Thanks to the Twitterbooksquare revolution, there are now myriads of ways to let the world know who you are, where you are, and what you’re doing at any given millisecond of the day – but it’s still pretty tricky to have a real conversation on a social network, be it with your 500,000 closest Facebook friends or just a select few. Swiss start-up “Webdoc” aims to close the gap and give us true, two-way interaction with lots of multimedia extras and a minimum of effort.
Despite the name, which seems to signal work, Webdoc is actually fun to use. The company has come up with a technology that makes it easy to add photos, videos, maps, and even whole websites, to a posting, simply via drag-and-drop. If you’re planning a movie night with friends, for example, you can include trailers in a Webdoc topic, show Yelp reviews, movie times, and maps. All of this will show up right inside the discussion stream, and every participant can contribute to the conversation in the same way, adding rich content rather than just dropping a comment. “People want to engage,” says Webdoc co-founder Vincent Borel. “They are trying to communicate but it’s very hard to follow a discussion on all those other platforms.”
For each topic, Webdoc gives users a choice whether the discussion is public or private – and if it’s private, you can choose with a few clicks which friends are included. “We feel you shouldn’t always have to send information to the same group of people,” says Borel. A number of “apps” – ready-made Web widgets – allow users to post new topics that include interactive elements such as polls, slideshows, and simple games. No need to be a programmer. In addition, content from many other websites can be presented inside Webdoc with full interactivity. That makes it possible, for example, to include Slideshare documents in a posting or point to songs in Apple’s iTunes Store – the 90-second song preview plays within Webdoc.
Can a 15-people start-up from Lausanne, Switzerland, hope to become a Facebook killer? Probably not. But that’s not the intention, says Borel. “We’re not trying to take people away from Facebook and Twitter. We see Webdoc as being complementary to both.” Consequently, Webdoc users can log in with existing Facebook or Twitter accounts, rather than having to create yet another social-networking identity from scratch. Still, the David from the Alps is confident that it can stand up to the Californian Goliath, by virtue of offering something new and different. “You’re not having a conversation on Facebook – you’re broadcasting a post,” says Borel. “On Webdoc, you’re not following people; you follow topics. Everything happens around the content.”