“YouTube is a video sharing service. Flickr is an image sharing service. BO.LT is a page sharing service,” explains Jamie Roche, co-CEO of BO.LT. Roche and his brother and co-CEO Matthew Roche are at the Mediabistro office in New York, demonstrating their new site that would launch this morning in San Francisco. Beyond its sharing capabilities, BO.LT is a free, browser-based Web page editor that’s even easier to use than a meme generator like I Can Has Cheezburger, but with infinitely more uses.
“People share pages now, or they think they do,” says Jamie Roche. “They’re bloggers and they say here’s something you should look at, or they’re Tweeters and they say, here’s something cool, and it helps reinforce the social status of this person or helps them do the job. Facebook delivers 200 million links every day. But they’re just sharing the address of the content. They’re sharing a pointer to where the content might or might not be. They’re sharing content that might or might not still be what it was when you pointed to it. What we’ve done is say, I can share the content, but not the just the address of the content, but the content itself.”
On BO.LT, as with link shortening sites like bit.ly, users can copy and paste any URL into a box and get a new URL. But with this new URL, they are also creating a replica of the page – kind of like a screenshot, but live, and a lot more interactive. With a simple interface, users can highlight and replace text, upload new photos or change the background from the site’s front end. The modified page has a stamp on it that marks it as altered content and links back to the original page for reference. On the back end, BO.LT can track data like page views and tweets.
The technology for BO.LT grew out Offermatica, a Website content testing and performance optimization platform that was acquired by Omniture in 2007 and became Adobe’s Test & Target after Adobe acquired Omniture in 2009. Basically, companies used the application to figure out which of their video, Web page, promo or digital assets worked the best on different audiences.
“Fast forward, we’re out of non-compete, we’re starting to build a new thing,” says Roche. They talked about what had and hadn’t worked with their last venture.” What we found was something new that in our mind, was much, much bigger.” In 2010, they raised $5 million from Benchmark Capital to launch the project – most startups we talk to raise about $1.5 million for the first round. BO.LT has big plans.
To demonstrate, Roche takes a page from the Crate & Barrel catalogue and starts deleting photos, typing over product descriptions, and more or less vandalizing the interface like it’s a movie poster in the subway. Then he shares it on his blog. As a consumer, Roche says could use this page to show his wife a chair he wanted to buy. If he were a marketing professional, he could test different ads to see which ones consumers responded to best. A designer might create multiple layouts of the same page to show their clients. Adds Roche, you could even go on “just as a human being trying to entertain your friends.”
“Where it becomes really interesting,” Roche continues, “both from a consumer and a business perspective, is when we say that BO.LTing is not the process of copying and formatting the page – BO.LTing is the process of copying, improving and forwarding the page.” You know a site has traction when its name can be used as a verb.
Devon Glenn is the mediabistro startups expert.