After less than a year, Radar Networks is going from beta to version 1.0 of its Twine "interest network" Web application based on Semantic Web technologies. "We are not spending four years in beta," said Radar Networks CEO Nova Spivack. "We have a minimal set of features ready for prime time."
The minimal set of interest network features allows Twine users to track and discover relevant organizations, products, people, places, tags, and items, such as photos, documents, and recipes, that match their interests. Twine has a social dimension in the way it leverages the wisdom of its members, via bookmarking, tagging, and shared connections. Underlying Semantic Web technologies provide concept mapping (such as interrelationships between topics or people) and more relevant and structured search results.
In the last six months of beta testing, 500,000 users visited Twine and 50,000 remain active, Spivack said. Half of the Twines created are public and members have added about one million items to the database. "The most interesting statistic is time spent--which has risen in the last month to 12 minutes per session and continues to trend up. This is more than tracking and discovery sites like delicious, Digg and StumbleUpon receive," he claimed.
In order to keep the 50,000 active users and grow its base, the key change from the beta in version 1.0 is a simplification of the user experience. "When we started beta, Twine was about collecting, organizing, discovering, and sharing, and all were equal. It turns out that tracking interests is the most important, so that is what we are emphasizing," Spivack said. Among the more consumer friendly enhancements, the site navigation is streamlined, site performance is faster, moderation features are improved, users can invite people from their e-mail address books, and the recommendation engine explains why an item was recommended and allows a user to opt out.
The Semantic Web aspect of Twine, which was touted when it first launched, has been relegated to the background.
"When we first launched, semantic technology was the story," Spivack said. "It was novel then, but now we have to show the value, and to do that we can't emphasize the semantic technologies in Twine. It's under the hood and that is where it belongs. We surface the value of semantic in lots of ways, such as with the recommendations. Next year users will be able to create their own data types and build an ontology without knowing it's an ontology."
In about three weeks, an update to Twine 1.0 will add a more advanced bookmarking tool and natural language crawling to improve relevancy. "Every page added to Twine will use natural language processing to determine what is the content versus ads, navigation, and other elements. We'll put the full text in our search index and generate tags and create a summary and then crawl every link in the text one hop out and bring that content in as well," Spivack said.
Next year Twine will unleash more of its semantic power, with richer support for structured data and a two-way API for getting data in and out of Twine that will attract application developers, Spivack said. In addition, Twine will introduce a new monetization scheme. "Twine will be to marketing what Google was to advertising," he boasted.
"Advertising is pull-based, passive, and on the side of pages. Marketing is sponsored and highly relevant content that is targeted and delivered to someone in their in interest feeds. It will be clearly marked and users have to option to accept or reject it." The concept is similar to what Facebook has attempted to do with its Beacon program. Spivack said that company has filed patents for its monetization concepts, including a way for users to market semantic objects. "We can provide interesting socio-economics around the content that people collect, share, and buy, and build a one-to-one channel between marketers and users."
Radar Networks is in good shape to weather the economic storm. The company raised $13 million in Series B funding from Velocity Interactive, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Vulcan Capital earlier this year.
Below is a video from Radar Networks outlined the new features of Twine 1.0: