SA web company introduces live browsing

June 24, 2009

Johannesburg  – A South African company, JiQA, is aiming to join the age of online social media through the release of a new tool which makes it much easier for Internet users to find, share and retrieve web pages of interest to them.
“The system is so dynamic that we think of it as live browsing,” says JiQA co-founder Kevin Davie, “it is like being in a group sharing newspapers and magazines and pointing out the best stuff to others to read”.
JiQA has at its core an intelligent browser, which determines the value of a page to the user and stores the information about this page on the user’s computer. This means that previously browsed pages can be quickly retrieved by ranking and a keyword from the user’s hard drive.
JiQA also simultaneously sends the ranking anonymously to a central server where the rankings of all users are pooled. All Internet users can access the rankings at www.jiqa.com.
“The system is entirely anonymous,” says Davie. “No private information is collected and neither do we track user behaviour through cookies or IP (Internet Protocol) addresses”.
JiQA addresses the explosion of social media where more and more content is created every day on the web, say the founders of the company.
The JiQA browser offers key features Internet users have come to expect from their browser: it is fast, secure, blocks pop-ups and offers tabbed browsing and favourites.
“The Internet is making it hard for us to keep up with the flood of new information which is created all the time. JiQA’s shared browsing function makes it very easy for users to access fresh pages which are constantly being sifted by the user base of browsers.”
Co-founder Chandra Dake says that JiQA does not try and replace traditional search engines. “JiQA works like any browser. You can use it to search your favourite search engine, but as you browse the searched pages you are both keeping a memory of these pages on your hard drive and sharing the browsing so that others can benefit from the time you spent sifting through the results pages.”
Dake says that JiQA puts humans back in the driving seat. He explains that unlike the web majors that have computer crawlers which trawl websites for content, the JiQA system is entirely driven by humans deciding which content they want to browse.
The JiQA browser includes a privacy feature which can be activated should users prefer to not share their browsing.
JiQA’s beta release is Windows-only meaning that it runs on PCs and newer Macs.
For more details or free download, visit www.jiqa.com.
Contact: Kevin Davie
083 449 5974
kevindavie@jiqa.com

JiQA’s first review

When you have something really new and really different as is JiQA, you can do a launch, but much better is to start a conversation.

We started our conversation not too many days back around what we see as a better way to use the web. Our concept is really new, though, so much so that we find ourselves explaining it over and over again sometimes to the same people. I have a list of such people.

Not that JiQA is that hard to understand when you see it in action or try it for yourself. Once tried, I am confident that most people will agree that it is a better way to use the web.

But hat’s off to Ismail Dhorat, who is the first to review JiQA. He, it turns out, is quite close to home at Startupafrica http://bit.ly/XfKsx

Dhorat has not actually tried JiQA, but has been following our launch closely and is interested in our offering. For the record, we have never met, although he was one of the first people to ‘follow’ me on Twitter.

Dhorat’s key point is that we offer something new and interesting. He writes: “JiQA basically flips the script on traditional ranking of pages (for example, Google), Jiqa is a browser that records key metrics as you surf the web and then sends that to a central server, a ranking is calculated and rankings are aggregated, to determine a site’s overall ranking.”

This puts it nicely. A small correction is that the ranking is on a page basis.

Dhorat  says  JiQA is a “very early beta”. I have been using a version of the beta release for over a year. I find the browser to be as stable as Internet Explorer and Safari. My own take is that we are a beta.

He says it may have been better for us to develop our offering using Gekko or Webkit. Dake Solutions, who are partners in JiQA, favoured using a component from IE for the core browsing function and .Net for the platform.

.Net has a legion of fans in the development world because it is an excellent development programme. It also qualifies as open source software.

.Net is an attractive and flexible development platform, so attractive in fact that bridges are being built between the formerly separate islands of Windows, Linux and Apple, at least in part because .Net provides and excellent development platform.

So the newer versions of Apple offer Windows as an option and Novell has being developing Mono so that .Net applications can run on Apple and Linux too.

My own idea is that over time we want to be platform neutral in good part so that we are immune from the great wars of religion which currently dominate the webspace.

Dhorat asks if JiQA can scale. This is always a major challenge for any web entrant. We have put a lot of thought into our architecture to be able to meet growth challenges. More on this later, but, for instance, while we rank web pages including audio and video, we never archive any graphic, audio or video material. The ranking is text only.

If Twitter is famous for sending only 140 characters per message, our typical message is less than this.

Dhorat also raises the possible issue of spam. There are two ways to spam JiQA. One is to write a programme, but to do this you’d essentially have to crack security equivalent to the Windows operating system itself. This does happen from time to time in the case of Windows, but a patch is quickly posted. The same will be the case with JiQA.

The other way you could spam JiQA is by downloading the browser and loading and re-loading the same pages to influence the rankings. Except the browser’s voting mechanism constrains your ability to do this. And, your ability to influence the rankings is limited by the fact that you only have one “vote” on JiQA Central.

You can, of course, tweet your favourite page and get your friends to browse it. This will be a dynamic aspect of the system. Will other users agree that the page is of high value and click to read it, or will they ignore it as a page which was obviously artificially boosted? This remains to be seen.

It takes two to make a conversation. Ismail’s post means we are in conversation. I hope you’ll join in.

Valuing a web page

Web pages, as with any other page, are not created equal. Nor is the information they contain.

We may read a newspaper by doing no more than scanning the headlines and reading an article or two. In cases, though, we may read an article of particular interest several times over.

We may make a point of passing on the article to a colleague or significant other. We may tear it out from the newspaper or keep the newspaper because we value the particular story so highly.

