Zeus. Thor. Odin. Lightning has long been feared and imagined as a force so powerful that the gods themselves used it as a weapon. Bo.lt’s first iteration, which allowed users to “break” Web pages and rebuild them to suit their fancy, embraced this destructive reputation.
Conceptually, it was interesting. In practice, however, Bo.lt was flawed. Most people don’t look at a Web page and think “You know what I really want to do here? Bust this into a million pieces and put it back together again.”
Bo.lt’s co-founders reconsidered how their service could best serve users when its first iteration fizzled out. With a new goal of preserving the Web one page at a time, 30,000 beta users, nearly 1 million “bolts,” and $5 million in backing from Benchmark Capital show that Bo.lt may finally be on the right track.
Bo.lt is re-launching as a complete, compelling product. It capitalizes on all the right trends, including saving items for later and an image-driven design, and mashes them together to great effect. If users want to have their cake and eat it too (by which I mean save a Web page and share it at the same time) Bo.lt fills that niche.
One click on Bo.lt’s bookmarklet or Google Chrome extension “bolts” a page and opens a dialog box where users can comment on, categorize, and share the page to their social networks. If saving a Web page in a browser is like using a bookmark, using Bo.lt is like engraving that page onto a stone tablet and placing it in a museum.
Bo.lt’s bookmarklet also feels faster than Evernote’s Web Clipper. While the two serve a similar niche, Bo.lt’s bookmarklet loaded faster than Evernote’s Chrome extension. Sharing a page with Bo.lt required a few clicks and an optional comment; Evernote requires that a page be shared after it’s been saved as a note, requiring a back-and-forth shuffle that made me question just how badly I wanted to share a link via Evernote (read: never).
Unfortunately, we’ve seen a service like Bo.lt before in Delicious. The darling of the Web from its inception in 2003 to its acquisition by Yahoo in 2005, Delicious is almost uncomfortably similar to Bo.lt in concept and execution. Social bookmarking that interacts with social networks? Check. Saving Web pages in groups? You betcha.
The fact that Delicious, the premier example of social bookmarking, has had problems remaining relevant in today’s technological landscape should serve as a warning to Bo.lt. Though Delicious was recently bought by AVOS and re-launched with a new interface and more social features, Delicious is in no way the hot company that it used to be. Bo.lt may have an arguably better design, but thinking about the service’s future ultimately comes down to how similar services have performed in the past.
Despite one-upping Evernote in ease of sharing and speed and sporting a better design than the new Delicious, Bo.lt may not be able to escape the fact that it has showed up to a race that’s already been run.