Qwiki is an app that creates pretty slideshows based on Wikipedia entries. The service won the top award at the last Techcrunch Disrupt conference and just received $8 million in new funding from a group led by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin.

Personally, I never understood why putting together a text-to-speech engine with a Ken Burns effect was disruptive. The VCs on the Disrupt jury thought different, though, and chose this pretty but ultimately utterly useless service over really disruptive ones like CloudFlare. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so. Now, just to show how Qwiki didn't merit the large new round of funding and how it doesn't deserve the constant hype on tech blogs like Techcrunch, an intrepid hacker who goes by the name of "Banksy the Lucky Stiff" put together Fqwiki, a workable Qwiki clone in just 321 Lines of HTML.

Click to see full image.

In the source code, the developer clearly references that the reason for this project was to show how easy it is to implement the basic functionality of Qwiki: "This code is not pretty, but it doesn't need to be. It's only been 6 hours, but based on funding patterns I should be able to raise a few million off of this ;)." The first demo of Fqwiki you see after opening the site is its rendition of the Wikipedia entry for "snake oil."

Fqwiki works best in Safari and Chrome, isn't quite as visually pleasing as Qwiki and is still quite buggy. As a smart critique of Qwiki and the hype around it, it definitely fulfills its purpose already, though.

Indeed, more so than a product, Fqwiki is a comment on the current state of VC funding and tech blogging. Qwiki is a very pretty product, but it's hard to see why it deserves the funding and attention it has been receiving. As of now, it only reads out Wikipedia entries and pulls matching pictures from articles that were linked to from the original Wikipedia entry. It's hard to imagine a situation where you would prefer seeing a Wikipedia slideshow (which, like all good slideshows, takes way too long) over just reading the article.

29 comments
innovata
innovata 5pts

Qwiki was able create a hype because they used the name, Louis Monier, founder of Altavista. He was hired early to lead the "tech" but I heard he f*ed up real bad and he got fired... What a loser.

Wattie1111
Wattie1111 5pts

Yeah - and I could probably write facebook in a few weeks or re-invent the can opener in a couple of hours - but that is not the point is it !!!!

Alvaro
Alvaro 5pts

i don't see the need for that either but i assure you 99% of the people will love it. reading? wtf they can't even read...

Steve
Steve 5pts

It's easy to copy, it's hard to do it first.

Again people misunderstand novelty and assume it must be related to technical difficulty.

Steve Dossett
Steve Dossett 5pts

Setting aside the details of the service for a minute:

Yeah, but Qwiki took the idea and translated into code first. Lots of novel ideas are head-smackingly simple in retrospect. Some people just choose to ship.

5pts

OH THANK GOD WE HAVE PRETTY FUCKING SLIDESHOWS!!!

Scott
Scott 5pts

It certainly is a nice try and is impressive for the small amount of code but let's not confuse sizzle with steak. Just try the same query on both this and the real Qwiki and you'll quickly see that it is the content, not the pretty ken burns affect, that is the issue. For example, I tried "Google" and what this spit out was complete gibberish.

Aaron Turpen
Aaron Turpen 5pts

Yet another thing to convince me that what I should be doing is writing some stupid app and then going after the VC funding. Screw getting a real job.

Richardtvaughan
Richardtvaughan 5pts

Fqwiki also runs without flash which the original doesn't.

Ruben Berenguel
Ruben Berenguel 5pts

What is important is the idea, not the implementation. But 8 million looks like too much for that... More when "ideas are worth a dime a dozen".

Cheers,

Ruben

Gregory Magarshak
Gregory Magarshak 5pts

But we all know that raising money has a lot to do with image

And this product now has the image of a critique. Nice!

render
render 5pts

Thats the major problem wioth all of these web startups now. There is no technology. You can write twitter in 50 lines of code (Ive done it), just put a pretty website on top of it. Facebook?, Groupon?, Foursquare?...Teenagers can write these sites.

Ill check back in with web startups when they do something with technology that doesnt involve crayons and diapers.

Clyde Smith
Clyde Smith 5pts

"As a smart critique of Qwiki and the hype around it, it definitely fulfills its purpose already, though."

Gotta love that!

mvolga
mvolga 5pts

I always saw these millions in funding for these flashy startups as complete insanity.

Bill Frank
Bill Frank 5pts

I checked out CloudFlare - CDN + cloud-based Web application security. Makes total sense. Very compelling.

5pts

Nice, that just looks like a lot of fun dude.

www.total-anonymity.edu.tc

lelapin
lelapin 5pts

very impressive work. Should the developer be looking for a job I believe he won't have to wait long for a proposal.

Billy Wenge-Murphy
Billy Wenge-Murphy 5pts

I don't buy that. Popular apps aren't usually "advances" in "technology". It's more of a fashion thing. The person who does it first just sets a trend, rather than figures out some deep technical insight

It's like if you were the first to wear short shorts. You didn't figure out the technical process required to wear short shorts and you didn't "bring innovation to the marketplace" when everyone else starts wearing them.

Heri
Heri 5pts

does that mean you've invested (or will invest) millions in Qwiki?

Billy Wenge-Murphy
Billy Wenge-Murphy 5pts

Every programmer has hundreds of "amazing ideas" in his head all the time. There is not enough time in the world to implement all of them. Every time someone stumbles into popular success when their app becomes chic and fashionable, we go back and rewrite history, saying "See, they must have had a novel insight!"

Guest
Guest 5pts

Spoken like someone who has no idea what kinds of technology has had to be created so that these sites could scale to the amount of usage they have.

Heri
Heri 5pts

are the kind of guy who likes Wolfram Alpha?

Bilawal Hameed
Bilawal Hameed 5pts

Good point. Yet, technology might be the key to a 'great' startup but not necessarily profitability. I mean, look at Twitter. It is such a simple concept, yet surprisingly they received millions in funding?

Investors will invest in projects with enormous numbers regardless of what it is. Twitter has BIG numbers for tweets and users, yet they aren't profitable and most likely won't ever make a good return?

Mikushi
Mikushi 5pts

Agreed. Give me a 100k$, and in a year, i'll shit you more prototype of marketable stuff that a VC can dream of.

JJ
JJ 5pts

Tell that to anyone who's written a book or made a movie...