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A startup called Apture just officially launched its multimedia linking platform, which makes it easy for websites to display outside content through pop-up windows. Sharp-eyed readers could already spot Apture in action at the Washington Post’s blogs The Fix and Celebritology and elsewhere, but now the platform is available to the general blogging public.

Chief executive Tristan Harris says the company’s goal is to make the web-browsing experience richer and more “three-dimensional” — in other words, when readers want to learn more about a specific term on a blog or website, Apture allows them to bring up a relevant article, movie, audio clip or other content in a pop-up window. Obviously, that’s attractive for publishers, since it keeps readers on their page, but it also also helps readers by making the browsing experience more organic. The concept is pretty similar Snap Shots, but I’ve found that browsing through Apture is smoother — it’s less about key differences in functionality, and more that Apture’s pop-ups just feel faster and easier to navigate. Ease-of-use is absolutely crucial for this kind of product, since publishers don’t want to drive readers crazy with frustrating pop-ups.

Although the full launch didn’t come until today, Harris showed me some cool ways that sites are already using the platform. As a journalist, I was particularly thrilled to see how Apture enriched the Washington Post’s investigative series on immigrant detention. Rather than hiding all of the supporting documentation on a separate web page, interested readers can open the documents (which are hosted via Scribd) in an Apture pop-up.

Harris also showed me the Apture editing tool, which also looks really easy-to-use — and since all of Apture’s links are publisher-created, rather than automatically-generated, that’s crucial. You just click on the word or area of the website where you want to link to new content, then Apture lets you select that content through a search tool. Apture has focused on integrating specific sites like YouTube, imeem and Flickr, but Harris says site owners can make any URL open in an Apture window. The one big drawback is that Apture’s editing interface hasn’t been integrating with the editing mode of Blogger and similar tools, which means you may have to add Apture content after a post is already live.

San Mateo, Calif.-based Apture ‘s business model involves making deals — such as ad revenue-sharing — with big sites and publishers like the Post. Harris says the company is letting smaller blogs use Apture for free to increase the platform’s visibility.

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