E-Mail Vets Unveil Plum

E-mail veterans Hans Peter Brondmo and Margaret Olson, who worked together on the Project Lumos email authentication architecture, are expected to unveil the company they’ve been growing today. Plum, which is in limited beta release, is a free Web service that helps people collect and share items from the Web and their desktops.

Brondmo most recently worked at Digital Impact, which acquired the email company he founded in 1996, Post Communications. Olson was previously CTO of Constant Contact.

Though Plum is expected to launch without advertising support, Brondmo said the company expects to eventually target ads based upon information users opt-in to share.

“Going forward, one thing we will certainly introduce is contextual advertising,” Brondmo told ClickZ.

The idea behind Plum is to allow users to collect, tag, categorize and share items found on the Web. If the list of collectable items and the methods of sharing them are numerous and flexible enough, the company believes it can become a service as essential as email.

Currently, collectable items include pages, images, email messages, RSS feeds, podcasts, videos, music playlists and desktop files. Once those items are collected, the service allows people to view or share them in nine different “views”: music, email, comparative list, blog, clipboard, list, photo album, browsing and feed. Brondmo says the company is testing a desktop application and will continually add features as users request them.

As people collect items, a “connections” feature shows users information about others who have collected similar things. The matching technology uses a proprietary algorithm to examine things like links, text, tags, reviews and comments.

“With all that, we think we can start pulling in advertising inventory and do very highly contextual advertising using the same basis for matching,” Brondmo said, adding that Plum will avoid intrusive units.

Initially, Brondmo believes Plum will appeal to the Web-savvy early-adopter crowd, but he expects the service to have near-universal appeal.

A number of other companies are vying for the same space. Yahoo in particular has acquired several start-ups with similar functionality. Flickr lets users tag and share photos, del.icio.us does the same for Web pages, and Webjay allows for the collection and sharing of music playlists.

“There’s certainly a lot of activity in the space and the whole Web 2.0 thing is exciting,” said Brondmo. “I think that these guys, many of them, have shown the direction things are heading in, but we’re taking it to the whole next level.”

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