Webdoc, In Between a Social Network and a Social Tool

For once, I'm not sure how to pigeonhole the product I'm focused on today: Webdoc, a curious hybrid of an online digital scrapbook and a social media service.

For once, I’m not sure how to pigeonhole the product I’m focused on today: Webdoc, a curious hybrid of an online digital scrapbook and a social media service.

To create content on Webdoc you sign up for a free account using a regular registration process or via Facebook or Twitter authorization and then complete your profile details. You can invite friends via Facebook, Twitter or email and search for friends already on the service … all of the usual social network building stuff that we’ve seen in scores of other sites.

The meat and potatoes of Webdoc are the multimedia documents you create and distribute via social media and email.

The default document size is 500 pixels wide by 340 pixels long. While you can increase the length of the document, the width is, for some reason, fixed.

There are controls for changing the document’s background, adding text and lines, embedding links, including images from local capture devices (though OS X support via Flash doesn’t seem to work) as well as from uploads, Google, Fickr, Facebook, and your own library on Webdoc; embedding video from a number of services including YouTube,Vimeo, and Hulu; adding audio from Soundcloud, and using Webdoc's "Apps" which are simple active widgets such as countdown clocks, Google Maps displays, ratings widgets, and so on.

What’s really impressive is that the service’s Web interface uses only HTML, Javascript, cascading style sheets, and SVG … not a sniff of Flash or Java at all.

You drop any of these elements onto a document then customize them (define links, change colors, and so on) and organize their layout (both X-Y location and Z-order). The result can be quite elegant though the limited window width is an issue.

When you’re done you can save your creation (you can make the document private or public) then push it to Facebook and Twitter or email it.

When someone comes to see your Webdoc presentation they will see it “in” your account … with your picture, other documents, stats on your followers … pretty much the kind of display you find on other social services. The focus isn’t the document itself but rather it’s social context as related to you.

Although you can embed Webdoc documents in Web sites, as of writing the company doesn’t provide any option to remove their own branding on the document frame (perhaps this will come in a future premium subscription option) and the fixed width sizing limits design options.

So, bottom line: Webdoc is, in some ways, a social network in its own right but if creating Webdoc documents isn’t your motivation there’s no reason to be there. As an adjunct to other social media services it has huge potential but it is fairly complex and time consuming enough to not be too useful to the average user. In summary, technically, Webdocs is really impressive but where and how it will fit into the broader context of social media is hard to say.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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