It is more less the same in the online environment. We scan hundreds of headlines or links to web pages every day. Some we click and start reading, but do not finish. Others we read in full, and perhaps, re-read.

We save some web pages to our hard drives either in full or just a part and we email the text or link to friends, family and colleagues. In other cases, we print out copies of pages we value highly so that we can easily reference these pages if we want.

There are many pages where we do not read to the bottom of the page, but there are some, that no sooner that we have finished, we post to people we know will find the page of interest.

This email filter has quickly become a way of sorting very high value content from the dross. The best stuff flies around the web as soon as users come across it. It quickly goes viral.

JiQA is premised on the basis that web pages are not created equal. It sorts out which pages are of high-value from the low-value pages while you browse. It does this by time: do you spend a lot or little time on the page relative to the content it contains?

Later releases will include other activity measures listed above, namely whether the page is saved in whole or in part, whether it is emailed and/or printed, but the present, beta release contains a time-based ranking.

Aha, I hear some of you say, what about the page which is opened, but is not read, because the user goes off to make a cup of coffee?

The answer is that only counts closed sessions are counted for ranking purposes. The last page browsed in a session will not be ranked.

A history of browsed pages is maintained by keyword and ranking on JIQA Local on the user’s hard drive. This means that the user can quickly retrieve ranked pages by keyword.

The url of the browsed page, plus the page value, is also communicated anonymously to JiQA Central, where the page value is pooled with that of other users of the JiQA network.

A key value is whether or not a page is clicked in the first case. We scan hundreds, if not thousands of single-paragraph web links each day, a relatively small proportion of which we decide to click.

This, on the face of it, makes JiQA susceptible to click fraud. The more you merrily click a web page, the higher you go up in the rankings. But JiQA has limits on the interaction users can have with JiQA

Central, meaning that you can bring up the same page any number of times, but only one will be counted.

How well does this ranking system work? In truth we believe we will only know the answer once we have an active base of users, whose collective browsing tells us what is normative and what are aberrations to be discarded.

The Half-Genius of Marc Andreessen

The Internet since first conceived in the late 1980’s has been a place of innovation. There has been so much innovation that you’d think it would be hard to single out an innovator or innovation which stands out above the rest.

But there is one innovator and innovation, which is heads and shoulders above the rest, notwithstanding the brilliance which continues to shape and re-shape the Internet on a continuing basis.

I speak of Marc Andreessen and the graphical web browser. Sure there was the Internet before Andreessen wrote Mosaic, and later, the Netscape browser. There was even a text browser but without graphics and images, there was not much to the web.

The Internet BN (Before Netscape) hardly mattered relative to AN (After Netscape). A million websites were created and users poured onto the web to make and share content. Commerce flourished as a whole new endeavour of human activity took off in a big way.

The browser allowed users to access websites and web pages. As these proliferated web indexes of various kinds were set up to help users navigate their way from site to site to find the best stuff. Yahoo was an early index. Humans worked out hierarchical categories and indexed sites accordingly.

But the sites continued to proliferate and got too numerous to index. Computers were the obvious solution.

Early search engines emerged which provided returns based, for instance, on the number of times a requested keyword appeared on a page. This was better, but not good enough.

Then, hallelujah, along came Google. The idea here was simple, analyse the whole web in terms of how pages link to one another. The more links, the higher the page was ranked.

So Google, and its main competitors, put vast resources into crawling and indexing the web. Crawlers visit websites on a continual basis checking for updates. The crawled pages are then indexed on vast server farms.

There is much more these days to the way pages are indexed, the main engines adding all kinds of flavours to the basic vanilla described above. But the basic recipe is as above, the underlying principle being that huge resources are used to centralise masses of data.

The result is a hugely skewed market. Over one billion people actively produce and consume information on the web, writing, emailing, designing, posting and blogging, but just one company, Google, has been able to appropriate 80% of all revenues associated with the activity central to the current web, search.

That’s 80 cents for Google and 20 cents for the rest of us.

How did this arise? How did web users come to get so dependent on just one company that it has been able to extract such a large portion of this particular economic pie?

Could it be that Andreessen, for all his brilliance, got the story only half right?

As useful as the Netscape browser (and the clones it spawned) was, it has no intelligence, no system for valuing or ranking pages, and no way of retrieving browsed pages by keyword or ranking and no way of communicating these values to other users.

For an application which lives on a computer, it is a dumb thing. It makes no use of the masses of computing power now resident on every desktop, nor does it in any way access the power of a network of users.

Given that the browser lives on massive computing power and is connected to a mass of other computers with similarly impressive computing power, it is pretty unimpressive.

At best the browser provides limited memory of pages browsed, has no search or sharing capacity.

With limited functionality, the browser soon lost its way. Search soared, browsing tanked. Google went stratospheric, Netscape collapsed.

The browser has lost its way because it was conceived as a useful, but extremely limited tool, a way to read web content. Ranking and retrieving the value of the content was left to other devices, principally the aberration which came to be known as the search engine.

But what if the browser had intelligence? What if it had its own internal ranking mechanism for determining the value of a web page? What if it also had a mechanism for sharing these values with a large group of other users?

JiQA is such a browser. How it works and what it aims to do will be subject of the next column.

But in the meantime, check JiQA out at www.jiqa.com

JiQA Intro

First Video to introduce JiQA.
JiQA adds meaning to your traditional browsing. It has Intelligence, allows you to search with time filter both your personal browsing & pooled browsing. Download & Try..

Kevin Speaks of JiQA

JiQA adds meaning to your traditional browsing. It has Intelligence, allows you to search with time filter both your personal browsing & pooled browsing. Download & Try..