Startup BO.LT lets users edit, annotate, and re-post Web pages on its servers | Adweek
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Rip, Remix, Share . . . Websites?

Startup BO.LT wants to give users power to change pages
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The latest social sharing startup allows Web surfers to copy, edit, and share websites, and it's got content producers nervous—at least according to its founder Matthew Roche. “Most content producers see it as scary,” said the CEO of San Francisco-based BO.LT. “It's essentially ripping pages out of websites.”

BO.LT works like this: By pasting a link into the BO.LT website, users can view that page and, from their browser, easily edit almost any part of it. When users save their edits, a unique BO.LT URL is created, similar to what happens with URL shortening services. The revised page is then hosted on BO.LT's servers, although websites partnering with BO.LT could host on their own sites as well. The plan, Roche said, is for users to share BO.LT links with their social networks via Twitter and Facebook.

Users already share links, but BO.LT hopes to take its info-sharing beyond the link. “Once someone interacts with content, they have a vested interest in spreading it further,” Roche said. “Engagement leads to more engagement.”

Roche is aware that companies, brands, and other owners of carefully thought-out websites may not like any old Internet troll sharing altered versions of their pages. But the benefits are too great, he argued. Companies want reach, but may need to give up a little control, thus making their presentation more social to get that reach, he said. “You can professionally produce something no one cares about. If you want something to move online, you have to enlist the army of people around you to help move it,” he said.

The difference in what BO.LT is doing, co-founder (and Matthew's brother) Jamie Roche explained, is that content is already being copied and pasted online, often with different ads sold around it. With BO.LT pages, the content producer's advertising, analytics, and context stays intact. (BO.LT says its software makes it difficult to delete ads.) The Roches insist they're not overly concerned about charges of copyright infringement, because the company will carefully follow the precedents set by Flickr and YouTube. If content producers are unhappy, BO.LT will remove the pages.  

Even before its official launch, the company has secured partnerships with Houseplans.com, a building planning website; Smart Destinations, a travel deals website; and Second Porch, an online vacation rental site. Jamie Roche told Adweek the site is also in discussions with Dwell magazine for a promotional partnership using BO.LT software.  

BO.LT hopes to be adopted on the content production side, since it allows managers of online content, and especially marketers, to make quick changes without the use of a content management system or IT department, he said.

While more protective content owners may still have their doubts, the company already has the support of investors. Benchmark Capital put $5 million into BO.LT in the form of a Series A round in 2010. The company intends to raise more capital this year to help it develop roads to revenue, and wants to create an embeddable “BO.LT it” button similar to Facebook’s “like” or Twitter’s “retweet” buttons. BO.LT plans to follow a fremium business plan, where professional account holders seeking customized domains and unlimited page edits would pay a subscription fee.