Monday, February 13, 2006

Octopus.com was way ahead of its time

I used to work at a company called Octopus.com, which created a nifty technology to be able to "scrape" content from different sources (e.g. web pages), and compile them all together in one page "view". These views were then categorized, shared, and rated.

Well, unfortunately, Octopus went the way of the dodo with the dot-com bust. All assets were sold to Ask Jeeves and put to use on B2B and internal projects I assume.

Now it's 2006, and the latest buzzwords are "Web 2.0" and "Ajax". And lo and behold, what do we see popping up? Yes, sites that do almost exactly what Octopus did way back in 1999. Of course, these sites no longer need to depend on Java applets or IE specific code. They use Ajax technology, which, for all intents and purposes, is built in to all current browser versions.

Check out NetVibes and ProtoPage as two examples that remind me quite a bit of my brush with the dot-com hey day.

EDIT: Co-founder Christoph Janz reminded me about his Web 2.0 Ajax driven service named Pageflakes. He runs a very interesting blog on Web 2.0. Check it out at http://christophjanz.blogspot.com/

3 comments:

Christoph Janz said...

Hi Ed,

Very interesting comparison. I think there are similarities to Octopus' approach (although I don't know it very well) but I think today's landscape is very different. Think of RSS, XML, all those APIs, and of course AJAX.

BTW, do you know Pageflakes?

Best regards

Christoph
Pageflakes

Ed Caggiani said...

Hi Christoph,

Yes, I'm sorry I forgot to mention Pageflakes! I even have an account there :-)

Yes, the landscape is very different today, and if Octopus were still around, I'm sure we would have migrated to Ajax, RSS, etc. Were you aware of us (Octopus) when we were around?

It's funny, because back then there really was no RSS standard, so we basically tried to homegrow a feed by scraping content and formatting into XML ourselves. This, of course, would cause problems when a site's structure would change. Now RSS syndicates all the content for you, and there are no worries about how a site looks, since the content is separate from the design.

Roy Stahl said...

A few things have changed in the landscape. Octopus.com did it all and supported Netscrape 4.7+ something that none of the current ones claim. What Octopus.com did with thousands of lines of JS and a cute little Java applet is now childs play. Current companies on Ed's list are doing much more then what Octopus pioneered without dem fancy tech-o-nologies like AJAX.

May Octopus "Rest in pieces" and may new content aggragators live long and prosper.

Former programmer from Octopus.com

Ed, good job on giving Christoph his props. I hope Pageflakes does well!