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Six Apart grows up

Over the years I've had the opportunity to watch lots of little companies become bigger and bigger companies. The process in the life of a company is no less awkward than a child's trip through adolescence. And like some children, many companies can get big without really growing up.

Fortunately, that isn't the case with Six Apart, the avant-garde of the social media market. Over the last year, the company has undergone a tremendous growth spurt. It moved to new headquarters in San Francisco late last year and rapidly filled the space with outstanding talent.

The company is using $12 million in new investment to acquire capabilities that will keep it responsive and competitive in this dynamic marketplace. And rather than making incremental improvements to its cornerstone properties, Movable Type and TypePad, the company continuously rethinks user experience and the changing social media landscapes in order to re-invent its tools.

Six Apart is keeping very busy this spring. In early March, the company announced a comprehensive strategy and rolled out TypePad Business Class to provide the control, management and security that business customers need from a service-based blogging platform. Movable Type Enterprise is in beta now, providing the integration and customization required of an enterprise-wide media platform. At the time, the company let the market know that it had much more in the wings, and we got a first look at that late last week when the company introduced TypePad with Widgets.

Widgets are little applets that TypePad customers can add to their blogs to provide a range of interactive functions, from job search to weather tracking (important for those San Franciscans who desperately want to know when these rains will stop!). Thirty-three widgets are available currently (a complete widget directory is available here), and Six Apart will add more as it validates the applets.
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The addition of Widgets to TypePad is significant for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most important is that these widgets, in effect, establish an economy around the TypePad platform. Widgets are free to TypePad users, but create new traffic for Widget providers.

And that traffic could be significant. According to Six Apart CEO Barak Berkowitz, the read-to-write ratio of TypePad blogs is growing rapidly and exponentially. In fact, TypePad blogs– as a whole – may well be the best-read blogs overall.

All of this points to a bright future for a company that, just a few years ago, many pundits discounted as a flash in the pan. Six Apart has endured some significant tests from customers and competitors, and now it seems to be weathering well the toughest test of all: the transition from startup to growth company.

Chris Shipley is the executive producer of NetworkWorld's DEMO Conferences, Editor of DEMOletter and a technology industry analyst for nearly 20 years. She can be reached at chris@demo.com. Shipley, has covered the personal technology business since 1984 and is regarded as one of the top analysts covering the technology industry today. Shipley has worked as a writer and editor for variety of technology consumer magazines, including PC Week, PC Magazine, PC/Computing, and InfoWorld, US Magazine and Working Woman. She has written two books on communications and Internet technology, has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, and was named the No. 1 newsletter editor by Marketing Computers for two years in a row. To subscribe to DEMOletter please visit: http://www.idgexecforums.com/demoletter/index.html.

This column was reprinted with permission of Network World Inc. All registered trademarks are owned by IDG. More information can be found at http://www.idgef.com.

Copyright 2006 IDG. All rights Reserved

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.

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