners is launching an incubated startup called MashLogic into private beta today, with the audacious promise of helping people “take back the web.”
They say (and they’re not alone) that the web today is driven by page view economics and search engine optimization goals, which leads publishers to link to themselves too often. The result is a less than optimal web experience.
There are Greasemonkey scripts that strip out these inefficient links, and various services like Adaptive Blue are adding browsing and link options for users via a plugin. Another startup, Sphere, acquired by AOL earlier this year, is a pop up window triggered by users that shows other content they might be interested in based on an index of the current page. It worked, well enough to get them acquired at least.
MashLogic is a more direct approach. Users must download a Firefox plugin to use it, but there’s no toolbar. Instead, you simply change the settings to tell it what kind of information you’d like to have included on web pages. Links to Wikipedia is an easy one. But it also has company links to LinkedIn to show you people there you might know. And a currency converter. Etc. It’s like a frickin Swiss Army Knife for hyperlinks.
One setting I like – the ability to remove all links on a page, and then only MashLogic links appear. For a lot of sites, the user experience is vastly superior. You can also create blacklists of domains that won’t show up in links on the page, even if the original publisher put them there.
Once you’ve got the tool configured, smart links will start popping up all over the place. Professional Athletes get their playing stats, Politicians get a real time poll of their progress towards the White House. Currencies are *zap* converted. You can even see a map for any street address.
Their goal is to save you from having to go back to the search engine to find the next thing you’re intersted in but isn’t linked on the site.
So far in my testing, they’ve nailed it. Instead of linking Bessemer Venture Partners in the first paragraph to Crunchbase or their website, I left it blank. The result was a great MashLogic Link bringing in Crunchbase information and other information relevant to Bessemer. If a user doesn’t like that info, they can just make a few changes and go right to Wikipedia, or a search engine, or wherever.
And if you mouse over a link to a sound or movie file, it will play the file right in the popup.
We have 500 beta installs available now, here. Once they’re gone, you’ve got to find someone who’ll be willing to hand one over. Lucky for all of us we have InviteShare to bring givers and takers together. MashLogic should be up and running there by morning.
The Business Model:
The easy money will be by adding links to ecommerce items, leading to affiliate fees from splits. But the service will also be a central hub of data and linking activities, which can be monetized in different ways as well.
MashLogic is also encouraging distribution to users from publishers. Yeah, you heard that right. The idea is that if everyone is going to be using this, you’ll do better by getting it to users first, pre-stocked with your sites as resources. Those users can change all of those settings, but many won’t. And your passionate readers will find themselves flying back to your content, no matter where on the web they’ve wandered off to. Once enough users find that they love this product, licensing it directly to the browsers may makes sense. And then the revenue opportunities sort of hop into the pot themselves.
I’m putting this on my must-have list of Firefox addons.