Blog Post

Blerp Adds a Social Network Layer Over the Entire Web

Blerp logoThe best way to describe Blerp, now in open beta, is a social network that looks like it’s swallowed the entire web. Once you create an account and log in, the network is represented in a frame around your browser display, so every web site is viewed within it. Blerpers can add comments and widgets (YouTube videos, star ratings, etc.) around the edges of any given site. What this gives you is a web browsing experience that’s socially annotated and shared from the ground up, in a way that seems markedly richer and more pervasive than other social networks and annotation sites. (The Blerp frame even comes with its own web address bar.)

Even if you’re intrigued, however, your first reaction is likely, “Not another social network!” Blerp’s developers have anticipated that protest by integrating this functionality with Facebook, Twitter, and other systems so you can import your existing social network info into Blerp’s network as desired. You can also, say, access your Facebook account or send out tweets from within Blerp, complementing your existing social networks, rather than directly competing with them. It also has a slightly different revenue strategy: While Blerp’s founders intend to add contextual ads and monetize search, they also plan to sell a firewalled version to corporations, so employees can share an internally annotated version of the web. (Not sure if a certain vendor is reliable? Check for comments left by co-workers on that company’s site.)

Blerp is a new property of RocketOn, the virtual world and startup of the same name. In a demo last Monday, CEO and co-founder Steve Hoffman told me a lot of Blerp’s functions were first developed for RocketOn, which is an MMO played on the web itself. Eventually the company realized it would better evolve as a separate system. Whether it can build up an audience in a world already so fixated on Facebook and Twitter remains to be seen. But at least Hoffman and company have a couple years to find out — he tells me his South San Francisco-based company still has low seven figures in the bank, and can maintain their current burn rate until 2011.

16 Responses to “Blerp Adds a Social Network Layer Over the Entire Web”

  1. wecandobiz

    Although it would seem they have attempted to fight “Not another social network!” apathy with teh ability to import contacts you already have on other social networks, leaving out the ability to sign in using an existing identity seems like a serious oversight.

    It’s not that hard to add OpenID or Facebook Connect to a site and they pretty much know all of their users will already have some other web identity they are using. Adding the ability to use that existing ID would significantly lower the barriers to using this service.

    Ian Hendry
    CEO, WeCanDo.BIZ

  2. Less a comment on the service, which I haven’t used yet, and more a comment on the truism the everything is derivative. Blerp is conceptually pretty similar to what Third Voice was trying to do back in 1999 – ten years ago.

    Wired Article from then:

    As someone once said, “Because there is a certain inevitability to such concepts, the hard part is actually making the idea work.”



    • @Mark, while the saying is very true (Everything is a derivative), the big difference between 10 years ago and today is the environment. And by “environment” I mean the network, the devices as well as (and most importantly) user behavior. None of these concepts are new (not blerp, not facebook, not itunes, not web based ajax email). What has changed now is that users have embraced these new tools into their lifestyle.

      In short, while the ideas remain the same, the environment around it has changed greatly and that makes all the difference. Not ready then, ready now.

  3. @Arjun I couldn’t disagree with you more. Browser plugins are way overdone, and cause stability problems. Also, requiring your user to download and install a plugin is a barrier to adoption. In many cases it is not even an option (kiosk computers) and yet those use cases are examples of the greatest need for such service.

    • @thegeniusfiles,
      While browser plugins have had a history of problems, they were due to badly written code. A well written XUL plugin, or even an IE plugin will not have issues because we are talking about blerp doing its own plugin – not offering a framework to 3rd party devs.

      Anyway, I am not advocating or stating that plugins are great. I am making a relative statement. compared to stuffing a website in a frame, a plugin makes much more sense. I still maintain, frame stuffing is just plain bad for many reasons:
      a) You mess with the UI experience of these sites
      b) URLs get rewritten
      c) how do I trust logging into an SNS site *via* their login frame ? (example, translates to

      If blerp really does become popular, they need to get out of the way and only show up when there is a need for interaction.

  4. This is the sort of approach I was urging Google to take with iGoogle a couple years ago, but they ignored me. It’s gratifying to see other people (Stumble, Digg, Facebook, Blerp) move in this direction.

  5. Okay, stuffing any webpage inside a frame is a bad bad bad idea. I wish they just have their users install a browser plugin that lets you blerp on your favourite site and have others who use the plugin also communicate/view just like their current model. Meddling with the interface of another site by adding borders etc. is a recipe for disaster – no one will use blerp this way.