July 31, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

The do-it-yourself Web emerges

Marcelo Calbucci, a one-time Microsoft engineer, suffered the fate of many tech-savvy people: Family members counted on him for their computing needs, including building Web sites.

"Everyone asked me to build their Web sites--my cousin, aunt, mother, sister. I built sites for the entire family," said Calbucci, who used Microsoft developer tools, like ASP.Net.

After going through the process a few times, he hit upon a business idea: Calbucci started building software that will let people create Web sites themselves without digging through the dirty details of HTML.

"I always felt that what I wanted to do for (family members) was not that different from what everyone else needed, and that there has to be a better solution," he said.

Enter the do-it-yourself Web. A growing number of start-ups, like Calbucci's Sampa, are trying to bring Web application creation to the masses, letting mere mortals share spreadsheets online or "mash up" information from different Web sites.

The idea is to empower non-programmers to make sites that are more than a simple collection of static Web pages. In the process, individuals will gain better tools to collaborate and communicate online, particularly when these services are brought to the office, say experts.

"Bringing do-it-yourself (Web sites) to the office may be the beginning of a new movement to free up creativity at the individual office worker level," said John Seely Brown, a consultant and former chief scientist at Xerox. "I think we have the perfect storm for some major changes."

Seely Brown said rapid commoditization of hardware and software, combined with greater bandwidth, makes complex hosted services more viable. Also, modern browsers enable more interactive Web applications and consumers are becoming accustomed to mixing information from multiple sources to create their own applications.

Screenshots

End-user application development is a long-held--and largely unsuccessful--idea. But entrepreneurs and experts contend that emerging tools are paving the way for untrained people to create relatively sophisticated Web sites, typically an outgrowth of blogs, wikis and bookmark-sharing sites like Delicious.

"It's really easy to do collaborative content sharing through blogs and wikis, but I have other tools on my desktop like a spreadsheet and a database," said Peter O'Kelly, an analyst at the Burton Group. "It'd be really nice to take those familiar tools and bring them to the Web--and that's exactly what's happening."

Mash-up roach motel?
Approaches to the do-it-yourself idea vary widely. Start-ups, including SocialText and JotSpot are seeking to make it easier to create jointly authored Web pages, or wikis. Companies like Ning and Coghead promise more general hosted application development services.

Meanwhile, several companies offer hosted versions of desktop applications, such as DabbleDB and Zoho Creator, which promote collaboration among small groups. And there a huge number of publishing tools, such as SiteKreator, and consumer-oriented services to create blogs or personalized home pages.

In contrast to first-generation Web publishing tools like FrontPage and Dreamweaver, many new services let people create an application from a Web browser and then the finished site is hosted by the same provider. Instead of simply publishing a Web page, the focus is on sharing and collaboration. For example, Sampa has prebuilt integration with Web services like YouTube, Flickr and Amazon.com to help people build their own mash-ups.

But with that freedom come potential hazards.

Many new hosted service companies have not yet thoroughly tested their business models, which is a risk to customers and their data. In general, so-called Web 2.0 companies tend to rely on ad revenue or subscriptions to finance their operations.

"It's really important, especially people doing this in a business context, to make sure they scrutinize the business models and the business foundations of the suppliers they are working with," O'Kelly said. Failed Web companies could lead to a "mash-up roach motel" where data is lost, he said.

CONTINUED: Long tail for apps…
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17 comments

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another do-it-yourself product...
...is from Webation (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.webation.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.webation.com</a>). I have used their Webation Active product and it is really easy, flexible and powerful.
Posted by rturner2 (125 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Or just buy a mac
Or just buy a Mac and get iLife which includes iWeb for free. -
Sorted!
Posted by Europodboy (298 comments )
Link Flag
Community Trail Guides
WikiWalki www.wikiwalki.com is a sports community trail guide - worth checking out.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
over rated
A lot of these diy "website builder" products seem a little over rated to me. I go in expecting a lot and it ends up being basic word processing.
Posted by tipper_gore (74 comments )
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I agree...
I agree that most are very bad... they throw in a rich text editor and then call it a "web site builder"! Or each page is limited in the content that you can put on the page.

