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Cultcha and Calculators

Quick -- when was the last time you were actually excited about a new
website? With all the noise about holiday e-commerce, not to mention the
rabid spread of weblogs and infomediary schemes as of late, it's been a
while since anything has made my pulse race like two sites I've come across
recently. Both are aggressive plays in their respective marketspaces, both
use technology appropriately to enhance the customer experience, and both
remind me just why the web still has plenty of juice left in it.

Launched just the week before last, is the most
exciting -- and ambitious -- content site I've seen in ages. Their goal
nothing less than to create a massively hyperlinked guide to the worlds of
music, art, design and literature. Their initial release, while not entirely
comprehensive, is so beautifully done that I'll cut them some slack for not
including Don DeLillo. Their library of artist biographies, movement
descriptions, interviews, photos and external links is navigable two ways: a
hierarchical menu system (your standard left-hand nav), and a
non-hierarchical thinkmap-style visual display of related artists,
movements, time periods and keywords. Of course, it's this nav that yields
the more interesting connections: a biographical entry of wunderkind Damien
Hirst yields links to Annette Messager, Paul McCarthy and Joseph Kosuth.

On the other end of the spectrum is, the latest entry in the
hosted personal productivity applications space. But unlike or, who have launched with suites of miniature web applications to
manage your calendar, your to-do list, your files and your contacts,
HalfBrain has only one app -- a spreadsheet called "Brain Matter." Written
entirely in DHTML, Brain Matter provides the 20% of the functionality of
Excel that 80% of the market uses 100% of the time -- all in your browser.
It's fast, it's clean, it's intuitive -- and it's smart. HalfBrain clearly
knows that when you migrate an application to the network, it opens up new
ways to use that application. First, they've enabled network-based storage
of the spreadsheets you create (of course). Second, their site helps shift
focus from the tool itself to the use of the tool, by publishing more than
200 interactive calculators that help users do simple tasks like track
expenses, plan a party or calculate the value of their options. Finally,
they've flipped the viral bit, making it incredibly easy to email a
spreadsheet to a friend, or to post a calculator on your own website.

As for the obvious questions around business models, it's pretty simple.
Artandculture seems to be a standard publishing combo of ads and commerce
affiliate partnerships, counting on the fact that their audience might be a
tad more educated than your average bit clicker. And while HalfBrain also
offers a moderately compelling platform for advertising (users will stare at
that spreadsheet longer than they'll stare at a wire story on, you
can bet that they're counting on being acquired by a portal who's willing to
battle Microsoft in the online application space.

-- Michael Sippey ([EMAIL PROTECTED])



Will find an audience big enough to make their model work?
Does have a half a future in the hosted applications space?
Discuss amongst yourselves on the obvious.boards:


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