At SwitchAbit, Twittergram Shares a Common Future

Betaworks, a New York-based seed-stage investment/development company started by John Borthwick (a former AOL executive who recently sold photo-sharing service Fotolog to Hi Media of France for $90 million), is about to launch its first project, SwitchAbit.

The project, described by Borthwick as a content routing platform, will become a standalone company and will merge with Twittergram, a service created by Dave Winer. This is a no-cash deal. Dave will join SwitchAbit as an advisor.

“When we started working on SwitchAbit, one of the foundational services that inspired us was Twittergram, a service that technologist Dave Winer created almost a year ago,” Borthwick writes in an email. “Few individuals have been more innovative in finding ways to move data — live & static data — laterally across the web.”

So what is a SwitchAbit? Think of it as a web services switchboard that allows you to plug any type of content from one service (say Flickr) to another (say Twitter) — or even between multiple services. The dashboard is likely to be released later this summer.

Borthwick writes in an email to me:

SwitchAbit doesn’t aspire to be another UI to aggregate data — in fact it’s the reverse — it assumes that people want to contextualize information streams within existing services and existing communities. I’m tired of companies seeking to jam users into a new user experience that is mostly designed to drive a business model rather than drive new, relevant or meaningful interactions.

While it sounds like Yahoo! Pipes, SwitchAbit is focusing more on folks who are not mashup savvy. Whether it is a mass-market phenomenon, I am not convinced yet, mostly because it will be a while before we see web services boom outside of the technosphere. (I am not saying it won’t, but I’m pointing out that we in Silicon Valley are, to say the least, optimistic about adoption behavior. If you don’t believe me, just check out Facebook’s founding date.) When I asked John if this was even viable business idea, he was candid enough to admit that it is too early to tell.

Nevertheless, there is a need for such a service. Because we are seeing a proliferation of web services, and that trend isn’t going to stop. Six years ago, Flickr, Delicious and Digg were not even part of our lexicon, but they are now becoming part of the web’s social fabric. I am sure there are more clever ideas waiting to emerge out of some 20-something whiz kid’s mind.

We are coming to a point where there is a need for a common and easy way to manage these web services, both as a content publisher and as a content consumer. If Iminta and FriendFeed are trying to solve the content consumption problem, then SwitchAbit can handle the publishing side of the equation. I can’t wait to get my paws on the functioning version of this service.

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