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IQ News: Slicing and Dicing

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Webbe helps users and advertisers navigate the Web.
Web surfers who don't have enough downloaded geegaws rattling about their desktops and advertisers who want to climb above the hoi polloi might both want to consider a Webbe. That's "Web-be," a desktop application that lets the former slice and dice content from the Internet, and the latter hoist their brands onto user desktops, where the competition thus far is scarce.
A kind of Ronco Pocket Fisherman for the Internet, Webbe is designed to simplify e-mail and Web navigation by bundling dozens of useful functions in a graphic interface shaped like a handheld remote. Webbe's myriad features include click, drag and drop file transfer; e-mail "telegrams" called eNotes, which are essentially instant Post-it-type notes that users can send to each other without the hassle of e-mail; chat function; and a "buddy list" that lets Webbe-enabled users see who else is online.
"One of my friends calls Webbe 'ICQ on steroids,' " says Glenda Maynard, vice president of business development for the two-year-old company. "It's not just for communication but for navigation, as well."
Maynard says a user can customize Webbe to deliver the latest headlines from several categories comprising a global network of Internet news links, from the Korean Times to the Nikkei News. It also features a built-in portal to numerous Internet sites delineated by category and a number of search engines.
"Think of Webbe as a highly personalized Web browser, a one-stop shop for Internet activity," says Manish Dave, vice president and co-founder. "The beauty of it is its ability to eliminate clutter via an all-purpose platform for e-mail, Web surfing and file transfer."
Although a generic version of Webbe can be downloaded for free at www.webbe.com, the Uniondale, N.Y.-based company is aiming to develop co-branding and licensing deals with other Web sites and brand advertisers. The company's revenue model stipulates an upfront development fee from an advertiser, plus a monthly licensing fee.
A major selling point for marketers? The branded Webbe can be made to look like, well, anything. "Webbe supports skins, which customizes mutable interfaces," says Maynard.
She adds that Webbe also offers brand placement opportunities in other areas of the device, as well. "We have been talking about Webbe as a new way to advertise online," she says. "Our thought is that the way Internet advertising currently works does not do for the client what it is supposed to do. The click rates are 2 percent. If you have a powerful, practical and fun desktop application like Webbe, the advertising takes on a whole different flavor."
But might desktop branding be intrusive to users, especially if Webbe wears a skin shaped like an advertiser's logo or product, and scrolls its company news? No, says Maynard.
"Since first-tier advertisers will be Web sites, most branding will constitute a logo on Webbe, rather than a 'skin,' " she says. "You can move Webbe off your screen; you can turn it off. If someone feels they don't want the content they can turn off the news alerts, as well."
A user, she claims, will have to opt-in for the download, either from the advertiser's site or a site featuring the advertiser's Webbe offer.
Maynard says Webbe has already registered nearly 100,000 downloads, and that the company is negotiating co-branding and licensing deals with major advertisers and Web sites, although she could not disclose names.
"Ultimately," says Maynard, "what Webbe gets [an advertiser or Web site] is a sticky user." n