17:51 PM

Enigmatic Lunarr Unviels Even Simpler User Interface In Private Beta Release

lunarr.gifMy favorite Portland based startup company is Lunarr, which has created a unique collaboration service that combines a wiki-like front with email. This allows messaging between one or more collaborators on a document or what Lunarr likes to call a "flip" side.

Hideshi HamaguchiHideshi Hamaguchi, one of the co-founders of Lunarr, recently visited with his team,to show me a preview of the beta version of the service.

The user-interface of the alpha version was already very minimalist, with just a few tabs at the top and no branding at all. Mr Hamaguchi said that Lunarr has managed to simplify its user interface even further while at the same time adding functionality--an impressive claim.

Dog-ear simplicity...

The solution was to get rid of the tabs at the top of the page and add a single "dog-ear" on the top right of the page to show that there is a back side to the document. And there is just one line at the bottom of the page that has three choices on the left "upload file - import web - use template."

I was impressed. That is very close to what I consider must be the simplest user interface of all: a blank web page with just a cursor blinking in the middle of it.

Unknown unconstrained uses...

Since I first wrote about Lunarr in September 2007, it has acquired about 1200 users. I asked how are people using this service? [Please see: A Once in a Blue Moon Company with a Unique Collaborative App]

"We don't really know," said Mr Hamaguchi. Why not take a peek at what people are doing I asked? "We have very strict data privacy regulations we would never do that," he said.

Interesting and fascinating. A company that doesn't know how people are using its service seems to be a recipie for disaster. Yet I think it is a fascinating approach because people could discover totally new ways of using the service without being constrained by the way it is being used by others.

It can also be a bit daunting for some users because they are presented with a blank page. That blank page is a collaborative document that can contain a web page, a text document, a pdf, virtually anything. But how would you use it?

Lunarr has started to provide a limited set of templates to help people get started, but there are many other types of uses that haven't yet been created or explored. And that's exciting.

Patience can pay...

Toru TakasukaWhat is also interesting is that Lunarr is patient. It is completely self-funded by cofounder Toru Takasuka, one of Japan's most succesful and richest entrepreneurs. It can wait and develop Lunarr at its own pace, it doesn't have to have a revenue model immediately.

It doesn't have VCs or other investors pressuring Lunarr's team to rush into commercializing the business. It's an interesting approach that many Silicon Valley startups must envy.

Lunarr has started getting the word out through a cryptic billboard message on highway 101 in the heart of Silicon Valley. Every month it will change, remaining cryptic, until it emerges into public beta in about a year.

Lunarr remains private by invitation only. I have a few invites left if you are interested in trying it out. Send me your email address tom at siliconvalleywatcher.com. I'll give priority to my Facebook friends so please send me a Facebook invite, it lets me know something about my readers.

And if you are a Lunarr user, I'd love to find out what you Lunarrtics are up to :-)

Here is Lunarr's first billboard:


Here is Lunarr's description of what it does:

LUNARR is the first and only company to add a "back page" to all digital documents in order to streamline collaboration. The metaphorical "back page" is similar to that of a piece of paper. With one click, any Web page or local file can "flip" to it's own back page where LUNARR automatically stores all meta-information and communication surrounding the document or project.

LUNARR plans to replace the current paradigm of attaching documents to an email system and is already integrated into any email host.

The back page stores the entire history behind the creation of the document including all email communication, revisions, linked documents pertaining to the front document and more. First, put a document on the front, and then click a small dog-ear icon in the top right corner to "flip" the document to the back page to access all meta-information. Users may also send the document to collaborators from the back page.

The front can display Web pages (including Web-based office suites), MS Office files, any local program file, audio files, video files, and more. Users can also link any file type to the back for easy storage and organization.

Please also see: Portland's High Tech Community And The Space To Think