Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Power Browse with ZBrowser

As mentioned in a previous post, ZBrowser is one of the most powerful and innovative tools of the ZCubes platform. The ZBrowser is a built-in fully functional browser with shortcuts to a number of sites for shopping, travel, news and a lot more. The ZBrowser thus brings to life a unique "Browser-in-a-Browser" concept. The ZBrowser can even be made transparent to see the content behind it in the ZSpace (background). With the large proliferation of web content, the ZBrowser tool provides a number of utilities to make browsing efficient for users. This post provides information about some of those tools.

MiniZ - One of the coolest features of the ZCubes platform is the MiniZ. Simply enter a URL in the URL bar and click on the MiniZ button to open an active thumbnail of the website which is called a MiniZ. The Miniz can be moved, resized and even rotated as desired. You can place any number of MiniZs on the ZSpace (ZCubes platform background). This represents a great alternative to window or tabbed browsing since you can actually view multiple websites at the same time and simply enlarge/shrink individual MiniZs as required. In fact, you can press [Shift] and drag-n-drop any link either from the ZBrowser or an existing Miniz onto the ZSpace to open the dropped link in a new MiniZ.

Stardot Command - The Stardot command is a very useful utility for searching multiple websites simultaneously. Simply enter the search term followed by a space and "*." in the URL bar to get the search results for the term from 5 search engines (Google, Yahoo, Live, Ebay and Amazon) simultaneously. The search results are displayed in individual MiniZs (described above) for the different websites. You can then browse the search results from the different engines.

Website Clippings - A very useful tool provided by ZBrowser is the ability to clip web content and save it inside ZCubes. You can select and copy any web content on a website and then simply ZPaste it into a ZCube in the platform. Further, all links inside the clipped content remain active and can be opened inside the ZBrowser. This tool is very useful when you find something interesting on the web that you want to save but do not want to save the entire page in your favorites.

Website Shortcuts - Another very useful feature provided by the ZBrowser tool is the ability to use and add quick shortcuts to websites (e.g. "a." for You can simply enter the shortcut in the URL bar and the corresponding URL can be opened in the ZBrowser or inside a MiniZ. Further, the shortcuts can also be configured to actually search the sites (e.g. "a. baby stroller" will search the Amazon site for baby stroller and open the search results in the ZBrowser or MiniZ. This is very useful if you go to certain sites or search in sites often and do not want to enter the URL repeatedly. The Website Shortcut functionality has been enhanced further through our partnership with YubNub that I had discussed in a previous post.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

ZBrowser: Enabling Continuous Web Expression

The ZCubes platform represents a paradigm shift in the overall concept of internet browsing and what it means to web surfers. One of the most innovative features of the ZCubes platform is the ZBrowser. The tool provides a number of features and functions that are intended to make browsing the web more efficient and useful for web users. This post talks about the ZCubes philosophy on browsing.

Enabling Continuous Web Expression
The internet is literally exploding in terms of users and content with a 10% growth from 2005 to 2006 according to a comScore press release. There are more than 1 billion web users worldwide with more than 175 million websites serving web content. Hence, web surfers are exposed to a lot of content and often they like certain websites or parts of websites.

However, one of the biggest problems with the users' experience on the web is the lack of continuity. What that means is that every time users go onto the web, they effectively start with a clean slate. In other words, it is extremely difficult to continue from where they left off in a previous surfing session. And this problem is not just from the perspective of an individual user, but it is virtually impossible for a user to continue from where some other user left off his/her browsing session.

Current browsers (IE, FireFox etc.) do not provide any tools for users to persist their web browsing experience that can be used as a starting point by themselves or someone else in the future. One available option to save that information is to simply add the web URL to the browser favorites or to some of the social networking favorites sites like Another option is to copy and save the content into a word file. However, both these solutions are quite "clunky" and inefficient. First, saving bookmarks saves the entire webpage even though the user may only be interested in a small part of the content. Secondly, it is difficult to efficiently share the bookmarks/word files with other users. Additionally, if the information is saved by different tools in different formats, it's very difficult to take reuse information from one tool to another. A major disadvantage is the loss of the "line of thought" of the original user since it is not possible to explain that by using these options.

The ZCubes platform tries to solve this problem by providing a tool that allows the user to easily save his/her web experience that can be used by that user or anyone else in the future. In addition, the ability to save the content that is interesting (be it a full webpage or just parts of it) and then integrate that content with other types like media, text, other websites, paint, handwriting etc allows the user to tell a "story" about the web experience and the thought process behind persisting that particular content. It thus creates a great starting point for any user that wishes to continue with that thought process. Reusing the content is further simplified by the fact that it is saved in HTML format that is standard and easily usable by different applications. This represents one of the key concepts in the ZCubes philosophy which is "Continuity of Thought".

An example where this concept is extremely useful is academic research. For example, if a group of school students are working on a paper on dolphins, one of them can start collecting content from the web about a certain endangered species of dolphins and then send that information as a saved ZCubes experience to the other team members. The other members can then continue on that concept/train of thought and add to or modify the existing content in the experience. Additionally, once the group have completed and published their experience to ZCubes, it is available to other ZCubes users that can use that experience as a starting point and enhance it further, thus maintaining the continuity of thought.