The beginnings of my "tree". Check out the links at the end to see the WIP or better yet, sign up yourself!

There are times when you are surprised by the most unlikely sources.  After spending years heckling BBCclick, they finally highlight a service which was not merely old news served up in traditional wishy-washy BBC style.

The service which I am going to be looking at for this article was PearlTrees.

Pearltrees is probably best described as a bookmarks/links sharing service where you can take the gems that you’ve discovered and expose them to other users interested in the same topics as you.

Currently still in beta, the service appears remarkably mature and with more than 200,000 active users, it appears that Pearltrees has made a good start having managed to raise around $5m from various sources/sponsors too.  Theres news of an iPad app coming soon and its going to be very interesting how this service develops on the desktop and translates to smart phones.

Quoted from their blog:

Pearltrees is a social curation tool. Its lets you organize, discover and share the stuff you like on the web. Use Pearltrees to keep at hand the contents you find everyday on the web, to discover new contents from people who share your interests and to drive them through your web.

The concept of Pearltrees was invented by Patrice Lamothe. François Rocaboy, Nicolas Cynober, Samuel Tissier, Alain Cohen and Julien Wallen joined him  to found Broceliand, the company responsible for designing, implementing and operating Pearltrees.

Source: http://goo.gl/sYRIA

BBCclick merely skimmed over the features, but there are many benefits to sharing your links in this way.  Firstly your links are displayed in a graphical tree courtesy of its Flash base, you can have subsections from your “root” and comprehensively organize your links into precise categories, this UI is clean and intuitive, giving a fluid experience as your actions and search results glide around the page – But Pearltrees doesn’t stop there:

The ability to search keywords, enables you to find other users who share the same interests as you and for example a search for “linux” had numerous users trees sliding into your screen all ready to be expanded and explored. Your links (or pearls) can be moved around your tree by drag and drop, with an additional holding area for the links you have not yet organized.

Adding one of your links gives statistics on that particular url, showing how many times its been visited on your profile, but maybe more importantly who else has that particular link in their tree.  This enables you to instantly find other users who will probably share the same interests as you and undoubtedly discovered relevant sites you have never heard of.

There are so many other features on offer – the potential to collaborate on “trees”, the ability to share within Facebook or Twitter (as well as present your tree as a “standalone” page for those who have no Pearltrees account)  You can also comment on others trees/pearls as well as provide your own commentary explaining your organization of sections on your particular tree.

Whilst Pearltrees seems to want to distance itself from being a social networking site (akin to Facebook et al) you do have features there for messaging/comment and maybe last (but certainly not least) you have the facility to export your data by way of an rdf file.

Pearltrees is certainly a service to recommend, I find myself exploring the web in a way that I haven’t done for many years when a search would reveal fewer, more relevant hits.  The main advantage comes from the fact that you are going to discover great sites which other users are recommending that would otherwise have probably been lost in the thousands of results that you get back from an average Google search – let’s be honest, how many people when searching Google would go past more than about 10 pages of hits? it’s these sites which may go unnoticed by many.

Pearltrees – the fly in the ointment?

The service (whilst the tech is still in beta) is very complete and Ive only had a handful of errors with the software which have been easily resolved with a quick refresh.  The take up of users is apparently very healthy and the amount/relevance of results gleamed from a search is very good and certainly manageable.

So what’s the fly in the ointment? The slightly concerning feature of Pearltrees is that you are free to post your favorite links and with that freedom comes links to BT Trackers, NZB indexers, filelockers et al.  You would have had to have been off the net completely not to notice the clamping down by both the private sector firms hitting these services with a campaign of lobbying and court actions.  How long before Pearltrees comes under the eyes of these “people” and radically alters its service in order to hold off a legal action?

I’m also sure that the question will be raised as to what is being done with all these profile in terms of their link preferences, but at least for the time being this seems to have been answered in their policies section:

As a media, Pearltrees wants to get as large an audience as possible. We have many appealing ideas to generate revenues but we are holding off on implementation until at least 2012.

Source: http://goo.gl/s58Y8

So that is Pearltrees, certainly an interesting and exciting service.  One can only hope that it continues in the same ethos that it started, the only other concern will be, if it is hit by mass adoption of mainstream user will its usefulness for discovering excellent little known sites be just as difficult as it is with say a Google search now?  Time will tell.

You can sign up for Pearltrees at: http://www.pearltrees.com

and if you are interested in seeing my WIP tree, you can keep an eye on it here: http://pear.ly/0RqT;

Tim (Goblin)

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