Taking it to the Edgeio

I have about 20 years of technical experience (if you count my first software company selling games as a teenager). Having done this for that long tends to make one a little cynical about supposedly earth shattering new technology. Most of what I see announced as unique isn’t pushing any boundaries. In fact, when you really get down to it, most of the time “new” technology simply exposes the inexperience of the inventor — Marty’s Law #12 states: an inventor’s perceived unqiueness of a product is usually directly proportionate to their lack of experience in a market. Note the inclusion of the word “usually” – It’s the exceptions to this rule that are the true gems.

So after that lengthy qualification, here goes: the recently announced service, Edgeio, is unique. And I think it deserves some recognition… Let me explain.

RSS is a standardisation of web content that has resulted in three big things happening:

  1. A new channel has emerged to effectively leverage the incredible flurry of information – such as blogs. This makes RSS popular, and therefore gives it the legs to become a standard.
  2. Content is now available in more manageable and flexible way than HTML (simplified content delivered using XML).
  3. Pushed content means that accessing new information as it emerges is now practical. Rather than readers having to visit a site and try to determine if something new has appeared (something that is extremely difficult to do efficiently and reliably with HTML). Calling this the “content edge” is actually a pretty accurate term.

So up until now we’ve had tools (mostly search engines) that have leveraged POWC (plain old web content) to the best of their ability. But as you extend beyond the structure of information you get a higher and higher error rate. This makes trying to leverage content harder and harder. With RSS the content is dramatically simplified (no flash, DHTML, JavaScript or dynamic results to wade through) and the format is rigid and structured, so it’s much faster and easier to leverage.

It’s not only RSS that’s doing this. The blogging platforms are playing a big part in standardising web publishing. All blog posts are simplified content (“middle-class” text); have date, title and body separation; and a generally accepted set of meta-data, such as tags. And like all standards, blogs and its love child RSS, is a simplification of content to a level of acceptable function – just the facts mam.

Surprisingly though, not many new tools are really leveraging this new standard. We have RSS readers, and mostly RSS search. But that’s thinking in the old terms. We haven’t yet seen any tools that take advantage of RSS’s features beyond readers, until now.

Edgeio is a system that scours RSS feeds for information that people want to expose via their web sites (typically blogs) and then organises it all into something useful. So practically you can create a blog entry with the title “Used Cat For Sale — Will Swap For USB Memory” and tag it with the keyword “listing”. Edgeio will then detect this tag and insert a listing into its site. In this way you’re putting up the ad, you own the content, control the feedback, edit it how you like, and edgeio will bring you an audience based on a focused categorisation of your listing. It’s unique, it’s cool, and it’s brilliant. Nice one Keith and Mike — I’ll talk to you at parties (even if Amanda won’t).

Will edgeio succeed? Now that’s a different question. And we’ve all seen cases of new techs getting rolled by a better execution (Napster/iTunes, Netscape/IE, Friendster/MySpace). Watch this site, feed or (now) tag from the edge.

For more reading check out the Buzz Machine along with comments by founder Keith Teare. TechCrunch also has a nice review.

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