Inside Dash, Web 2.0 Thrives

Dash Navigation, the Mountain View, Calif., company that has developed a network-connected global positioning system (GPS) device, is finally making it available for pre-order. The Dash Express will set you back a whopping $600 dollars plus related services of between $10 and $13 a month, depending on the service play you choose. And although it is by no means the most expensive GPS system out there, it is indeed a device that reflects the true spirit of Web 2.0.

Dash, which has raised close to $42 million in VC funding from the likes of Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital, is one of those startups that initially seemed to be more sizzle than substance. But a demo of their most updated device and the web service that goes along with it made me reevaluate my skepticism. Let me explain.

For nearly two years, one web company after another has offered an API (application programming interface) as a means to access the data locked up inside their vault. Zilo, Flicker, eBay, Yelp, Yahoo and Google Maps — the list goes on and on. And yet we have not seen anyone come up with a way to combine these disparate data streams together and build a service that helps our everyday life. Sure, we’ve seen some clever mashups, but most of them are locked up inside our browser. Close the lid of your computer and everything is left behind.

Dash, however, has come up with a way to take Web 2.0 to go. The device can pull information from a panoply of sources: gas station listings, restaurant listings, recommendations from Yelp, real estate information from Zillow.com, and so on. Say you’re driving and you see a house for sale — you can enter the address and get the list price from the Zillow.com database. Feel like eating sushi? Enter “sushi” and the device pulls down the nearest sushi restaurant information, including reviews from Yelp or some such service.

Your subscription also gives you access to MyDash, a special web site that allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds of your choice. If you’re a New York Yankees fan, for instance, and need to find a Yankees-friendly saloon in, say, San Francisco, you can look on one of the mapping services such as Platial and find yourself a map mashup that lists such bars. Subscribe to that RSS feed, and you will always have pinstripe heaven close by. Another feature I like is called Send2Car, which allows you to highlight an address from any Internet browser or Microsoft Outlook and send it directly to your car. Oh and it also offers real-time traffic updates and navigation.

I didn’t necessarily want to do a review of Dash, but it’s allowed me to point out something that is being forgotten in the mad scramble that is Web 2.0: The Internet is not just about the browser, but rather it is about data and how one can use it to build clever products. I think Dash, much like Amazon’s Kindle and RCA’s Small Wonder video camera, is part of a movement that is breaking Web 2.0’s browser shackles.

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