Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Integrated Visual Desktop Environments: Why Goowy Is Better Than Glide

Sponsored Links

Just two weeks ago I have introduced to you Glide Effortless, a web-based desktop environment that integrates typical online services such email and image sharing into one seamless experience.

A competitive service, out there since already a few months, has made much less noise about its unique strengths and with over 75,000 registered users already, it has pinged me to check its own features against Glide's own.

Like Glide, this cross-platform, Flash-based visual desktop environment, is an integrated solution that allows you to access your mail, contacts, calendar, documents and files from one, OS-independent web-based environment.

This alternative integrated desktop environment is calledGoowy, and just like its name seems to imply, Goowy has bet its best cards on making its interface (GUI - graphical user interface) its core asset.

But differently than Glide, for which I have been critical of both the interface, business strategy and the excessively bombastic marketing approach, Goowy slick interface is a breeze to use from the very first minute. Intuitive, straightforward, simple. Rather than inventing new visual metaphors Goowy picks up on popular, established ones.

But Goowy strengths and superiority come from a greater number of well thought out moves, both in terms of design, as well as in terms of marketing and communication.

I have therefore taken up more than happily the direct invitation from Alex Bard, CEO of Goowy, to have a good conversation around his technology, so that you could yourself compare these two radically different approaches to creating an effective web-based desktop environment that can be profitable in today's and morrow's online work environments.

Below, after the audio interview with Alex Bard (streaming audio and text transcript available) are my own initial thoughts about why Goowy is so much better than Glide.

Click the play button above to start listening

Interview with Alex Bard CEO of Goowy
(full text transcript)

Robin Good: All right and good morning to you, Alex! How are you doing today and where are you connecting from?

Alex Bard: I'm doing great, thank you very much, and I'm connecting from San Diego. Where are you connecting from, Robin?

RG: I am connecting from Roma, Italia. Where is that San Diego thing?

Alex Bard: San Diego is in California, on the west coast of the United States.

RG: Oh! I remember that place, that's a wonderful one. You've got some beautiful sunshine right there... should be morning about, 9:20 for you. It's evening for me, quite late.

Alex Bard: Exactly, I appreciate you making your time for me at this late hour for you. But it is morning here, and absolutely beautiful and sunny as usual in San Diego.

RG: Great okay, I'm going to place myself in that frame of mind. And today without no preceding talks, no exchanges, no set-up, I've pushed you right into my recording pool for our good conversation about Goowy.

Goowy, spelled G-double O-W-Y, W-W-W-goowy dot com, which is some kind of interesting and fascinating tool of which I purposely, consciously, know nothing about, but Alex came up to me recently, right after I reviewed and published Glide Effortless, which is an online, very ambitious collaboration platform based on Macromedia Flash, and said, "Hey, look Robin, I've got something interesting that I would like to show to you."

So I said, "Alex, let's meet together online and while you guide me or explain what it is all about we can make a podcast of this and then share it with everyone else, also maybe as a transcript." So, that's exactly what we're doing today. Am I correct?

Alex Bard: That's exactly right.

RG: So, I'm all relaxed; I have fastened my seatbelt, I'm actually smoking a cigarette and ready to listen to the beautiful view you are going to give me from this flight.

Alex Bard: Perfect. Have you had your evening wine yet?

RG: Not yet, but I think you will probably provide that in the form of whatever surprises you are going to showcase about your technology. I know it's been out there for a few months, but I hadn't heard about it, though you've even been showcased on the Macromedia site itself. So, go ahead and tell us, what it is all about.

Alex Bard: Okay, well Goowy Media is a company that's developed a virtual desktop to help users manage their digital lifestyle. And let me explain what I mean by digital lifestyle.

We really see that there are three key components to a user's everyday digital lifestyle.

The first component being their personal communications via web mail, contacts, calendaring, instant messaging and ultimately, voice-over IP.

The second component being their digital content, so the photos, the video, the audio, all of those things that, again, help comprise their digital lifestyle that they want to store or share.

The third being general web content.

So if you think about a user today, their identity is probably distributed across multiple sites, whether they use for personal book marking or Furl or some other product, whether they use Picasa or Flickr or something else for their photo sharing, whether they are using one of these new video sharing companies that have come out, whether they use one company or another for RSS, and so on and so forth.


And so our vision was to build a product that integrated all of those various components of an individual's digital lifestyle, and then gave them a very seamless, powerful application which they can use from any computer, to manage those interactions.

RG: Okay, so let me see if I've got this right. So you're bringing together on a web-based platform, that I'm assuming is fully accessible from any computer system, any operating system out there, something that allows me to manage in one integrated solution my e-mail, my identity, my documents, my images? I guess I lost a few of these. So can you list just what are the key features or sections, or facilities, whichever way you call them, that make up Goowy?

