SiliconFilter

With 5 Million More Euros in the Bank, Pearltrees Gets Ready to Scale and Start Monetizing

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The Paris-based social curation platform Pearltrees just announced that it has raised a Series B round of 5 million Euros (about $6.62 million USD). The money is coming from Group Accueil, which had also invested in the service’s previous round. In total, Pearltrees has now raised 8.5 million Euros. The company, which launched its first alpha almost 3 years ago, aims to use this money to scale its product and – maybe even more importantly – implement a freemium business model for its service.

The company did not publicly discuss what exactly this freemium model will look like.

Pearltrees is probably best known for its highly visual interface to its collaborative curation service. Some of the most interesting technology the team has developed, however, actually powers the discovery mechanism that is slowly becoming a more important part of the user experience (especially in Pearltrees’ recently released iPad app). This so-called “TreeRank” algorithm – named after the way you organize your bookmarks/pearls on the site – allows the company to interpret and expose the interest graph its users generate through their bookmarking  activity on the site.

Pearltrees, according to its own data, had about 1 million unique visitors in January, which accounted for about 30 million pageviews. In total, about 350,000 contributors now use the site. Interestingly, only about 25% of Pearltrees users are American.

Pearltrees and Pearltrees story / Pearltrees development / Ecosysteme in Patrice Lamothe (Patrice)



11:00 pm


Five Apps and Web Services that Deserved More Attention in 2011

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For every hyped app or web service (think Foursquare, Quora etc.), there are at least a dozen of competitors out there that are often better, but never quite get the attention they deserve. At the end of every year, I round up some of my favorite apps and services that mostly flew under the radar of the tech press during the last twelve months, but that deserved a lot more attention. Last year, I featured my6sense (still alive and kicking), Pearltrees (growing steadily, just launched an iPad app), Producteev (also doing well this year) and EchoEcho (which got a nice investment led by Google Ventures earlier this year).

This list is obviously quite subjective, so feel free to chime in with your personal favorites in the comments.

Trover

I’ve never been a fan of check-in services like Foursquare, but I’m a big believer in location-based apps nevertheless. The reason I like Trover  (available for Android and iOS) is that it strips out all the unnecessary gamification crud and just plain focuses on letting you share and discover cool stuff around you. Instead of virtual badges, you simply send a friendly “thank you” to the person who first shared that cool place you found thanks to the app. While it focuses on sharing photos, there are no filters and nothing to distract you from what you really wanted to use the app for in the first place.

In my review earlier this year, I called it “the best location-based app you’re not using (yet).” Thankfully, more people have discovered the app since, but overall, it mostly flew under the radar this year.

Spool

With Apple adding reading lists to iOS and a lot of attention on Instapaper and Read It Later (though that service also doesn’t get the attention it deserves), time-shifted reading hit it big this year. Spool is the latest entry into this market and it’s quietly building a very competitive product which doesn’t just offer support for text, but also videos.

Another feature I really like about the app is automatic detection of multi-page articles. It doesn’t always work 100%, but often saves you a few clicks on sites like the New York Times, for example. There are also Chrome and Firefox extensions for Spool, which provide augmented links on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Techmeme. Given that the service is still new, though, it isn't integrated into any third-party apps yet, which is a bit of a problem if you want to switch from a well-supported service like Instapaper.

You can find my full review here.

Wunderlist

wunderlist_logo_150Everybody who owns a smartphone has probably downloaded a few task management apps at one point or another. My personal favorite is Wunderlist from Berlin-based development shop 6Wunderkinder. The company got an investment from Skype-founder Niklas Zennstrom in November, so it definitely popped up on some peoples’ radar this year, but while it got lots of traction, it never quite got the hype it deserved. The services’ apps and web services are beautifully designed and focus on simplicity over features.

This isn’t a tool for the hardcore Getting Things Done crowd (this isn’t OmniFocus, after all), but it’s among the best task management tools out there for those of us who just want to keep lists of things. The fact that it’s available virtually anywhere (Windows, Mac, Linux, Blackberry, iOS, Android and on the web), also gives it an edge over some of its competitors.

With Wunderkit, the company also plans to expand beyond its basic service next year, so keep an eye on the company’s blog.

(If you are looking for a more fully-featured service that includes support for small teams, by the way, take a look at Producteev, which was on this list last year and which added some nice new features over the last few months.)

