Ever try to plan a family vacation with distant relatives or friends? The logistics, with URLs hurtling through time zones and misunderstood hotel signoffs becoming fodder for Thanksgiving arguments, often rival D-Day’s.
Such use cases propelled two former Nokia Siemens consultants in Europe to develop TheResearchBrowser, made available this week in an iPad version. Windows PC, Mac, and other versions are in development.
The cloud-based browsing application is designed for multiple projects of organizing, sharing, and assessing Web-based research.
At the end of 2012, CEO and co-founder Andrew Sitterman and COO/co-founder Tom De Ruysser got a client request for a consulting project that needed what they described as “a massive amount of research.”
They never actually took that project, but the prospect of conducting that research led them to develop this self-funded effort. Sitterman is a self-described “Brit who lives in Berlin since the wall came down,” De Ruysser is based in Berlin and Rotterdam, and their ten developers are — literally — in Siberia.
Sitterman noted that bookmarks in a browser can work for some kinds of browsing, “But as soon as you want to mark stuff around the sites, it gets painful.”
The pair aren’t the only ones who have seen the need for browser-like joint efforts. Samepage, for instance, is oriented toward team collaboration. Diigo, a “personal knowledge management” multitool that includes notetaking and highlighting, is “great if you’re doing academic research,” Sitterman said.
Anyone dealing with a software issue and a modern help desk has encountered co-browsing, where an agent can remotely demonstrate or make a fix on your screen. There are even browsers designed for remote surfing parties where participants battle for control.
But TheResearchBrowser’s focus, as the name suggests, is on informal collaborative research. Like putting together with someone else a list of “books on Einstein’s works and availability on various second-hand websites,” the science-inclined Sitterman said.
Multiple projects can be maintained, pictures can be added, pages rated, comments written, collected items compared, and colleagues can be invited to join in. When one of the participants is looking at a webpage, there’s a link to that page in the browser’s chat.
Sitterman pointed out that TheResearchBrowser is not a full screen share; you only see content that other people are actively engaged with. You can share with the group, or just with individuals via chat. Private projects can stay private. Users can check in on recent activity while they’ve been away, and for backup, projects are stored in TheResearchBrowser’s cloud.
The startup intends to make money from relevant ads that are based on the last search and expects to offer a premium version sans ads.