The 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.