Rhapsody

rhapsody_logo_200With all the talk about Spotify, MOG and Rdio, it’s easy to forget the granddaddy of all online music services: Rhapsody. When the service launched a full 10 years ago, it was among the first online music services to offer on-demand music streaming for a flat fee. Today, it can boast of being the largest on-demand music subscription service on the Internet, but it gets very little attention from the tech press (maybe because its legacy as a part of Real Networks is still a major turnoff for those of us who have been around the net for long enough). With 11 million songs and apps for every major mobile operating system (including support for offline caching), it’s worth taking note of and worth a try if you are looking for a subscription alternative to iTunes.

Microsoft’s Office Web Apps and Windows Live Web Services

skydrive_logo_official_200It’s obviously not cool to like a Microsoft product (except for the Xbox and Kinect, I guess), but even though the tech press loves Google Apps, Gmail and (almost) anything else Google does, Microsoft’s web apps don’t get the attention they deserve outside of the Microsoft blogs.

All of Microsoft’s online products took a major step forward in 2011, though. The latest SkyDrive update, for example, makes Microsoft’s online storage service for more competitive with startups like DropBox. The Office Web Apps suite (and, by extension, the paid Office 365 solution for small businesses) offers a far better online editing experience and document fidelity than Google Docs (and include support for OneNote, the underrated star of the MS Office suite). Hotmail has massively improved thanks to adding features like Active Views

All of these services are worth another look, especially now that Microsoft is rumored to launch an iOS version of its productivity apps, too.



6:09 pm


Pearltrees Finds its Natural Home on the iPad

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Pearltrees, the Paris-based curation and discovery startup, just launched its long-awaited iPad app earlier this week. The company’s service allows users to bookmark interesting websites and arrange them into hierarchically organized tree structures – or “pearls” in the company’s parlance. I’ve been a fan of Pearltrees ever since I first met the team in Paris about two years ago and have been using their service here for my daily “Catching Up” posts. What makes the service stand out from its competitors is the visual appeal of how you collect and organize your “pearls.” The drag-and-drop interface takes the work out of bookmarking, but while the web interface works quite well, one can’t help but feel that the touch interface on the iPad is actually the most natural way to use the service.

Pearltrees ipad large pearls

The Pearltrees team managed to keep the interface very fluid and responsive, while keeping virtually all of the functionality of the web app in place. There are a couple of interesting twists in the iPad app, too, though. While the web interface directly takes you to a website once you click on a pearl, the iPad app actually opens a preview of the site with an Instapaper-like view of the text on the site on the right and a screenshot of the page on the left. Depending on the site, the text may only be an excerpt or the full text, but this is still an easier way to browse than having to load the full page on a potentially slow connection (you can, of course, always bring up the regular website, too).

Another features of the app is the ability to find related sites, which works surprisingly well. As the company’s CEO Patrice Lamothe told me earlier this week, the idea here is to show you interesting content based on what the Pearltrees community has collected. He also stressed that users should think about the service as a social system that based upon shared interests and not so much the follower/fan idea of other networks.

Pearltrees related interestes

Browsing and organizing pearls, then, is pretty easy in the app, but what about the actual curation? Apple, after all, doesn’t allow users to install plugins for mobile Safari. Instapaper and similar app all use JavaScript-based bookmarklets to give their users some of the functionality of their full-blown browser extensions on iOS and Pearltrees decided to do the same. While this process is often a bit daunting, though, the app actually includes a step-by-step guide that makes it pretty easy.

Getting Started

The app is available for free in the iTunes store. An iPhone/iPod touch version is also in the works and should come out before the end of the year. For now, the service remains free. Pearltrees plans to institute a freemium model soon, with a focus on private sharing and curation.

 



4:40 pm


Pearltrees Puts Its Sharing Features into Hyperdrive

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Paris-based Pearltrees just launched a nice update to its online curation service that takes its sharing features to a new level. Indeed, the Pearltrees team has decided to call this feature “Hyper-Share” to emphasize that you can now effortlessly syndicate anything you save to your Pearltrees account to Twitter and Facebook as well.

Better Embeds

Here on this site, we’ve been using Pearltrees to curate some of the best tech stories of the day over the last few weeks. To do so, we’ve been using Pearltrees’ embed function. That feature, too, received some nice updates today. Embeds now allow Pearltrees users (and non-users!) to pick the most interesting “pearls” and copy them to their own accounts with just one click. In addition, posting a pearltree from an embed to Facebook now also just takes a few clicks and users can sign up for Pearltrees right from the embed as well.

