Macromedia enhances Web authoring tools

Macromedia last week presented new releases for its Web site authoring tools - Aria and LikeMinds, both of which are aimed at enterprises that need to build and manage complex, interactive and mission-critical Web sites.

Aria is a Web site analysis tool that provides details about how visitors interact with a site by reading tags put into the content when it was created with Macromedia's Dreamweaver Web site design tool.

Aria 5.0 features a relational database architecture based on Oracle's 8i software and a new reporting interface that supports the Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) standard.

With Aria 5.0, Macromedia is "doing the right things," says Kurt Schlegel, an analyst with Meta Group who likes Aria's support for OLAP and the improved reporting capabilities that it provides. "But the potential danger here is that this is rapidly becoming a crowded marketplace." Among Macromedia's competitors in the Web site analysis area are Accrue Software, WebTrends, Net.Genesis, Tea Leaf Technology and Personify. "The Macromedia folks have this big suite vision, with Dreamweaver development tools and content management," Schlegel said. "I'm a little worried about how just the analysis piece will [fare.]" LikeMinds provides real-time personalisation of Web content based on a user's preferences and behaviour. LikeMinds 5.0 adds an Item Affinity Engine that analyses products purchased together and makes additional sales recommendations.

For example, the Item Affinity Engine could discover that a person was buying French soup mix and sour cream and recommend potato chips, too.

LikeMinds 5.0 also adds integration with BroadVision's rules-based e-commerce platform and speed improvements. One Macromedia customer that's interested in the new version of LikeMinds is Checkout.com, an entertainment Web site featuring music, movie and game reviews.

Checkout.com uses LikeMinds to recommend additional products to its customers based on their past purchases.

Senior vice president of engineering at Checkout.com Brian Ringer said the company makes multiple calls to the LikeMinds engine on every single page of the Web site.

"The new version will be able to handle the high transaction rates that we pump through [the engine.]," he said. Ringer also likes the new Item Affinity Engine, which he describes as a potential gold mine.

"It's certainly a very interesting problem to solve: shopping cart up-sales in real time," he said. Both LikeMinds 5.0 and Aria 5.0 ship next month and start at $US100,000 each.

Two distribution deals will bundle LikeMinds with BroadVision and IBM's WebSphere.

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