How many editors does it take to build an Internet
directory? How about 500,000? That's how many people use online
bookmarking service HotLinks. Similar to (now-struggling) Backflip,
HotLinks allows users to quickly save and categorize their favorite
links in an online environment. It's like using Internet Explorer
favorites, but it's more portable (accessible from any net-enabled
computer) and has more features.
So how is this a directory? The directory is built
out of the bookmark collections that users have chosen to mark as
"shared." The fact that all these bookmarkers have done
the work of categorizing sites and writing descriptions means that,
as a side effect, HotLinks has a "work force" of several
hundred thousand category editors. Thus the HotLinks Guide at http://guide.hotlinks.com/guide/ contains many
links that Yahoo!, LookSmart, and the Open Directory Project do
To check out the top 100 most bookmarked sites in
the Hotlinks database, see http://www.hotlinks.com/top100/ . Being the weirdo
I am, I went right to #100. It's Fidelity Investments.
The HotLinks Guide also has a pretty neat way of deciding
which sites should bubble to the top of a given category: the percentage
of users in that category who have bookmarked a site.
HotLinks calls this a site's "reach." In a category for
"portals," Traffick.com has a reach of 3%, putting us
on a par with ZDNet!!! So, we heartily agree with this methodology.
Until it develops an even larger and more active user
base, of course, the directory may have a few strange anomalies,
as pointed out in a negative review by an eCompany Now reporter
– “The Trouble Search Engines,” http://c.moreover.com/click/here.pl?e12075791
Funded by CMGI, and now suffering along with hundreds of other startups
in the B2C backlash, HotLinks is one of those services whose applications
are not always fully understood by potential customers. Currently,
Chairman and CTO Jonathan Abrams is seeking partners and investors
to help HotLinks port its functionality into the enterprise space.
Shared bookmarking capabilities make HotLinks, in his estimation,
an intuitive tool for corporate knowledge management, an easy-to-use
tool which employees might actually use to create a shared database
of knowledge. Abrams and I exchanged puzzled notes on the trends
in corporate collaboration over the years (Lotus Notes, Collabra,
Windows for Workgroups, Open Text, Groove Networks), and how much
of it has come to naught, perhaps because much have it has been
too complicated for the average employee. The phone conversation
got so interesting that Abrams nearly crashed his car.
In addition to corporate collaboration applications,
HotLinks technology can, in a fashion similar to competitors like
Quiver and Wherewithal, build a custom directory for a niche web
site, again making it easy for a large user base to participate
in the categorization process through the intuitive bookmarking
Unlike so many thin-air dot-coms, there is hidden
value and staying power lurking in many of the cutting edge Internet
search companies. Steve Harmon, a pioneering analyst
of Internet stocks, recently wrote a great column defending
the search engine companies. Back in 1996, Harmon writes,"conventional
wisdom said these companies were toast, burnt toast." In fact,
Harmon continues, this was the ground floor:
Well search didn't die, despite media headlines to
that effect. But it took 3 or 4 years to reach somewhat a level
of maturity or understanding by investors. Since they focused on
business and ignored the headlines all of these companies survived.
More than that they still exist today! How many of the current crop
of crap out there will say that in 3 or 4 years?
Search may not be today's fad, but the best search
companies are trying their best to ignore the headlines and show
that they're in it for the long haul. HotLinks' shot at sticking
around as a superior search technology depends on the support of
a major partner, be this Yahoo!, LookSmart, AOL, Ask Jeeves, or
an investor or enterprise software company (such as Hummingbird?)
that can help the company make its move into the enterprise.
What HotLinks offers to the enterprise is a potentially
more intuitive way of fostering collaboration. What it offers to
the grand old Internet space we all live in is a much more scalable
way of building a large or niche Internet directory with zero labor
costs. And oh yes, a really neat way to save your bookmarks.