Try Webation Active from Webation (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.webation.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.webation.com</a>) which is more flexible and powerful. You can even design your own HTML layouts and link to the Webation Active platform via XML / XSL to allow easy updating for a non-technical user.
Posted by rturner2 (125 comments )
Link Flag
Cool tool  MotorMapUSA.com
Searching for cars on eBay has never been so easy
Google Maps + eBay Motors Mashup = www.MotorMapUSA.com

New site shows the bargains on eBay to help people easily find their dream car, at dream prices, instantly searching through local and national markets and displaying the autos locations on a map.
Posted by EggInternet (2 comments )
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Business model
"Many new hosted service companies have not yet thoroughly tested their business models, which is a risk to customers and their data. In general, so-called Web 2.0 companies tend to rely on ad revenue or subscriptions to finance their operations. "
- I know that Webation (www.webation.com) has been operating profitably for over 5 years and does not support themselves via advertising.

Is this tested enough O'Kelly re: 5 years in a technology business?

I believe it is important to realise that the market is split between new "web 2.0" companies that are offering free services and then more mature companies offering non-free, non-hype products to business users that expect and want to pay for reliability and mature / tested products.

There are many web development companies that sell products (eg. web site builders, CMS etc) and services that are very profitable.
Posted by rturner2 (125 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Blah Blah
In the end this is not going to change anything, because what's most important about a website is interesting, usefull or artistic content. No diy-tool will help you to do that...
Posted by huddie klein (70 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No big deal
The big web hosting companies all offer some sort of website
creation too. And boy, are those sites ugly! The web creation
tools are ok (i supposed) for people who just want to put
something up on the web for fun. But anyone who wants
credibility on the web should hire a designer. Decent web
designers can do more than html. They can actually plan a
design around the content and goals of the person/business
behind the site.
Tools like this just help the proliferation of bad design and bad
content. Thankfully, Google puts those way down on their page
rank and we're likely to never see them.
Posted by margritlb (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Dotso.com is a favourite mashup of mine ...
Dotso.com is a great mash I use regularly. Check it out if you like your news in the one spot.
Posted by JoeCrow (83 comments )
Reply Link Flag
a more developed system than Coghead to build web-based business apps
Recently, the idea of building custom business applications has become trendy. Virtually overnight two systems, ZoHo Creator and Coghead, have been getting a lot of attention from bloggers and the media. However, people are overlooking the most time-tested source of web-based platforms for custom-build PM solution platforms. There has been a system on the market for over 5 years successfully doing the same thing ZoHo Creator and Coghead aim to do. This system is &lt;a href="http://www.interneer.com&gt;Interneer Intellect</a>.

Intellect is a web-based, user-friendly system that allows the average person, with or without knowledge of computer programming, to easily build fully-functional and extremely useful business applications. Intellect automates the processes needed to deliver results with easy to understand visual guides and wizards. Since Intellect is fully configurable without coding, companies gain the flexibility to adapt to change, eliminating the need for costly software modifications in the future.

Intellect's Instant Application Framework makes it simple to quickly create dynamic forms, interactive tables, work00flow diagrams and collaboration tools such as due date notifications and sign-off requests. As a result, the typical business user is empowered to configure the system whenever necessary, even if he or she has no knowledge of computer programming. If you can get by in Excel, you can build sophisticated applications with Intellect. Intellect allows for levels of flexibility and user-control not possible with hard-coded applications, at a fraction of the cost.

If you are considering using ZoHo Creator or Coghead to build custom applications for your business I would suggest also looking into Interneer Intellect. All three systems offer their own unique strong points& but Interneer Intellect by far has the longest list of functions and capabilities. This in itself is reason enough to register at Interneers site and view the product demo and/or white papers.
Posted by Msteffen (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I own http://www.basement-waterproofing-products.com which is a DIY website for home improvement. I have found that people are starting to take things into their own hands, from web design to home improvement. DIY saves time, saves money and ensures the job gets done exactly how you want it to get done!
Posted by innov8ivemind (1 comment )
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