June 28, 2008

Browzmi Lets You Share Browsing Experience With Friends

You name the online activity, and new services are emerging to find ways to let you share that experience with friends. There are new RSS readers with social aspects. There are any number of ways to answer the proverbial "what are you doing?" and keep friends updated, and seemingly, each day, a new site debuts to try and corral all your online updates. 

Browzmi, a small site that hasn't gotten much attention, has developed an interesting tool that lets you browse the Web together with friends, adding comments and marking favorites along the way. Unlike FriendFeed, which some aspects of Browzmi look much like, you're not adding your likes and comments to external activity, but instead to the browsed sites themselves. Further extending the social aspects of the site, Browzmi also integrates real-time XMPP-based chat, and provides each user with an RSS feed showing their activity, which can be sent to any RSS-enabled application.

Browzmi was founded in 2006 by Travis Parsons, and over time, working with a 5 person engineering team, based in Russia, Parsons has developed a service that lets friends surf the Web together. As the site's overview states, the goals are lofty:
"Browzmi is providing an environment where friends can explore, share and discover the entire web like they are there together. Browzmi is not attempting to replace your favorite websites - it wants to make your experience across your favorite websites more social by allowing you to go anywhere on the web with your friends."
-- Via Google Docs: Browzmi
There are three major parts to Browzmi. The first is "My Stuff", which includes your profile, your friends, your favorites and your updates. The second is the browser window itself. The third is an "Explore More" tool that shows you what sites your friends are viewing, and their history, while offering links to related items on Flickr and YouTube.

Browzmi shows updates from friends.

When signed into Browzmi, in any Web browser, the central portion is like a "browser within a browser". Put in a URL in the location bar of Browzmi, and it fills the center portion, while adding it to your updates and alerting friends of the new site you've found. Depending what you think of the site, you can give it a quick thumb up or thumb down,  make it a favorite, or add a comment. Browzmi de-duplicates by URL, so it's not uncommon for some sites to have dozens of up or down thumbs, and a good number of comments.

Browsing Techmeme in Browzmi's main window.

The "browser within a browser" functionality of Browzmi is surprisingly strong. It's not an emulator by any means, so any site that looks good in your standard browser looks good in Browzmi, including all plug-ins and Flash, as Browzmi leverages its environment well. You will, however, need to login to sites as cookies are not passed directly to Browzmi from your computer. Also, should you opt to keep all three sections of Browzmi open concurrently, be prepared to have a reduced-width browsing experience. Luckily, you can open or close any section at any time to get parts of your screen back.

By going to "Surf with friends", you are treated to seeing the most recent sites visited by friends on Browzmi, as well as your own activity. If they like or favorite an item, you'll see it. You can also visit Browzmi's main feed to see the most active sites, or most recent activity overall, and search by keywords for related items.

But Surfing with Friends is no passive activity. You don't just have to watch. Click on any friend's name and you can hit the "start chat" button, or view their profile. Starting a chat fires up a small window, similar to that found in Google Talk or in Facebook. This way you can, in real time, share the site you're browsing and talk about it with a friend.

There are nearly 300 users of Browzmi today, so the site is very small, but it absolutely works. If you want to do more than share what items you've liked in Google Reader, and you want to do more than show friends, via Toluu, what feeds you read, you can take things up a notch and browse the Web together using Browzmi. For a service that almost nobody has heard of, it works very well, providing a service where you no longer have to browse alone.