Dan Bricklin to the Rescue

Dan Bricklin is one of the good guys. And he’s been one of the good guys for a long, long time. He invented VisiCalc, for Pete’s sake! (If you don’t know what VisiCalc was, ask your mom or dad.)

But to survive in this business for 20 years, you also need some real business savvy. That’s why it’s interesting to me that he’s come to the rescue of Blogger.

Blogger may be one of the most fascinating but controversial technologies on the Web today. It creates Web logs, freeform diaries of text, pictures, and hyperlinks that can be either very personal or quite serious.

Some people love Blogger. Others hate it. I tried it in December, and while the results reminded me of my own weekly newsletter, it didn’t “take.” I dropped it fairly quickly.

Blogger is one of those artifacts that could become as important as Usenet but could also become another Archie. It really depends on who runs it and what they do with it.

Well, if anyone can find Blogger’s true potential, I figure it’s Dan. If there’s a lesson to be learned in this business, a Clue to be gained, Dan’s learned it and gained it. He saw the rise and fall of VisiCalc, then started his own little company, Software Garden Inc. Like me, he made a wrong turn into early pen computers, but the market helped him recover his sanity in time for the launch of the Web.

Since 1995, Dan has been running Trellix, which makes Web-page creation tools. Trellix has bundling deals with major hardware makers, it’s offered through a variety of Web hosts, and it can be used to insert content into other pages, a technology called “Web Gems.” It can also be used to offer “personal pages” to users on large sites.

Trellix, in other words, may be about the biggest tool you’ve never heard of, partly because it’s usually offered through “private label” deals and partly because it didn’t go public during the Internet bubble. Now Trellix must find a way to integrate Blogger with its other tools and then make money from them.

It’s not going to be easy. Blogs have a hippy-dippy reputation, and these are not hippy-dippy times. But if anyone can do it, Dan can. He’s got the right values for Blogger’s fans and the right experience for Blogger’s detractors to make the most of the technology.

Dan’s strategy seems pretty transparent. Once the software is integrated into Trellix, it will become a feature pushed by many, many companies that now support personal home pages and software development. Instead of having 150,000 users, it could easily have 15 million. This may kick Trellix into overdrive, or it may become just another feature — the market will decide.

Whatever happens, there’s an important lesson here. You can make a long career in this business by being competent, honest, and decent. As long as there’s room on the Web for folks like Dan Bricklin, the Web is in good hands.

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