Bubbler’s WYSIWYG Web Publishing

A hosted service with WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) Web design tools aims to let small businesses create a Web presence without the hassle of HTML.

Bubbler, a service launched by Five Across on Wednesday, lets users create multi-page Web sites by dragging and dropping text, photos, audio and video. Page navigation is generated automatically, according to the company, and pages are updated in real time. A range of templates provides design choices.

Five Across CEO Glenn Reid said the 9 million blogs tracked by blog directory firm Technorati shows pent-up demand for Web presence in general, rather than blogging specifically.

“The interest in blogging is a symptom of a bigger problem,” Reid said. “It’s too hard to build a Web site.”

“For small to, maybe, medium-sized businesses that just want employees to be able to put stuff up without a lot of intermediaries, you can get something that basically looks good without needing to do that much training or figuring out what all the widgets are,” said Ben Gross, an analyst with Ferris Research.

Bubbler is an extension to the blogging engine that Five Across unveiled in February. Its hosted services range from a free, text-only site and $5 a month for 1 megabyte of storage to $100 a month for 4 gigabytes of storage.

The Bubbler Web hosting service is more of a demo than a business model, Reid said.

“Bubbler is more of an example to hosting providers of what their services should look like,” he said. “It’s hard to make a lot of money selling blogs at $5 a month or less.” But he added that the company would continue to support customers using Bubbler directly.

“There’s a ton of weblog hosting companies now, and lots of ISPs are starting to add them in,” said Gross. “But much of what the ISPs offer is too complicated.”

Microsoft too is targeting this market. On Tuesday, it announced an update to Microsoft Solution for Windows-based Hosting Version 3.5 that introduced Web Site Starters for Windows, third-party tools that let users build Web sites by selecting among modules and skins.

Five Across also offers server technology designed for hosting service providers that integrates Web hosting, content management and messaging. It enables service providers to offer blogging and Web site creation tools to their own customers.

The Five Across Workgroup Server includes instant messaging and group collaboration client software. The company says it enables wiki-like collaboration with access controls, so it can be used by corporations for business blogging behind the firewall.

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