Zigtag Organizes the Web

If you’re like me and you go through dozens of websites every day, keeping track of the good ones poses a real problem. You can’t possibly bookmark them all (if your bookmarks are like mine they’re a mess anyway) and trying to remember the search terms you used to find a particular site is a bit like walking into a library, finding all of the books in a pile and then hoping that you can just pick up the one you want. Enter Zigtag, an Edmonton startup and recent demo at DemoCamp Edmonton.  Zigtag seeks to provide a useable way of keeping track of websites and, organizing them in a unique way.

At first blush Zigtag is a tagging service not altogether unlike del.icio.us. But Zigtag offers users another layer that makes it unique; Zigtag uses what it refers to as “semantic tags” to help you save and later retrieve websites. When you add tags to a website you get to choose from the different definitions of each term you are using. For example, you can choose whether you mean Python the snake or Python the programming language. It also allows you to have different tags with the same meaning – in other words, NY, NYC, New York and Big Apple can all lead you to the same place.

This hopefully helps solve the problem of trying to find a good restaurant in New York when you don’t know whether people tagged relevant pages with “restaurant”, “eatery” or “café” or, for that matter, “New York”, “NYC” or “Big Apple”. Zigtag tries to make all of this ambiguity go away by allowing different search terms with the same meaning to lead you to the same place. Bruce Johnson, CEO of Zigtag, describes this as “allowing people to use their own mental models to classify information, which makes it easier for them to find it again later while still allowing someone else to use that information, even if they wouldn’t have tagged it in the exactly the same way.

Zigtag consists of two separate parts; a sidebar you install as a browser plug-in and a website. The sidebar provides an easy way of tagging pages without switching context. (For those that don’t wish to give up the real-estate taken up by a sidebar, there’s a bookmarklet that you can install which provides most of the same functionality, although it is more of a process). It also allows you to quickly retrieve tagged pages and provides a convenient way of accessing Zigtag’s social networking functionality which is mainly on the Zigtag website.

Each user has their own personal homepage where they are able to access their news feed, see what their friends have recently tagged, look at hot sites found by the community, and so on. Zigtag’s President, Scott Montgomerie, indicates that this “social side of Zigtag allows your friends to pre-qualify sites for you, extending your reach into the internet by finding pages you may otherwise never have found.” In other words, your friends are likely to share your interests so why not let them do the hard work? Let them find sites for you – the more friends the better.

Another social aspect that Zigtag is trying to bring is its Groups; anyone can create a group and groups can be public or private. They allow users with similar interests to tag and discuss pages that are particularly interesting to the group’s members; something the Zigtag team believes is “really useful for research projects or other collaborative efforts which involve a large number of websites.”

Zigtag also allows the voice of its users to be heard when it comes to ranking websites – users can vote a site up or down in a manner quite similar to Digg. Sites that are commonly tagged and given a “thumbs up” will rise to the top, and, like Digg, no special interests can unduly influence things as its one vote per user.

Zigtag is presently in private beta (they’re working through a couple of technical issues with IE as well as working on some new features, including an iPhone version I got a sneak peak at). They have provided 500 private beta invites for TechVibes users on a first come, first served basis so if you use Firefox and are interested in trying this out, sign up here – Feel free to add me as a friend 🙂