On most online news sites, including this one, readers must wait until the end of the post before they can share their opinions. But Highlighter, which just scored $300,000 in angel financing, is taking a different approach. The Seattle company allows readers to post their thoughts directly within the flow of the text. That means a reader could post a comment next to a specific word, sentence or image, sparking more relevant discussions.
Highlighter, however, is a lot more than an in-text blog commenting system. Like the company’s name suggests, users can highlight online text — archiving important quotes or paragraphs in one centralized location. (Think about it as an online reminder service for important tidbits you encounter on Web sites).
A graduate of the TechStars program, Highlighter initially built its service as a WordPress plug-in. And while it has recorded more than 7,000 downloads to date, the company is pushing in new directions.
Co-founder Josh Mullineaux said that they’ve been heads down working on a “new-and-improved” service, a Java script version which could work on any Web site. That service — set to be unveiled later this month — can be installed in an easy three-step process, said Mullineaux.
“One of the things we noticed is that people are using our plug-in to share more than anything else,” Mullineaux tells GeekWire. “Our hypothesis and best guess at the beginning was that people would be using it mostly as a commenting system. In reality, what has happened is that we’ve basically piggybacked on the behavior that people were already doing, which was to highlight something, then copy it and then paste it in another browser. But now, we made it easier for readers to share whatever they want.”
That means a reader, for example, could highlight a specific piece of text, and then share it via Facebook or Twitter without leaving the page.
“People are staying on the sites longer, which is really important to the publisher,” he said.
And that’s an area where Highlighter sees opportunity. The company is in the process of rolling out its own technology for electronic books, creating an entirely new way for people to take notes and archive information. It plans to have its own reader app available for Android and iOS devices in the next six months.
“You are able to highlight, share and comment anywhere on the page and — if you turn it on — you can also see all the public highlights from people reading that book,” said Mullineaux. “It really brings a layer of socialness to the book that has never been there, and then we pass all of that information back to the publisher so they can make comments and see what the readers are sharing.”
The company originally planed to raise $500,000, but Mullineaux said they decided to scale back the financing because they didn’t want to take on more cash than they needed. Investors in the company’s $300,000 round include Founder’s Co-op, Walt Winshall and Todd Warren.
Here’s a closer look at how the service works.
John Cook is co-founder of GeekWire, a technology news site based in Seattle. Follow on Twitter: @geekwirenews.