The Web 2.0 Expo at San Francisco’s Moscone Center West, which wraps up today, doesn’t take up a huge amount of space: Startups predominate, and most don’t have money for big flashy booths. But there’s more cool new technology per square foot here than at many big trade shows.
The quality and usefulness of the Web-based services presented here vary widely, and many will never see a real commercial launch. But if you have the patience and curiosity to try some intriguing free beta software, consider the ones described below. They are available now or will be available shortly.
Content Creation and Publishing
Oosah lets you create customized multimedia slide shows (Oosahs) using Web videos and still images from your own hard drive, or from major social networking and sharing sites such as Facebook and YouTube. Once you’ve collected the images you want to use, you can drag and drop them onto a workspace and then add transitions and music. You can publish the finished product on your Web site or on removable media (such as a DVD), or export it to PDF for printing out.
Sprout makes creating Flash Web pages drag-and-drop simple, even for newbies. Not only can you fiddle with media and text, but you can insert preset widgets–a calendar or a button, for example–or services such as Twitter feeds or a PollDaddy survey. When you’re done, you can post your creation to any of 20 popular sites (MySpace, Facebook, Blogger, and so on) at the click of a button–or cut and paste the HTML on your own Web site.
Springnote is a simple notebook application that comes with a collection of templates–calendars for to-do lists, an event planner, a reading list, a recipe, and so on. It’s easy to set up and might appeal to people who want a little more than they get from the free-form Zoho Notebook or Google Docs.
HyLighter is a collaboration service that focuses strictly on documents. Users can annotate a document (each user’s highlighting appears in a different color) and then invite other users to help with the writing and editing. The basic selling point here is a versioning tool that lets participants add comments before or while changes are made.
Mashups and More
Intel’s Mash Maker is a browser extension (for either Firefox or Internet Explorer) that lets you combine data from diverse Web sites on a single page, even if you’re not technically adept. For example, you can match up Google Maps with any site that lists addresses–say, OpenTable.com’s restaurant listings.
Tungle is an Outlook add-on dedicated to simplifying the process of negotiating a mutually agreeable time for a meeting. It performs this task by automating the exchange of availability information between calendars. You don’t need Exchange to use it, and it can help invitees who aren’t on Outlook at all–but it works best with other Outlook users who have installed the beta.
Triggit is a niche application for sites that struggle to manage and display ads from Google and other online ad services. Once you’ve signed up, a small line of Triggit code placed anywhere on your site creates a button that launches the app, which has a lot of muscle for handling image placement and editing. Triggit lets you easily drop in pictures or ads from all of the major services (they show up in a drop-down menu) in whatever format you like; the service can take over all of your billing, too, so that you receive a single check from a single source each pay period.
Triggit is not to be confused with TripIt, an online travel planning aide. Once you’ve set up your TripIt account, you can forward your travel confirmation e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. In response, the service will transform those often needlessly verbose documents into a slick, easy-to-read (and print) itineraries, embellished with restaurant recommendations, weather forecasts, maps, and the like.
We’ve saved one of the best for the last. Drop.io, an all-purpose file-sharing and communications service, delivers instant gratification. No registration is required: Just go to the site and type in a name (or a random collection of letters and numbers) to create a “drop”–in effect, a folder where you can park up to 100MB of pictures, videos, audio, documents, or whatever else you like.
You can also type notes or add URLs. Drop.io catalogs everything neatly, by content type. You can then share the drop URL (it will be something like ‘www.drop.io/dennypcw’) with friends or colleagues, who can grab the content.
But there’s more. You can send text messages from a mobile phone to your Drop.io e-mail address. Your friends can leave you voice mail by calling a phone number listed on the drop. And you can set up a teleconference, again by referring to a number shown on your drop. People can even send you a fax by using a provided cover sheet.
The nicest thing about Drop.io is its disarming spur-of-the-moment nature. You can set permissions for your drop (so that only authorized users can get in), or not. And you can set up as many drops as you need–and speedily dispose of them when you’re done.