Alex Bard: You bet. We actually started the company and focused on the first of the three components of your digital lifestyle which is your personal communications.

So we launched Goowy mail as the core component of that, late March of this year for an Alpha. And we really released a product and updated it over the last three months.

So about three months ago was when it probably went into a full Beta release. That product has web mail, that has a lot of the traditional desktop-type functionality but running inside a browser, so you have drag-and-drop, right click, multi-select, keyboard shortcuts, instant content refresh, integration with your contacts and integration with your calendar, which supports the iCAL protocol, so you can actually send meetings and invites and people can accept them and they will go right into your calendar, and you'll be reminded of those events.

That is the first core component that we built inside of Goowy RE, which is Goowy Rich Experience. The future for that piece of Goowy is instant messaging that will integrate all the existing instant messengers as well as provide powerful Goowy-to-Goowy functionality and then potentially some voice-over IP component.

Those two don't exist today, but are part of our road map.

In the second bucket where I talked about managing your digital content, meaning files and video and audio and things of that nature, we're actually working on a virtual storage piece.

Right now in the e-mail we give you 2GB of storage for free, but we're going to be releasing a digital storage component that will give you 10GB for free of storage, with 500 MB of downloads a month for free, and then you'll be able to upgrade that if you want to download more than that on a monthly basis. But that piece will allow you to store all of your files virtually and access them from anywhere, using your Goowy application.

The third piece, which is managing your web content, is basically a set of widgets that we've developed. And these are widgets that give you access to all the top functionality across the web, and we continue to develop our library of our widgets and we'll soon open those widgets up to other people being able to develop to them.


These are widgets for things like weather, for RSS feeds, for stock quotes, for your Delicious bookmarking. We've got that integrated with your RSS feeds, integrated with our Flickr photo viewer, et cetera.

So these are basically, you know, if you imagine Mac widgets, or Konfabulator widgets, or Live is going to start working with widgets. These are widgets that cross all of the top various web properties out there and give the user access to that functionality integrated through our UI.

RG: Beautiful! I'm saying that because while you were talking I was also able to sign-in, register and log-in into Goowy, and I am confronted with a very cool, discreet, quiet and well-organized interface that I find personally enticing to my desired type of user experience, which is you know, I don't want to be bombarded with too many things screaming for "click me!"

So I see that there is a mail area, which holds 2 GB which is completely free or almost, I don't know how I've used those 0.03 MB. Oh, there are two messages already.

I have a nice widget open that allows me to add my feeds and read them. I can do a Google search, there are some preset news items and a nice set of icons on the bottom.

Do you want to guide me, just to see some of the key features that may impress or give an overall perspective to novice users and people with want to try this out?

Alex Bard: Sure, one of the things we did is we're a very experience-focused company, so we start with the user experience first and then develop outwardly from there.

As you said, we didn't want to complicate the experience, when you log in and have a million different things you can do at once.

We really wanted to present a very clean, intuitive user interface.

So when you first log-in to the application you go to the widgets view. And the widgets view is, if you imagine the application, it looks like a virtual desktop.

In there we preload a few RSS feeds, just to show you the power of that, and we preload the mail summary widget. And there's also a manage widget icon. So if you were to click on the manage widget icon, that would give you the capability of managing this page. And in that, you can add any specific RSS or news feeds that you want to add and we have some pre-categorized news feeds that we default with, and we categorize them in business, and news and technology and sports, fun, et cetera.

Then we have a pre-set library of widgets that you can select from. Currently the widgets include a Flickr viewer, a Delicious widget, a Google search widget, a Technorati search widget, a quote-of-the-day widget, a sports scores widget et cetera. And as I said, that library will continue to expand.

So this is kind of your own personal start page that you configure. You set up which widgets you want, you move them and place them in the location that you want so that the next time you log on, it will remember your settings and give you that same look and feel.

At the bottom what you have is your navigation tool bar, and this is what helps you navigate Goowy.


And this looks a lot like you know, kind of the Apple dock that you would see on the Mac OSX operating system. The left most icon is just a desktop icon and basically if you click on it, it clears anything that you have on your screen off. It's like a "minimize all" type of functionality. The icon next to that is the one that you default at, which is the widgets icon. If you click over to the icon after that, that's a games icon, and I'll just navigate you through all of them and then we can talk about each one specifically.


The next one that looks like a joystick is a games icon, we've come pre-installed with some Flash games that you can play.

To the right of that is your mail icon, which will take you right into your mail client, and we can walk through that as well.

