RealTime IT News

ShareThis Expands Social Widget

ShareThis enhanced its popular widget for sharing content on the Web with an updated version released this week. The company said the new version will be rolled out to all of its 80,000 publishers in the next few weeks.

The ShareThis widget is aimed at providing a quick way for a site's publisher to set up the means for visitors to share content on community sites such as Digg and Facebook, as well as with friends and colleagues. The new version is already live on several sites, including AccessHollywood.com, Boston.com, Dogtime.com, Elle.com and FoxNews.com.

The update comes at a time of a boom in registrations for social networks, community sites and bookmarking tools like Delicious that facilitate interactions among online contacts. That's an important trend for Web publishers who are looking to promote their content, since a portion of that online interaction revolves around users passing along interesting links to friends and colleagues.

New features in the updated ShareThis widget include a contact manager -- enabling users to import contact names and e-mail addresses from popular Webmail services -- and a new edition of the ShareThis ShareBox, which bookmarks previously shared content and organizational tools.

Making contact information more readily available should also accelerate sharing. "We've seen when people have access to their address book, their sharing frequency goes up 5 times," Tim Schigel, CEO of ShareThis," told InternetNews.com. He hinted ShareThis has other features in the works designed to further facilitate and automate the process of sharing, but did not disclose further details.

The new version also eliminates tabs as part of an improved user interface, and now automatically displays the last three e-mail addresses used, making it easier to share content with contacts.

"We changed the user interface based on input from users and publishers," Schigel said. "We eliminated tabs so none of the functionality is hiding and also to open up to new features to come."

A numbers game

For now, ShareThis is a free service, and Schigel said he's not yet worried about putting a revenue plan in place. He said the company is looking first to establish itself as a useful service for consumers and for publishers.

It already offers publishers analytics that enable them to track user activity. A limited beta is slated for release next month that will let publishers integrate the analytics data with third-party dashboards such as Omniture and Google Analytics.

"Up to now, you just weren't able to really track what was being shared, but it's in publishers' best interests to know what users are sharing," he said.

As for revenue, Schigel said the company is exploring several options. "Any of the ideas we have on the drawing board could be a decent business. We want to pick the best one." Update clarifies availability of analytics integration with other services.