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Allaire Founders Tackle Web Collaboration

Eight years after launching one of the more popular Web development companies in the U.S., J.J. Allaire is coming around full circle with the launch of a start-up promising to make Internet-based research less onerous.

Onfolio, an application available Monday that lets researchers and heavy Internet users compile pictures, documents and links, bears some similarity in nature to the applications made famous by Allaire Corp. -- ColdFusion and HomeSite.

In January 2001, Macromedia acquired Allaire for $360 million to build up what came to be known as MacromediaMX.

J.J. Allaire, the CEO of Onfolio, Inc., said his goal has always been to create products that ease the pain, whether it's a programmer making a new Web site or an Internet user gathering research.

"After I left Macromedia -- after we were acquired -- I didn't have a roadmap in my head that I was going to work on this project or that project, or even that I was going to work on any particular technology products," he told internetnews.com. "For me, if I sense that something's a problem, I feel some of the pain myself. (If) I look around and see other folks experiencing the same thing, that's very attractive to me, to go out and build a really attractive piece of software to solve it."

This time around the pain, as Adam Berrey, company president and fellow Allaire founder puts it, is with the literally millions of Web pages and documents on the Internet today. The trick, he said, isn't about getting the information; it's about being able to keep it all straight.

He points to some statistics that outline the problem: according to a report last year by comScore Networks, an average of 787 million Web searches are made every week; in December 2003, the Pew Internet & American Life Project found the number of topic-related searches jumped anywhere from 34 to 87 percent from the previous year among computer users. On any given day, the report said, anywhere between 17-20 million are conducting online searches.

This increased demand for more information requires tools to make that information effective, Berrey told internetnews.com. Web search companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are all looking at ways to make information-searching easier, he said, but it brings up a complementary problem.

"We describe it as a research problem, which is how do you use what you find?" he said. "We think that research on the Internet has reached a point where it is so prevalent and broadly done, that there is a class of user looking for a purpose-built desktop tool to manage all that information."

The program uses the information gleaned by Web browsers -- optimized for Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) but compatible with others -- to manage data in folders and sub-folders by subject. While it may sound like a glorified bookmark manager, which keeps track of links and information about the site, Onfolio provides much more.

The application grabs documents and pictures, as well as the link itself, and is placed in a local folder. Users can add comments or snippets of text from within the document itself. Onfolio also grabs metadata information to determine the author and copyright information as well.

A particularly useful feature of the program is its ability to take all the information collected in a Web search and process them as a report, thanks to IE's embedded ability to process multi-part HTML . The report can either be presented as a Word document, a Web page or even as part of an RSS feed.

Currently, Onfolio's extended features only work with IE, though officials plan to integrate the software with other browsers if demand requires. In Internet Explorer, Onfolio is embedded in the browser, appearing as a pane on the left-hand side, though the program can work in a standalone window for users who use browsers like Netscape or Opera.

Allaire said future plans include the the incorporation of instant messaging to distribute reports. It's an area he knows a lot about as a director of IMLogic, a company providing enterprise-grade IM products.

"People are fundamentally using their computers for something different than for users even three or four years ago," Allaire said. "(Research is) on a short list of what most mainstream computer users are doing, they're using their computer to search for things on the Internet."