Picture 131 300x121 Finally a website toolbar you wont hate. Introducing Wibiya. (Invites)A week or so ago, whilst being shown another website toolbar of sorts, it struck me how how useful (rather than frustrating), a website toolbar could actually be.

I am under no illusions, I understand that some of you out there abhor the idea of any layer over your web page, and whilst I do understand, I urge you to refrain from judging, for a while at least, and consider this one.

What exactly is Wibiya?

Wibiya is a tool, primarily for publishers and bloggers that places a thin bar across the foot of the respected site, similar to in many respects to Google’s Friend Connect bar (but with less ‘Google focus’). Aside from its name, Wibiya stands out because it provides a wonderful mix of functionality, clean UI and ease of use that I have to see elsewhere – interestingly, I have been assured this is merely the tip of the iceberg.

How does it work?

The bar itself provides an array of ‘applications’,  each of which performs a functionality of some sort and has its own designated slot on the bar itself. Once you’ve signed up (invites at the bottom of this post), you can select which applications you’d like installed and you can also choose from a range of different colours.

Picture 14 600x22 Finally a website toolbar you wont hate. Introducing Wibiya. (Invites)

Front End

Installing the bar is simple, either via a simple bit of JS code or a plugin for your blogging platform of choice.

The applications currently on offer are limited but nevertheless useful:

Blog Search

Site Translation

Posts Navigator: Which essentially makes it easy to navigate between recent posts and also places a ‘random’ button on the toolbar, giving reader the opportunity to ‘stumble’ on a random recent article.

Photo Gallery: Integrated with Cool Iris, this application makes it possible to view images from across the site, in full CoolIris glory.

Picture 121 300x253 Finally a website toolbar you wont hate. Introducing Wibiya. (Invites)RSS Feed Button: Making it easy for visitors to grab your RSS feed.

Sharing Tool: Making it easy to reshare content across all popular social network sites.

Facebook Connect Integration: Essentially making it easy to create your local community with virtually zero effort.

Twitter stream integration: Placing the sites twitter stream directly into the bar

Live Notifications: Giving publishers an easy to way to make announcements to their visitors. Eg. “Hi there, we’re looking for new writers – are you interested? Email Us”, that kind of thing.

Back End

As well as the theming options and application choices, Wibiya also provides basic statistics of how much interaction the bar itself has brought. You can view how how many times tweets have been read, blog posts shared, live notifications read, how many people have subscribed to your feed via the bar and so on – by day, week, month or all time.

Potential

My initial concerns ranged from ensuring ease of use, cross browser comptability, fast loading times and above all, reward for both us and our users. Having installed the bar on TheNextWeb, working alongside the Wibiya team and listening to reader feedback, I feed a great deal of optimism for this particular startup.

As a publisher I’m constantly looking for better ways to enable our readers to interact with our site. With a keen eye for design, I also despise clutter, and frankly Wibiya does a masterful job of reducing a great chunk of it. The bar features an RSS feed, list of recent posts, sharing functionality, community integration, a Twitter feed, a public announcement tool and more – already that removes almost a third of the space initially required on the core area of the site and fits it neatly into the foot of the browser.

At first glance, you may not share my enthusiasm, you might even dismiss the bar as gimmicky – but consider the possibilities. Envisage a chat room, better sharing functionality, more integrated communities (Google Friend Connect, Twitter Connect) and  the biggie: an API, making it possible for developers the world over to integrate their own applications into the bar.

Whilst still in early stage development, our demo of the bar on our own site has seen a fair share of interaction, little impact on page loading time, and we have yet to receive a criticism but rather praise and enquiries as to how you yourselves can get your hands on the bar…well now you can. We’re happy to offer invites to the first 100 people who register on Wibiya with your name + TNW (i.e. John Jackson TNW) and you’ll be approved within 48 hours of this post.