WEBZEER - Favorites Go Multidimension

In January 2001 uzee Limited opened its doors in Cambridge, England. Mike Hunter-a Cambridge-trained experimental physicist, steeped in B mesons and exploding cosmic string-found uzee to commercialize visualization tools and services invented by Mr. Hunter for police and military intelligence data analysis applications.

uzee Limited is his second entrepreneurial venture. HisUzee first-i2 Limited-stands as one of the market leaders in data visualization and data mining for the police and intelligence communities. Mr. Hunter is one of the most successful innovators in what a less-than-poetical Cambridgeshire publicist calls "the silicon Fen."

A uzeen is a visualized and extended collision of related Web links and data. Think of a uzeen as a digital plastic sack containing links to many different types of objects, including chunks of text, data, images, sound, with undifferentiated links, a WebZeer user may annotate each link and create a visual pathway through a collection using graphical arrows and icons. The one-dimensional list of links suddenly has a visual construct, multidimensionality, and powerful functionality.

According to Mr. Hunter, "The problem of grasping key ideas from large volumes of complex data grew out of my work in experimental physics. I became interested in using visualizations to make sense out of volumes of complex, fast-changing data. From the beginning, i2's focus has been simplicity, collaboration, and usability. The new company takes i2's specialized technologies and makes them more widely available."

To create and share a uZeen, the user downloads a file FROM uZee's server. A click installs the "WebZeer" application. A WebZeer icon appears on the browser's toolbar. Another click launches the program, and Immediately any url or object on a Web page or ftp site can be added to a collection.

One drags a link to the WebZeer window, images, or any object that appears on a Web page. A visual representation of these links appears in the WebZeer window. The contents of the window and its visual display can be annotated. Graphical navigation cues such as arrows can be included to provide the user with a roadmap to the links.

A uZeen created with the free version of WebZeer is stored under a user-created description on the uZee server. Once stored, the uZeen can be shared , If one wishes, with other WebZeer users OR e mailed Mike Hunter.

According to Mr. Hunter, "We wanted to provide a much-needed improvement to the standard list of Favorites and show people that visualization tools can make saving, managing, and sharing information easy and fun."

Mr. Hunter said, "We thought the idea of visual bookmarks to be a simple idea really. We developed a prototype and began using it inside of i2 Limited. It made sense to offer this new approach to bookmarks to Internet users worldwide without charge. The new company was an outgrowth of the early positive feedback about these non-linear links to different types of data."

The screen shot below illustrates a uZeen created three minutes after downloading a small file and installing WebZeer into Internet Explorer.

WebZeer solves in a visually appealing, intuitive way most of the problems associated with keeping track of favorite Web sites, collecting related information about a topic, and sharing these collections of information with friends, other Internet users, and colleagues. The company has created a number of publicly available uZeens for users to explore. These include links to search services, travel, finance, and other topics.

No special training or computer expertise is required to create a collection, add graphics and explanatory text, and then share the collection with others or simply use the collection as a network accessible, multidimensional collection of links. What happens is that a person begins with little or no insight into the Internet. Within a few weeks, that person knows that search engines do indeed search. The problem is that the results may or may not be germane to the word, concept, or question the user wants answered.

There appear to be a number of useful applications for the WEBZEER technology. A user can store Favorites on the uZee server and have them available at any time from any Internet device. A record company could package links to audio clips and distribute a virtual playlist to fans via email sending the uZee collection. A company's marketing department can assemble relevant links to text, images, and video about a new product and distribute the ready-to-click content as a uZeen. A drug researcher can gather images, text, Web sites data, and information from a secure Intranet. These links can be annotated and placed in a meaningful order using graphical tools provided by WebZeer. The resulting collection can be e mailed to the client or another researcher. Proprietary content would not be accessible unless the recipient had appropriate pass codes. uZeens use links, not the actual content object itself.

The forthcoming professional version of WebZeer permits a user to build uZeens containing links to data behind the organization's firewall. Access is not permitted unless the user has appropriate access rights.

WebZeer blends for the first time visualization tools, a dynamic clipboard, shared links, and collaboration services in a remarkable new way. Mr. Hunter says, "Usability, simplicity, and easy sharing of information are a bit more important than the maths for our customers, " says Mr. Hunter. "Views of text, video, audio, databased, and factual information can be analyzed, explored, and viewed from a different perspective with a mouse click."

My Hunter explains, "We took what we learned from the years of work in making data useful to people who have no special training in data analysis. WebZeer provides remarkable power and information value for information that is accessible via the browser." "A collection of bookmarks is helpful," says Mr. Hunter, "but lists are linear. Knowledge and insights are often non-linear. uZeens are a modest step in the direction of shifting Favorites in a more multidimensional space."

A beta version of the software is available at www.uzee.com . The company will make the standard WebZeer software available for free for the forseeable future. The WebZeer application supports only Internet Explorer at this time.

Mr. Arnold is a well-known consultant in online information. For more than 20 years he has been involved in creating and marketing commercial online and Internet- centric products. In 1989 he received the New Jersey ASIS Distinguished Lectureship Award and in 1999 he received Gale Online, Inc. Best Paper Award. His most recent book is The New Trajectory of the Internet: Umbrellas, Traction, Lift, and Other Phenomena, which is available from Infonortics, Ltd., Tetbury, Glou.

Stephen E. Arnold
Arnold Information Technology,
Kentucky, USA

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