In case you didn’t know, your browsing data isn’t exactly private. It’s how Google generates billions of dollars in revenue every quarter and why you see advertisements for snowboard lessons when you’re planning a winter trip to Telluride with friends over email. So why not throw a lasso around your browsing data and make it work for you?
Today, Voyurl, a New York City based startup, is launching in private beta out of its formerly “super exclusive invite-only mode”. With over 27 million links shared every day, finding fresh, enjoyable content is time consuming. Making lists, tagging, using rating systems and social filters are laborious tasks. Voyurl’s browser plug-in analyzes your online behavior–clicking from site to site, playing videos, listening to music, etc –to help you discover recommended content from users like you who have explored parts of the web that you have yet to see. It’s like StumbleUpon, without the stumbling.
In contrast to Sitesimon, a New York City based startup working out of the Entrepreneur Roundtable Accelerator, Voyurl has played down its public sharing feature. Sitesimon currently helps you discover the web through sharing, giving users the ability to share what they are looking at online, in real-time. Whereas Voyurl relies on behavior, not identity, to create signal from noise, so there’s no need to publish any of your browsing data. You don’t need to sign up with Facebook or Twitter, friend, follow or poke anyone either. There are definitely no badges. Just browse to share or browse for you. It’s the “anti-social social network,” if you will.
Voyurl makes your browsing data look damn sexy too. When it’s your data, it’s not infographic porn, its infographic masturbation. Voyurl’s personal analytics tools let you see your browsing patterns in comparison to your history, people within your Voyurl network or the average Voyurl user. Think of it like Mint.com or FitBit for browsing data.
Voyurl’s co-founder Adam Leibsohn was one of the first employees at Anamoly, a sharp and savvy marketing and advertising agency in New York City, now with over 70 employees. His love for technology, gadgets anything new, hackable and hardware related converged with marketing. But while researching different web and platform offerings for clients, he witnessed the dubious areas of data ethics.
“There were all these 3rd party services that would come in [to Anamoly] and talk to us about their apps. For example, there was a Facebook app that users would install and forget about. Meanwhile the app would still have access to all of their data. It all seemed so unethical. I said thanks, but no thanks,” says Leibsohn. “Then I started thinking about what my parents are doing on the web, what my sister is doing, and how they have no idea about any of this…”
In January 2010, Leibsohn gave up his apartment, put a year’s worth of rent into a savings account and went homeless for a year to accrue enough cash to build Voyurl. “I lived on couches and slept in some places I shouldn’t have and I can’t say where,” he says. ”My coworkers thought I was crazy but screw it. I did it because I believe in it. I’m not doing this as much to turn a dollar but because I believe the web really needs innovation in this space.”
In July of last year, Leibsohn started taking out search ads for higher executives like Joshua Shackner of Delicious to generate buzz for his stealth startup (pictured above). TechCrunch’s MG Siegler picked up the story, writing that Voyurl could be “the next big thing”. While Leibsohn didn’t get any investment cash out of his stunt, it is how he meant his CTO and co-founder Mike Kristo in August 2010. When Leibsohn pitched Kristo on the idea, Kristo responded, “Stop talking. When can we get started?” They started building in September.
In October, Leibsohn (pictured right) raised $10,000 on Kickstarter for a bit of useful winter time funding and finally released a private alpha version in February 2011. After 5 months, thousands of users contributed over 7.5 years of active browsing time, streamed over 4 million urls and logged over 21 million toolbar actions; Voyurl has expanded from a public, shared clickstream to a full-on personal data platform. After 7 years, Leibsohn will leave his post as Anamoly’s Director of Communications and Digital Strategy to run Voyurl full-time. He has since moved into a new apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
“We want an open relationship around data. People should understand that data isn’t scary, it’s not something to hide from or to keep from yourself,” he says. “I have this view of the web and the way services treat people and their data- if we want this thing to work, to last and be strong—if we want it all to work out— well, we have to start treating people with more respect and allow them to trust what engineers are going. We need data from people to make things cool, but they should have access to that data too.”
Hear! Hear! Private beta? No problem. Voyurl has kindly given all TNW readers beta access here: www.voyurl.com/tnw. Enjoy! And please share your thoughts in the comments.