Conduit Makes Its Free Browser Toolbars More Attractive To SMBs - InformationWeek

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IoT
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6/23/2009
09:38 AM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul
Commentary
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Conduit Makes Its Free Browser Toolbars More Attractive To SMBs

Custom browser toolbars are big in Latin America and Eastern Europe, but they never really caught on here in North America. But toolbar leader Conduit wants to change that with new Conduit Open features that create a kind of "app store" for toolbar components.

Custom browser toolbars are big in Latin America and Eastern Europe, but they never really caught on here in North America. But toolbar leader Conduit wants to change that with new Conduit Open features that create a kind of "app store" for toolbar components.Adam Boyden, Conduit president, tells me that his company's toolbars are currently in use by some 200,000 publishers and 60 million end users, but only 25% of those are in North America.

The problem isn't cost. The toolbars -- which work on Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safare (on the Mac) -- are free to both publishers and users: Conduit pays for it with a deal with Google on the required search bar in every toolbar. But US users never got the bug, quickly moving beyond the simplistic toolbars of the early Internet age.

Up till now, the Conduit toolbars gave publishers -- or anyone really -- free self-service access to an online library of customizable gadgets, XML and RSS feeds, social networking links, TV players, pop-up alerts, and more. Conduit Open is designed to let publishers share the gadgets they build with all the other publishers, potentially increasing the reach of their creations if other publishers decide to add them to the toolbars they offer. (Boyden cautions that publishers don't have to share their components, and users can turn off any components they don't like.)

A related enhancement, Conduit ToGo, lets publishers offer individual components to be installed on other publishers' toolbars. If you don't have enough great, unique content to justify a full toolbar, for example, you can offer a component and still have a presence on your customers browsers.

This seems an attempt to get around the fact that it's always a challenge to offer enough value to get rightfully wary users to download and install your toolbar. Especially here in the US, many users are hesitant to install any software if they're not totally sure about its source. (Boyden says Conduit is Truste certified, and perfectly willing to "turn off" publishers who do "naughty things.")

Of those 200,000 Conduit publishers, a few have millions of toolbar users, Boyden said, while others may have only a handful. Big customers include Fox News and Major League Baseball, while smaller businesses range from Internet businesses like FreeRideGames to local companies such as Baltimore's Pretentious Pooch.

The company is also working on a beta of analytics to the product, so you can see how much traffic your toolbar generated.

I can't speak to the marketing effectiveness of these toolbars, but I did go in and spend an hour with Conduit's toolbar creation engine. I found it kind of confusing, and made a number of false starts before getting anything to work. Conduit Open is supposed to have 58,000 components available at launch, which will be a big improvement as I found only a few dozen choices, mostly for consumers. There were plenty of icons to choose from, though.

Once I got the hang of it, I was able to make a simple toolbar. Everything seemed to work, including links and tickers and RSS feeds, but it didn't look as crisp or professional as I would have hoped. But if you want to give it a try, here's a link to install the brand new bMighty toolbar on your own browser. I promise to spend some time with Conduit Open to see if I can come up with something a little slicker and more powerful:

bMToolbar Don't Miss: Free bMighty Browser Toolbar - Beta!

Follow Fredric Paul on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/TheFreditor Follow bMighty.com on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/bMighty Put a bMighty gadget on your iGoogle page Get bMighty on your mobile device

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