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Excite.com Founders Wild Over Wiki

Take a Web application that thinks it's a developer's tool, add two Excite.com founders and you have a recipe for a new startup that wants to spread wiki technology to the mainstream.

Joe Kraus and Graham Spencer -- two of the original founders of the Internet search engine -- officially launched their new venture "JotSpot" this week with a mission to support simpler Web-based applications.

CEO Kraus and CTO Spencer said their vision is to see people use wiki technology in the same way that workgroups currently use Microsoft Excel to build financial applications -- without the help of programmers.

"Simple Web applications are not simple to build," Kraus said in a statement. "We've taken the advantages of traditional document-based wikis -- designing as you go and the wiki conforming to a user's unique work style rather than the other way around... "We make wikis programmable, allowing you to layer structured information on top of all the unstructured data."

Kraus, Spencer and Vice President Ben Lutch, who used to run operations at Excite, are currently offering samples of the platform as part of an invitation-only beta program. The company said it has spent the last six months in customer trials covering a wide range of business environments.

So far the company has raised more than $5 million venture funding. The company is also looking for partners and expanding its team.

Why Wiki?

From its genesis in 1995 with Ward Cunnigham, wikis have evolved into text-centered workspaces where groups of people can openly edit documents through a Web browser. Most wikis have sprouted up organically inside companies, largely in the hands of technical users.

Using a simple scripting markup, WikiWords, WikiMarkup modes, WYSIWYG, XHTML, and support for brackets, JotSpot's technology centers on what the company calls "Forms," which define fields such as "text," "date," and "number." Pages can contain both structured and unstructured text. The Forms can also mix in different content such as Yahoo! News over RSS, Hoovers data over the Web and SalesForce.com information via SOAP.

JotSpot said a company going through a hiring process can use its platform to create a "hiring candidate" page that's not just free text, but also contains a pull down menu for ranking the candidate on a scale of 1-5, another for describing where in the interview process the person is (phone screen, 1st interview, 2nd interview, etc), and another for collecting the interview date. Then, create another page that contains a "dashboard" view of all of the candidates. For example, an automatically generated table of "all candidates ranked 2 and above who are in their 1st interview."

Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel files are automatically indexed for search. All attachments have the same revision control as any other page in the JotSpot wiki. The technology also has a "roll back" feature to view any previous version or for comparing two versions.

The company said every Form in a JotSpot wiki contains an Inbox where users can "CC:" a wiki page and put it into a central repository. The platform then lets people create semi-structured applications on top of this data.

"Wikis started out as a simple way to share, organize and search unstructured information -- all the e-mails and documents that fly around an organization, land in people's inboxes and get stored away, never to be found again," Kraus said.