Just over a month ago I announced Orange Labs as my first major client post Citizen Agency. Well, today I’m finally in position to start to talk about what I’ve been working on. It’s been a busy few weeks and so I’m sorry for the ‘radio silence’ here on the blog during that time.
Bubbletop is a personalizable AJAX homepage with some interesting and innovative features around social recommendation and it’s approach to developer-made widgets. We’re just announcing the project today, which is in private beta. However do go and sign up for an invite as we’ll hopefully be opening to preview beta sometime next week!
Virginie De Bel Air, Bubbletop’s project lead, gave an interview to French vlogger Thierry Bezier last week – unfortunately it’s only available in French. I don’t have any official screenshots to give you, but a cunning guy by the name of Rfly Richards over at Tapahont.info (French) saved out these grainy screengrabs of the product from that interview video:
I’ll be straight up and agree that Bubbletop is entering an already busy market – dominated by excellent offerings such as NetVibes and iGoogle. I’m anticipating that’s what a lot of the Web2.0/San Fran scene will tell me. However my view is that this is not a zero-sum game. And with it’s unique feature set and the product road-map ahead of it, I think Bubbletop will prove a worthy alternative proposition.
Plus, don’t forget that backing and marketing by Orange means that the personalizable homepage concept will be introduced to a wider mainstream audience – and that’s great for the whole market. At least one French blog has described Bubbletop as a ‘Netvibes killer’… That’s an unfortunate phrasing because I don’t believe that’s at all Orange’s motivation or interest. I believe this is about getting more people aware of personal AJAX homepages and not about killing off the competition. Tariq (CEO of Netvibes) remains a good friend.
What is Orange Labs?
A lot of people ask me who Orange are, as they have no significant commercial presence here in North America. Well, Orange is one of the biggest mobile phone and communications company in Europe and beyond. France Telecom, their parent company, is France’s national telco. Through their acquisition of European ISP Wannado they also provide Internet connectivity across Europe and soon IPTV and all that other cool quad-play jazz.
However, Orange are now in the process of also building out a suite of ‘Web2.0-style’ properties – many of which are being lovingly crafted in the lab here in San Francisco and will hopefully see the light of day in the coming future. In my opinion I think they’re doing just what AOL has been working on – expanding the scope of their value proposition away from just pushing 1’s and 0’s and into also offering softer services that can be used by anyone regardless of whether they are an Orange customer or not.
As an independent consultant, I find myself working a lot with big companies – helping them incorporate the agility, low-cost-to-entry and innovative nature of Web2.0 into their own product strategies and tactical approaches. I’m going to be working with Orange Labs to build out the developer network for the widgets aspect of Bubbletop, but I’m also helping with lots of other things such as the product development, awareness and technical architecture.
I am, of course, currently contracted by Orange Labs to work on this project – however this post, like all posts on my blog, is my own independent editorial and opinion.