On October 14, 2008 I wrote a blog titled 'Who is JS-Kit'. In it, I explained why I was joining the JS-Kit team and how their philosophy and execution resonated so much with me. On Friday the 10th of July, 2009, the JS-Kit team launched Echo. Here's the video. It is the clearest example yet of the potential of the JS-Kit team that I spoke about back in my Who is JS-Kit post.
I wanted to take this opportunity to explain what Echo means to me personally. But first, I'd like to make something very clear. Although much of this will be about my personal opinions, feelings and philosophies on Echo and the trends and tribulations that bore it, Echo is the result of the hard work and collaboration of a stellar team of first grade entrepreneurs that I have the pleasure of working with every day (and night).
From Khris Loux our fearless and philosophical CEO who lead the charge, to Lev Walkin our CTO who seems to know no boundaries when it comes to writing software, to Philippe Cailloux, the man who turns our raving ADD rants into actionable mingle tickets, to our developers who worked tirelessly to turn napkin sketches into reality. We all scrubbed every pixel and will continue to be at the front lines with our customers. This is the team that made it happen.
For me, Echo is the next major milestone on a journey that only properly got underway in November 2006 when I visited Silicon Valley for the first time.
I was at the Web 2.2 meetup. It was set up by one of my now friends Chris Heuer. There was a group discussion about social networking and how we, as individuals, might communicate in ways that were independent of the tools that facilitated such communication.
I was sitting in the back of the room in awe of the intellect and scope of the conversation. Could you imagine it, for the first time in a long time I (a kid from Brisbane Australia) was in a room full of people who were just as passionate about this technology thing as me - and they were actually at the center of the ecosystem that could make a real impact on the outcome of these technologies.
I shyly put my hand up at the back of the room and squeaked out (I'm paraphrasing and cleaning up for eloquence here - I'm sure I sounded far less intelligent at the time).
"Aah... excuse me... aren't blogs the ultimate tool agnostic social networking platforms?"
What I meant was that blogs use the web as the platform. They produce RSS. They have audiences. They illicit reactions. They create social conversations over large distances. They essentially create one giant implicit social network.
I got some "oh yeah he might be right" reactions and the conversation moved swiftly along to other things.
For me, a light turned on. One I've been chasing ever since in various forms and to varying degrees of success (or failure as the case may be). For me, Faraday Media, APML, DataPortability and now JS-Kit have all been an exploration on how to create a tool-agnostic, internet scale social network that has notification, filtering, interoperability and community at its heart.
As I said at the start of this post, Echo is the next step along that journey. For me, Echo represents an opportunity to making Blogging not only 'cool' again, but to make it a first class citizen on the web-wide social network. To make all sites part of that network.
Much has been made of its real-time nature. Even more about its ability to aggregate the fragmented internet conversation back to the source. These are both critical aspects of the product. They are the most obvious and impactful changes we made. But there is much more to Echo than meets the eye. Much more in the product today and much more we hope to still add.
Our choice of comment form layout. The use of the words 'From' and 'To'. The language of 'I am... my Facebook profile'. The choice to treat the comment form as just another app (as shown by the use of the 'Via Comments' tag) and more. The choice to merge the various channels into a unified stream (comments+off-site gestures). These were all deliberate and painstaking choices that the team made together.
Echo is based on a theory we call the 'Synaptic Web'. This is the frame of reference from which all our product decisions will be made. It is an open straw man that I hope will eventually be just as exciting as any given product launch. It states in explicit terms the trends and opportunities that many of us are seeing and is designed to help foster a conversation around those observations.
In the coming hours and weeks I'm also going to record video screen casts of the specific product decisions that have already made it into Echo - hopefully these will further illustrate how each pixel brings about a subtle but important change to the space.
In the mean time, I'd like to reiterate how humbled I am by the reaction to the product and how excited I am to be working with the JS-Kit team in this space at this time in the Internet's history.
I look forward to hearing from each of you about your thoughts and feelings on our direction, and shaping our road map directly from your feedback.