The one to the right of that is your fully-featured address book. To the right of that is our Calendar beta and then to the right of that is Options, which allows you to configure your personal settings for the entire environment, including skins, meaning you can set up the entire look and feel, the colors and everything else of your Goowy virtual desktop. And then finally you have Help and Log out.

RG: Very well done, my compliments. This is the way to go. Nice interface, nice way to interact with it, simple, straightforward, intuitive. Many people will like it; I'm going to be endorsing this.

I like what I see.

I don't want to delve into the specific features; they seem enjoyable enough to be discovered by users themselves. Unless you have some specific items which you want to bring to our attentions, I'd like to drive you right into the business road and ask you a little bit more about your pricing and business model. What are you after?

Alex Bard: From a business model perspective, there's a couple of different revenue streams for it.

Firstly, the service is free to our members.

So anyone can sign up and create an account, as you did, and it's a very simple process.

We generate revenue by advertising, so there is some advertising in the client. For example, from a mail perspective, after you send a message or perform a task, there's an interstitial, non-obtrusive ad, and you can see that.

The second way that we generate revenue is for premium services. So, as we launch our virtual desktop storage I mentioned, it will come with 10 GB of storage for free, but 500 MB of downloads on a monthly basis for free, so if you want to increase your download capacity there'll be a monthly fee you can pay associated with how much you want to download.

From a mail perspective, we will also be rolling out premium services where you can actually not have advertising if you pay a monthly or yearly fee as well as while right now every message that goes out has a tagline about getting Goowy. That's another thing that will be removed and we'll also add support for multiple POP accounts. Right now for free you can POP one account into Goowy, in the future we'll allow multiple POP accounts.

So, we have an advertising-driven model and we have a subscription-based model if you want to improve or increase your services.

And the third part of the model will be a transactional model. So, these widgets that we have developed, for example if you use Google Search, we'll be rolling out Amazon and eBay widgets, those widgets allow us to share revenue with the company we're creating that widget for, so there's no cost to user. But it provides an additional revenue stream for us.

RG: What about your valuable screen real estate? I mean, you've built a whole desktop environment. What about if I wanted to have my feeds and my site listed in one of those widgets?

Alex Bard: Robin, that's a great call. That's actually the last piece of the model which will be allowing people to pay for feature placements. So, enabling somebody to sponsor a widget, or enabling somebody to pay to be a feature-feed-of-the-day, or a site-of-the-day, or a video-of-the-day. You've absolutely picked up on the last piece of our model.

RG: Great, I'm glad you had thought of that. Wonderful! I really am enticed to go and play with it and get a feel for how cool it is to use it on a daily basis. There is so much to explore, and again it is very easy and intuitive and doesn't make my life hard.

I also like this analogy of the dock with the Mac OS that you're using at the bottom, very unintrusive also, and utilizing that little "boing-boing," effect of icons when you click them, that's cool.

I'd like to know how you think you're going to take away traditional users from their Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo mail, whatever their using if it's the case of e-mail, or other basic widely adopted services and tools that allow them to do many of these things though in separate environments.

What is going to be the driving force that pushes somebody that is not like me, just an explorer, or an early adopter to really say, "Hey, you know, f-dot-dot-dot-k with the rest I'm going to go over to Goowy because it's so much better"?

Alex Bard: Well there's a couple of things.

I mean, I think there's one piece that you said in that statement that is very relevant.

Right now a user is spread across a lot of separate environments. There's not a lot of people that I know that use Yahoo exclusively for all of the functionality, or Google exclusively for all their functionality, or MSN, et cetera, et cetera. Most people potentially use search from Google, and mail from Yahoo and photos from something else and it becomes increasingly more complex as you add onto the various components of your digital lifestyle.

For us the vision is almost being a Switzerland, where we integrate and allow you to pick, specifically what you want to use. So, we'll have a widget that will be a Yahoo search widget, a Google search widget, an MSN search widget or an Ask Jeeves search widget. And when you set up your profile you will be able to say, "I prefer this as my search."

We'll do the same for photos and you'll be able to prefer, or select what you prefer as your photo sharing. RSS et cetera and so on and so forth and at the end of the day give the user a very powerful integrated environment, across multiple internet properties.

And then at the same time, providing functionality that we think there's a gap in, today. So if you were to look at Yahoo mail, or Hotmail or even Gmail quite frankly, we feel that functionally our mail component has a lot more to offer. It's a much more robust, powerful interface, it's more dynamic and fun, and a little bit playful as well.

So, I think there's a great opportunity for us to compete functionally, and I also think that there's a great opportunity for us to integrate existing other experience and to ultimately deliver to the individual a better overall experience without forcing them to switch from everything they know.

RG: So would you define yourself as a Web 2.0 kind of application?