If you’re not familiar with how Pearltrees works, take a look at the embed below. The basic idea here is that you can curate anything you find on the web and then organize it in an easy to use tree-like structure.

Best of Today (6/29) in Best / (fredericl)

As Pearltrees founder Patrice Lamothe notes, “with this release Pearltrees’ community of curators can finally demonstrate the true value they add by curating content created by others.”

Pearltrees currently has about 150,000 users, who have organized about 7 million links since the company’s inception in early 2009. I’ve been a big fan of the company’s product since I first took a look at it in Pearltrees’ Paris offices in 2009. Making it easier for users to syndicate their content out to other networks will hopefully give Pearltrees a bit of additional exposure, too.



8:51 pm


5 Services that Deserved More Attention in 2010

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As the year draws to an end, it’s hard not to look back and think about all the cool apps that I looked at over the last 12 months. I’ll talk a bit about my favorite apps and biggest disappointments in other posts, but I also wanted to highlight some of the coolest apps and Web Services that I use all the time but that didn’t get a lot of mainstream (or even tech blog) coverage in the last year and that deserve another look.

Without further ado, here is my list for 2010:

My6Sense

my6sense logo

Building good recommendation engines is tough. In the world of reading recommendations for RSS feeds, nothing currently beats My6Sense. The app – available for iPhone and Android – also works as a straightforward RSS reader, but the real power is in its reading recommendations which learn from your behavior as you use the app (did you click on the story? Did you recommend it to others? How much time did you spend reading it?). The great thing about the app is that you don’t have to start over – you can just import all your Google Reader Over on ReadWriteWeb, we rated it as one of the top 10 RSS and syndication services of 2010, but overall, My6Sense has been flying under the radar for too long. Hopefully, with the addition of Louis Gray as the VP of marketing, My6Sense will get more visibility in 2011.

Producteev

producteev logo

Over the last year, I tested far more productivity and task management apps than I’m willing to admit, but the one that stood out for me – mostly thanks to its simplicity and ease of use – was Producteev. I currently use the service for my own task management needs, is large parts thanks to its integration with Google Apps, but also because of its full suite of other services, including its iPhone app, Gmail gadget and the ability to create tasks by simply sending an email to the right address. For the near future, Producteev also promises to release a Mac desktop app, which should make it a great choice for GTD disciples on the Mac.

Pearltrees

Pearltrees logo

“Curation” was the biggest buzzword of late 2010, yet while various Twitter-based services like Curated.by got a lot of buzz this year – and even link shortener Bit.ly now offers a curation feature – Paris-based Pearltrees remained relatively unknown. While the service now has plenty of money in the bank and has over 60,000 active users, its innovative interface and easy to use social curation features didn’t get near the buzz it deserved (though it’s worth noting that some people really don’t like the service’s interface). With even more social features and the ability to import all the links you share on Twitter, Pearltrees’ feature set made great strides this year. Hopefully, it’ll get a bit more buzz next year, as using it gets more fun the more people join in.

Microsoft Office Web Apps

Office Web Apps.jpg

I admit, this is an odd choice given the size of the Microsoft Office empire, but at least in the tech blogging world, most people tend to underestimate Microsoft’s products and prefer to push Google’s offering instead. In this case, the new Microsoft Office Web apps are far ahead of Google’s offerings and offer (no surprise) better compatibility and – and this is the biggest reason for me – better document fidelity. When I export a file to Google Docs, I never quite know what will happen to it when I export it again. With the Office Web Apps, the documents – with few exceptions – remain perfectly intact as I move them in and out of the Web apps.

EchoEcho

EchoEcho.jpg

With all the focus on check-in apps like FourSquare and Gowalla this year (though this hype has died down quite a bit by now), location apps with real utility remained a bit under the radar this year. Among those location-based apps that are actually useful (beyond collecting boy scout-style badges), EchoEcho is one of my perennial favorites. Available on virtually every platform, EchoEcho allows you to quickly and privately exchange your location with a contact. It’s simple, works and oh so useful. For more background, see my ReadWriteWeb review of the EchoEcho iPhone app from early 2010.



7:00 am