February 09, 2011

Echo Prepares World for Migration to a Web of Streams

The foundation of the Web is moving from one of unchanging static pages to continually updated streams fed by external services. Gone is the time when publishing an article or a site was the final step in creating content. Instead, this can often signify the beginning of the content's life, as it is shared, retweeted, liked, commented on, and further distributed. Echo, a company that first made its name in the comments space, explained to a full hall of industry onlookers Tuesday morning that dynamic social experiences are going to rule the future of the Internet, further arguing they have placed themselves at the center of this trend, having built a flexible environment for people to tap into the activity streams and benefit from the Web's continued evolution, instead of seeing visitors capitulate to household name social networks.

Companies like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have unlocked billions of dollars in revenue around user streams of content, while traditional publishers have often held to traditional business models, unable to keep pace, said Echo's CEO, Khris Loux. "Today's publishers are ill-served to serve even their own audiences," he said. "The conversations, traffic flow and revenues have moved on."

What Echo recommended was to give publishers, ecommerce sites and startups the capability to craft user-centric, stream-centric experiences themselves, tapping into activity stream data as the unit of currency to power interactive next generation sites. To accomplish this work, the Echo team has created a stream server to deliver real-time experiences that support the existing brand and content without traditional costs of real-time. It was explained the company's new stream server supports thousands of queries per second, with live updates, based on open standards, with each item passing through the stream having the opportunity to be touched with the appropriate action (such as likes, replies, flags, votes, promotes, etc.)

But rather than building out a complex product portfolio to white label or charge premium fees to customers, Echo told attendees yesterday that they work "up to the API" and partner with other startups to connect their services to end users.

"We have coded up to the API and no further," said Loux. "It's scary as we can't solve anyone's problem ourselves. But that also means our partners have as much power as we do."

Echo, since its product shift in 2009, has signed up many top name brands to its platform, some of whom presented Tuesday, including Sports Illustrated. Displayed on SI.com and other partners' sites were real-time comments, user reactions, badges and achievements, and a visually appealing image gallery for hosted graphics. Partners supplying many of these things included Realtidbits, Janrain, Klout, Badgeville, Branchnext, Clicky and Arktan, who claim to have connected to Echo through open standards, enabling customers to switch providers in the future if desired.

"It's the beginning of a new way to look at software," Loux said. The company hopes to also offer a custom application store that enables partners to connect hours of effort to dollars through showcasing their apps on the market. Executing on a planned feature that is stream-centric looks right. Echo's demos from Tuesday and well before are showing real promise about the future of the Web. Rather than shying away from competing with the Web giants, Echo and its partners are set to offer a serious alternative - keeping ownership of the entire social experience on the corporate site.

Disclosure: Chris Saad, an Echo employee, and I occasionally collaborate on the Edge Theory conversations series, and I consider him a good friend.

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