As co-founder of Excite, one of the earliest Internet search companies, Kraus belongs to that class of tech entrepreneurs that flew close to the sun in the late 1990s. He also ranks among the lucky few who escaped the Internet meltdown.
Nowadays, Kraus is applying lessons learned from the go-go days to his latest venture, JotSpot, a San Francisco-based company that builds applications around online collaborative authoring systems. With wikis beginning to find their place in the business world, Kraus believes the technology could lead to another Internet shift in the way corporations work.
How far the wiki phenomenon will go remains an open question. Critics believe the hype has far outstripped the potential--let alone the performance. But Kraus believes wikis can function as lightweight alternatives to heavy-duty CRM (customer relationship management) applications where corporate developers use them as tools to build customized enterprise applications. CNET News.com recently talked with Kraus to find out about the future of wiki technology.
Q: Considering the mania around wikis, can you explain why we shouldn't think this is going to become the second coming of the dot-com? The resemblance seems striking.
Kraus: Wikis in general?
Kraus: I think all technologies go through the typical hype cycle. There will be a point at which wikis are perceived as good for absolutely nothing and then they will find their natural rhythm and become a staple in the way that people manage and collaborate.
In the corporate setting as well?
Kraus: Absolutely. If you look at any technology--from Bluetooth to blogs--they have gone through this cycle of monstrous hype where there's an absolute crash before they then find their natural place.
Is that true about blogs? They haven't hit the crash phase. It's only the last year-and-a-half that they have really become hyped to ridiculous levels.
Kraus: That's true. I think they're probably still on the growth part of the curve, but certainly technologies like Bluetooth went through this. It's only now that we really are starting to see interesting applications of Bluetooth that probably make sense as opposed to what we were talking about before.
So, wikis are not a fad?
Kraus: I don't believe so. When I started to look at this market two years ago, what was interesting was that it felt like the Internet in 1993. Back then, you had this technology that was in the hands of tens of thousands of companies--where the bottom ranks of the organizations, the engineers, were using it and the people at the top had no idea. To me, that is indicative of a technology uptake trend.
OK, so how do you make money from this?
Kraus: Well, JotSpot is a subscription service. There's a hosted service that we provide, and there is something we're calling the JotBox, which is an appliance-based version that larger enterprises tend to buy when they want to host it behind the firewall. But we will remotely manage that appliance into the software update.
And you'll charge using a cost-per-user model?
Kraus: Originally, JotSpot was playing around with a cost-per-user model for its wiki, but I think there are problems with that model.
What's the biggest one?
Kraus: It punishes the exact act you want to reward, which is sharing the wiki. It's a collaborative tool, and so the more people who collaborate, the more it costs. I don't think that's correct. You want to tie it to how much value you get from the service, which I think applies more closely to how many pages are in the wiki.
What gives you confidence that user behavior is going to shift in a big way toward the use of wiki-like products such as yours?
Kraus: The adoption of new technologies is always difficult because you've got existing habits, and the hardest thing to change is an existing habit.
What are the habits today that potentially compete against wikis?
Kraus: You have e-mail, you've got shared folders--the truth is that it's going to take time. Wikis don't replace e-mail. It never happens. Some new, new technology never replaces the thing that happened before. It finds its own place in the middle ground.
There's generally a broad sense that you get too much e-mail. E-mail is a great communication vehicle, but it's a terrible vehicle for storing conclusions or decisions. The challenge for any company in a space like ours, or any company providing wiki technologies, has been how to tie into those existing habits. How do you make publishing to the wiki as easy as writing an e-mail? This takes time, just as any
Page 1 | 2
14 commentsJoin the conversation! Add your comment