A Minneapolis-based tech firm, almost put out of business by Google last year with for scraping its site with its ePrecis technology, is back today as Syntactica. [As Syntactica president Henry Neils said to me last week, "Like they don't scrape everything out there." Hah!] Under this new company name, they're introducing the iReader Web Previewer tool. So, take that Google! It previews the content of a web link without clicking on it -- by studying the language, the linguistics, behind it. Pretty heavy stuff, but this team of developers has been working on perfecting this technology for years, so this is certainly no upstart. Perhaps they're onto an application of it now that will stick, and that the powers-that-be will allow to happen. User acceptance will tell the story, of course, and that's why reaction in the blogosphere will be big for these guys. Smartly, they're opening the technology up via open source XML web services, I learned last week.
Richard MacManus at Read/Write Web has already done a great post called iReader Previews The Content Behind Links. It tells the story well, so I won't repeat it. It's also worth taking a look back to see what he blogged about ePrecis in October 2005 on ZDnet, calling it "next generation search." [By the way, the old ePrecis site, which, interestingly, still shows up in a Google search(!), won't seem to come up today. Must be getting hit too hard.]
The beta they just launched is an easy plug-in install for IE or Firefox (Mac or PC), and it's sure to create a lot of conversation out there. Try it out on some of your favorite news sites, like the NY Times, CNN, MSN, etc. Seems to work great on the story links down near the bottom of the NY Times page, for example, where stories are grouped into categories. Let me know what you think. Or better yet, tell the company: they're about to launch their blog, too, where you can do that.
Note one VERY KEY thing: you can turn the iReader plug-in on or off! So, if it's bothersome to have these little "preview windows" showing up for you on some sites, just right-click your mouse to toggle it on and off. Not sure how you do it on a Mac yet, though, in Firefox. I think they're adding some notes on the downloading page...
[Disclaimer: I have a consulting relationship with Syntactica.]