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HotLinks Brings Creative New Site and Service to the Web

By William F. Zachmann, President, Canopus Research
Friday, September 17, 1999

Despite my general skepticism over how much hot air is still left in the Internet IPO balloon, I do continue to be impressed by the imaginative creativity that goes into thinking up new Web site ideas. Jonathan Abrams' new HotLinks.Com site is a great example of such creativity at work.

Before starting HotLinks, Jonathan was a senior software engineer at Netscape. He has a master's degree in Computer Science from McMaster University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and worked at Nortel Networks and Crossroads Software before heading for Netscape and California. Since Netscape, he obviously fell into the right VC crowd, and so is now chief technology officer and acting CEO for his own company at HotLinks.Com, backed by VC powerhouse CMGI's @Ventures.

The basic idea of HotLinks.Com is that you can create a Web-based version of your Netscape Navigator "Bookmarks" file or your Microsoft Internet Explorer "Favorites." You sign up for HotLinks' free service and then, if you'd like, it will read your Bookmarks or Favorites and create a Web-based version of it on the computers at the HotLinks Web site. It also will install a browser add-in for you to enable you to add sites to your HotLinks record as easily as you add them to your Bookmarks or Favorites.

You can add, move, sort, and delete "Categories" folders to organize your links. You can add, delete, copy, move, sort and validate your site links. In short, you can manage links to your favorite Web sites on the HotLinks site nearly as easily as you can on your local computer. And you can thus be assured of access to your Web favorite site links regardless of which computer or which browser you happen to be using at any given time.

That much, however, is just the beginning. Unless you explicitly make your links private, they also can be read and followed by anyone who searches to your HotLinks Member Site. For the minimalist site I created in spelunking through the HotLinks Web site, for example, just browse to http://www.hotlinks.com/members/wfzachmann. For Jonathan Abrams' links, just go and check out http://www.hotlinks.com/members/abrams.

But wait (as they say on the TV infomercials), there is more! HotLinks also will aggregate all site links left public by all members. Think of it as a bit like Yahoo, but where you and I and the lamppost are the search spiders that wrap up sites for the service. Instead of using some Web crawler 'bot to come up with interesting sites out there, HotLinks simply lets its members' fingers do the walking to find the sites, and then, in addition to the individual member's links pages, creates a Yahoo-like directory populated by sites added by other members, aggregated into a single view.

In fact, there's even more than that, but this column already is longer than it needs to be. If you are really interested in understanding thoroughly all that HotLinks is doing, your best bet is to just browse on over there, sign up, and starting poking around. I think you are very likely to find something or another, perhaps a lot, to interest you over there.

HotLinks also is a natural destination for anyone who wants to promote or support some Web site. Include a site in you collection of public links on HotLinks, and you are, in effect, voting for its inclusion in HotLinks' aggregated directory as well. You also can offer and receive comments about linked sites and suggestions about others you may want to add to your own personal list of Bookmarks or Favorites.

Even that does not exhaust the possibilities, but I've got to stop somewhere. Suffice to say that Jonathan clearly spent a lot of time thinking up some very creative approaches to building a new Web site with a very innovative twist and tons of fascinating internal synergy.

It has become a very competitive world out there in Cyberspace with thousands of sites vying for the attention of some 70+ million regular Web surfers. HotLinks, in my opinion, has a far better chance than most aspirants to become a major site able to attract and hold a big slice of those surfers.

Please feel free to email Will Zachmann at wfz@canopusresearch.com with any comments, ideas, suggestions, questions, or observations about this or any of his other columns here on CompuServe Computing. You are also welcome to go to the Canopus Research Forum and jump in on the ongoing discussions there. Together, we can make this a premier place in cyberspace for IT professionals and other interested parties to keep up-to-date on the latest and greatest in information technology. We're delighted to have you be part of it!


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