The reason it’s so intriguing is I’m trying to figure out which feature will resonate more with users. To me, search should be the “killer app” because it’s such a fertile opportunity that you could easily see many people use to gather information, entertainment, etc.
1. Can you talk about the origins of BackType? What opportunity did you see and/or problems you’re looking to solve?
Our last start-up, IPartee, wasn’t doing well so we decided to come up with something new and apply for Y Combinator. We spent a week thinking about problems we’d been experiencing and existing solutions, if any. The problem we had was that although we used Twitter, blogs, social networks, etc. to follow hundreds of insightful and interesting people, there was no way to follow their comments. A person might find something they read online very interesting, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll write a whole blog post about it – instead, they comment.
It’s interesting to see what people find worthy enough to comment on. In fact, what’s surprised us about BackType is that it’s a great tool for content discovery. Now I can find and read the blogs that people (that I’m interested in) comment on. In addition to searching comments by author, searching by topic has shown to be very valuable as well so we plan on doing a lot more with that. We see a lot of opportunity in comments; what you see on BackType.com is what we’ve started with.
2. Why do you think BackType will be embraced or resonate with blog writers/readers?
I think a lot of people experience the same problems or hold the same curiosity we do with respect to comments. Comments are often more interesting than the content they are written in response to, but they don’t receive nearly as much attention. We want to highlight some of those comments and comment authors for the thoughts, insights and perspective they share. Attributing comments to their authors and giving them a home where they can be discovered, followed and shared helps.
I think discussions have been fragmenting and moving to services like FriendFeed and Twitter because that’s where people can find, follow and share them. Also, through BackType and several things we’re working on, we want to help bloggers do great things with their blog’s comments and reward them if they have an active community of readers.
3. How do you respond to the suggestion you’re scraping comments to build a business? Is it really anything different than Techmeme is doing, for example?
I don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with what we’re doing. It’s very similar to what Google does, or as you suggest, Techmeme. I can find all of my comments on Google – it’s just that they’re on page 423843 and seemingly irrelevant. That’s because Google is organizing the world’s information. BackType organizes the information in comments.
We’re going to be very transparent about what we’re doing, especially with bloggers and other content owners. I think it’s important to note that we aren’t simply duplicating discussion from blogs, etc. BackType indexes comments so we can build additional value through search, as well as attributing comments to their authors. On every comment, we link the blog or content owner in three places and encourage users to reply to comments at their original source.
4. As part of the Y Combinator family, what kind of insight, if any, did you get from Disqus, which also plays in the comment market?
Y Combinator was a very intense experience for us, mainly because we started our product from scratch just weeks before we moved to Boston. We had very little time to build BackType, both the service and its underlying technology. So unfortunately, we haven’t had the opportunity to work with Disqus yet, although we do support Disqus-enabled blogs. We love what Disqus has done for blog comments – it really does improve the discussion and their new reblog feature helps highlight comments and comment authors. We support what they’re doing and hope to work closely with them in the near future.
5. Finally (and you know I have to ask!), what’s the business model?
Right now, we’re focused on building a useful service that creates value for our users. When we start trying to capture value, it’ll be done with a service or feature that’s scarce enough to charge for.
Note: I’ve created a new category – Five Questions With… – for mini-interviews like this one. If anyone is willing to come up with a cool logo, I’d be most appreciative.