XML co-inventor Tim Bray launched a public showcase Web site last week for his new company, Antarcti.ca, offering a service called Visual Net that visually plots content on the Web and in private networks.
On a backdrop of a map of Antarctica, Bray's company used the categorization established by the Open Directory Project to create a visual map of the Web organized by content areas. The proof-of-concept site is available at http://map.net.
"We are good at remembering where things are in the real world," Bray said. "The human brain is well-adapted to dealing with places. Computer networks aren't like that."
Instead, users who are trying to navigate computer networks must rely on search engines or URLs, both text-based tools.
"What we are doing here is analogous to a 2-D desktop interface," Bray said.
Built on a custom run-time database, the service offers 2-D and 3-D views of nearly 1 million Web sites. Those views are rendered on the client to minimize the bandwidth required to access the service. The service also offers its own search engine.
Antarcti.ca plans to license Visual Net on an ASP (application service provider) basis to large public and corporate enterprises.
"This would be very useful in education and local and state government -- organizations that deal with a lot of people off the street," said Sally Cusack, research director at IDC, in Framingham, Mass. "It's so easy to use and so graphical it could appeal to Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public because it lets you drill down and drill up in a precise and easy way to find information."
Enterprise users of the service would dump the data from their intranet management products such as Vignette or Autonomy and load it into the Antarcti.ca database.
The company will also continue to offer its proof-of-concept site. At the site each of the 300,000 categories of content offers chat capability, allowing users to talk to others who share their interest in a particular topic.
Calling Visual Net an application platform, Bray envisions groupware and games being built on top of it.