In an ongoing effort to build out its Web publishing and social media businesses, Lycos is expected today to unveil Webon, a drag-and-drop platform designed to allow anyone to build sleek Web sites with interactive social features.
The rollout comes as static, “Web 1.0” sites look increasingly dated, and people are coming to expect to be able to interact with the online destinations they visit.
In that spirit, Webon is Lycos’ attempt to lower the entry barriers for people who want to create an interactive site with the all the interactive bells and whistles that have come to define Web 2.0. Kosak compares it to Google’s FriendConnect, the forthcoming tool that will allow site owners to layer in social features such as blogging and comment forms onto their sites, only more idiot-proof.
“We think a lot of people want Web sites that are interactive with their visitor and have a social aspect to them,” Don Kosak, CTO for Lycos, told InternetNews.com.
“You can click to get started and start using the product right out of the gate — there’s no software to download, no HTML you need to learn,” Kosak said. “It’s very much a what-you-see is-what-you-get [WYSIWYG] environment.”
Once an Internet high-flyer in Web search, Lycos continues to maintain its search engine, as well as the publishing communities Tripod and Angelfire and several other online brands. Kosak sees Webon as extending the company’s legacy as an online portal.
“Lycos has been in the business of helping people get on the Web for about 10 years now,” Kosak told InternetNews.com. “This is something that the company has a lot of expertise in.”
Webon has been in stealth mode since May 20, but with its public launch today, the platform will offer support for the OpenSocial and OpenID standards.
The OpenSocial tie-in will enable non-technical users to tap into the trove of applications developed under that standard, and Lycos will maintain its own vault of popular add-ons for Webon users. OpenSocial was initially introduced by Google but has since expanded to a nonprofit foundation with members such as Yahoo, AOL and MySpace.
Support of the OpenID standard for common identifiers across the Web will enable visitors to any Webon-supported site to post comments to a blog or photo using their ID from any participating site or service, such as Yahoo or AOL’s AIM instant messaging client.
Also baked into sites built through Webon will be an update stream that will allow site owners to sync up their activities to social destinations like MySpace or Facebook.
Lycos will offer free and premium versions of Webon. The free version will register sites under the .webon.com domain suffix. The premium version, available for a monthly subscription of $8.95, supports all domains.
The free version will be completely ad-free. Premium subscribers can monetize their sites through external ad-serving services such as Google’s AdSense. Lycos will not sell or place ads on any Webon sites for the time being.
The other differences are mainly in quantity, rather than kind. The premium service offers unlimited photo uploading; the free service has a limit of 300 images. When support for video clips is added in the coming weeks, the premium service will be unlimited; the free service will limit uploads to three short clips.
Chuck Ball, Lycos’ vice president of sales and marketing, told InternetNews.com that Lycos does not have a concrete estimate of how many people will opt for the premium service, but that he wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up between 10 percent and 20 percent of Webon users.
In the fall, Lycos plans to roll out a more sophisticated platform that will support e-commerce stores for $25 a month.
Lycos today operates as a subsidiary of Daum Communications, a publicly traded South Korean company that is that nation’s second-largest Internet portal.