Bo.lt launches an easy way to customize (almost) any Web page

A startup called Bo.lt just announced a new, very different way to share pages on the Web.

This is one of those ideas that took me a few minutes to wrap my head around. After all, it’s perfectly easy to share links with your friends and connections on social networks already, with or without the help of link shorteners such as Bit.ly. But Bo.lt co-founder and chief executive James Roche pointed out that what you share doesn’t have your personal stamp.

When you “Bo.lt” a Web page, on the other hand, the service creates a fully functional, fully editable copy. Bo.lt offers simple tools to edit any portion of the website, say by removing an image or changing some text, and if that’s not enough freedom for you, it also allows you to go in and directly rewrite the HTML. Then you can share that personalized version of the webpage with friends, family, or customers.

From a professional perspective, Roche told me, the goal is to “take IT out of the process” and allow marketers to edit webpages themselves. As an example, he showed me how a real estate agent might edit a home listing that they sent to their client by skipping over the photos they don’t like and highlighting the most appealing image. Houseplans.com already uses Bo.lt to create pages for the 31,000 different house plans it sells and to customize those pages for various audiences.

But not everyone who uses Bo.lt will be a marketer, Roche said. If you’re just a regular Web user, you might want to personalize Web pages before you share them with your friends, sometimes in serious ways (say if you were buying a house and wanted to share the listing with your parents, but you wanted to hide the price first), and sometimes in less-than-serious ways (for example by inserting your photo into a news story).

So how are website owners going to feel about all this copying and editing? Roche said it should ultimately benefit them, because their ads still get served, and it still counts as a pageview in services like Google Analytics. And visitors will be more motivated to share content that they’ve customized — as he put it, they will have “skin in the game.”

And if publishers aren’t convinced? Roche declined to lay out a specific course of action, but he said he will ultimately side with consumers and their freedom to share. And he did note that Bo.lt will, for now, be excluding Web pages with financially sensitive information.

San Francisco-based Bo.lt has already raised $5 million in funding from Benchmark Capital. The basic service is free, but the company will charge for professional features like sharing pages with your own URL rather than Bo.lt’s.


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