Bloglines Talks Growth And Pirates

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Mark Fletcher, Bloglines founder, has been a part of the Ask Jeeves family since February. The service has seen growth, its attendant pains, and a makeover for the downtime plumber.

When you visit Fletcher’s personal blog and dig back in the archives, all the way back to August 14, 2001, you get a sense of the man behind the flying pig in the oldest post: “Switching to Blogger. This can only be bad, as I will be able to update this more frequently, which means more lame posts.”

The former Sun engineer and Bloglines creator doesn’t come across as lame. He has the startup enthusiasm, and the sense that new technology is cool technology. There’s plenty of it being developed now, a “Cambrian explosion of startups” as he described it for me.

Fast forward to December 2005. Bloglines has seen tremendous growth since its acquisition by IAC in February. They have tripled their userbase, the blog articles in their system, the number of feeds available from the service.

That growth necessitated a change in datacenters. “We’ve been planning that for a couple of months,” Fletcher said. “It made more sense for us to move into the same datacenter Ask Jeeves is in.”

The move greatly expanded the amount of hardware available for Bloglines. “It went really well. The service is a lot faster these days,” he said.

Bloglines had a lot of interest, but IAC offered something better. “What they wanted us to do is just continue running the service as we have been, at the same time giving us additional resources.”

Ask Jeeves hasn’t altered the Bloglines worldview; IAC acquired the search engine, completing the deal in August, and made Bloglines an Ask Jeeves property. Fletcher said, “Our focus is the same as it always has been.” That’s included adding features, scaling service, and responding to user wants.

Fletcher had to wait for the Ask Jeeves deal to be completed before Bloglines could really start working with other IAC companies. He sees plenty of ways to integrate Bloglines and those sites.

I asked him if there was a particular technology that would influence Bloglines over the coming year. Fletcher said he looked at it more as features than technology, though. “What do our users want?”

“It comes back to why I started the service in the first place,” Fletcher said. “I had all of these sites and all of this information that I wanted to track and follow, but that was taking too long.

“Coming up with a service that tracks all the blogs that I’m reading, and all of this additional information, was my answer to that.”

That’s when Fletcher brought up Blogline’s Universal Inbox Initiative, where Bloglines becomes a way to pull all of a user’s needed information into one place. “The first thing we did with that this year was to be able to track packages within Bloglines,” he said. “I just put the tracking number into Bloglines and it tells me where my package is.”

The initiative will be where Bloglines pulls in information from other IAC sites. With sites like TicketMaster, Match.com, and MyWay available among others, they should have plenty of information to use.

We wrapped up by discussing the burning issue, seen during the recent datacenter change. Bloglines usually posts a “down page” featuring a plumber when the service is unavailable temporarily. This time around, the plumber looked a little different to visitors during the move.

“We gave him a little bit of a makeover,” Fletcher said. “And turned him into a pirate.”

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Bloglines Talks Growth And Pirates
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