Wiki startup JotSpot draws crowd for beta tool

A Silicon Valley startup aiming to catapult wikis into the mainstream and transform the editable Web sites into an application development platform has attracted a flood of interest for its product beta.

Nearly 3,000 companies, small and large, have signed up for free beta test accounts with JotSpot Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif. “A lot more than we expected, it shows there is a real interest in the category,” said Joe Kraus, chief executive officer of the company, which operated under the radar until its official launch three weeks ago.

Wiki is a term derived from the Hawaiian word for “quick” and describes Web sites that can be accessed and changed using a simple browser-based user interface. Especially popular among tech-savvy people, probably the most visible wiki is Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia created by thousands of people.

JotSpot seeks to make wikis more accessible by adding a “what you see is what you get” editor that even novice users should be able to work with. Additionally, to make wikis more useful as a collaboration tool, JotSpot gives each wiki page that it hosts an e-mail address, allowing users to add an archive of e-mail messages to pages.

Along with its efforts to make wikis more useful and user-friendly, JotSpot is turning wikis into Web-based applications for tasks such as lightweight project management, trouble ticketing and recruiting.

Though JotSpot is still in its early days, with a growing need for collaboration tools the expanded wikis could ultimately rival collaboration products from giants including IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp., said Burton Group senior analyst Peter O’Kelly.

“JotSpot will be used within organizations and it will displace other collaborative product offerings in places. Ultimately it is going to be competition with the more established players such as IBM Lotus Notes and Microsoft SharePoint,” he said.

JotSpot’s product has been called Lotus Notes for the Web, an analogy O’Kelly, who once worked at Lotus, agrees with. “It can do the same types of document-oriented applications that Notes can do and certainly ones that do things like document-based workflow or information collection,” he said.

In the Detroit offices of Dickson Allan, part of Accretive Solutions Inc., senior consultant Nikki Beaver is using JotSpot’s technology to launch an intranet site for herself and 140 Detroit area colleagues at Dickson Allan and at another Accretive Solutions unit called Horn Murdock Cole.

“We have no infrastructure as of right now to communicate — except for e-mail and voicemail — and (we) are using JotSpot to create an intranet,” she said.

Beaver likes JotSpot because of its simplicity and cost. “The editor is built right into the tool. We can give a number of people different pieces of the Web site to manage and they can do so without additional software.”

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