03:39 AM

PearlTrees: A Novel Approach To Human Mapping Of The Internet

Patrice Lamothe is the CEO of PearlTrees, an unique social bookmarking service that uses the visual metaphor of "pearls" with each containing a web page. And like all visual metaphors it is best to see it rather than read a description. Here is a quick video and a sample image:

"PearlTrees is a way for people to map the Internet by collecting related web pages. Although each tree is organized subjectively it becomes connected to other trees, and over time it will represent a human map of the Internet," says Mr Lamothe.

He says that social bookmarking, through services such as Delicious, has failed. "If you add up all the users of social bookmarking services it might be 10 million, which is very small."

Social bookmarking has failed, he says, because tagging links is not a good way to organize the web. "You pick a tag but that tag doesn't say much, it is better to visually show the relationship between similar web content."

The company has several thousand users in France and will formally announce the service in the US around February.

Mr Lamothe says that a high percentage of users are women, and many users aren't geeks. These groups likely would never be Delicious users yet they are active in creating PearlTrees and thus are helping to map the web.

PearlTrees has an excellent user interface and is designed to allow people to learn its features through what Mr Lamothe describes as "social play." Some pearls have different colors, some have a small black pearl next to them, etc. The meaning of these things is discovered through clicking on the pearls and exploring.

PearlTrees have all the social sharing capabilities you'd expect: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.

The simplicity of the design and concept is intriguing because it allows for potentially unique collections of web sites, and for some novel uses. I want to try it for publishing a blog post and showing the research that went into a story. Or to curate a subject such as the ongoing Rupert Murdoch battle with Google. Or maybe crowd-source a news story...

There are lots of permutations of PearlTrees that can be created because each "pearl" can contain other PearlTrees seemingly ad infinitum "we don't yet know what the limit is," says Mr Lamothe.

An upcoming feature will interface PearlTrees with Twitter to create pearls of recommended links from your network. This would help transform the ephemeral nature of Twitter into a permanent record.

Revenue could come from several sources. All trees are currently public and a future option might be to charge people for creating private trees. "Creating public trees is contributing to the community but private trees don't, so we might charge for that service."

For now, Mr Lamothe wants more users, so that there are more PearlTrees available for new users, and then he will choose an appropriate monetization strategy.

Try it for yourself. The service is in "open alpha" and open to anyone: http://www.pearltrees.com/