Alex Bard: I mean, I guess that a lot of companies are being called that these days, but I think we definitely have a lot of the tenets that would make us a Web 2.0 company.

RG: Yes, I was thinking, well from my point of view and I don't have anything particularly against this Web 2.0 buzz, and to me means, you know, those companies that are enabling services where different content components, packages, and services are brought together by, in many cases, reusing what is already out there. And you're certainly doing this in an elegant and effective way.

Now, I was wondering about your marketing strategy to get this out, 'cause I think it is always very challenging thing to do, to drive people to adopt these kinds of tools, though you're doing your homework well, I think that the resistance, the natural resistance to move out from what you're used to work with on a daily basis is a very strong one.

And, so I was placing myself in your shoes, and I was thinking how good it would be if Goowy could have its roots, the place where you promote yourself inside those very tools you are actually aggregating here inside Goowy widgets and creating access to.

What I mean is, if I as a user of Gmail or Flickr or Delicious would find within Delicious a little button that allows me to say, "Hey, extend your Delicious to be a full desktop environment," with a "Powered by Goowy" small tag right below, well I would probably be enticed, because you know I'm familiar with Delicious, there is an offer there to extend what I do there, maybe with other things I'm interested in. That would be for me a much easier downhill road to get into you (Goowy) rather than considering you as an alternative to what I already use, nonetheless you give me access to it. But maybe I'm ranting, what do you think?

Alex Bard: No I think, Robin, that's a great point. To date we've really been quiet about what we've had and we've wanted to evolve the functionality, and we've got over 75,000 users now.

It's all been on word-of-mouth, we've done, really, no marketing and support of the product.

We're closing a round of financing that will enable us to do a lot more marketing and PR behind the application. And we're talking to a lot of the companies that you had actually mentioned, where we can be promoted on their sites, kind of as a stamp-of-approval, so to speak.

So, there are a lot of things that are going on that will enable us to really start expanding the application.

Additionally, one of the things that we haven't talked about is that we have a desktop client that you can install. And the desktop client gives you the power of these widgets right on your desktop, without a browser, it's the same exact experience. It's essentially Flash running on your desktop. You get the same dock toolbar, it gives you e-mail notification, reminders, and integrates with the web client, so if you set something up on the desktop you get the same type of experience on the web client.

The reason that I mention that is that we're also talking to a few companies that would actually distribute our desktop environment through consumer applications that they have already on the desktop, which could give us access to millions and millions of users. And that for us is very exciting.

RG: Absolutely, that sounds like a good road to take. And is this desktop based application only for Windows?

Alex Bard: Currently it only runs on Windows, it will run on Mac shortly.

RG: Cool. Very good, certainly a sound of applause is coming all the way from Roma to San Diego right now. Well, our time is almost up, but I mean, I had a question that I couldn't give up on asking you because that was the issue that brought us together today. So, Alex, what is, what are the key differences that make Goowy stand out clearly from what Glide Effortless has been trying to offer in such a bombastic way?

Alex Bard: Well, I think that, you know, we share a couple of similar principles.

Firstly, we've both chosen to use Flash as the platform to expose our functionality.

And secondly we both believe in file storage and sharing of those files.

When I look at Glide Digital I consider a couple of things.

Firstly, at the core it seems to me they are a virtual file storage company and they're presenting a new interface on top of being able to share those files. Now, for me personally that interface was difficult to use. I think it's sexy, but it was very hard to figure out and we're focused on designing a very simple and clean interface that makes sense for the vast majority of users. I'd say that's, you know, kind of the first thing.

Secondly, I think that we have a very different vision as it relates to managing personal communications. The only e-mail component that Glide offers is a component to be able to send and share files; it's not actually a robust Outlook-like mail application. We started with that because we still feel that at the core of a person's daily activity is communicating beyond file sharing, and so we've built a very robust application for e-mail, contacts, for calendaring, for instant messaging coming soon. And I think that that's where a lot of the power of our application is. We will have that same or very similar file sharing component, but again, it will be very simplified and integrated through our network.

And then the third piece of our model is the widgets, which again they haven't done and I don't see them going in that direction.

So of the three things that we believe compose your digital lifestyle, personal communications, file storage and sharing, and then integrating various web components, we feel we have all three while it seems to me that Glide is instead focused only on the middle one.

RG: Very good, I like your answer and I look forward for you to enable many of these capabilities. I especially am quite interested in the real-time one, the integration of the multi-platform instant messaging abilities future that integrates Flash capabilities for audio and video and possibly from grassroots publisher like I am, and supporter of any independent publisher or would-be one out there.

The possibility for the people to further customize and redistribute this under their brand, so to give you a very wide and fine marketing army that gets all of this out for you while customizing, improving and adding extra value by introducing content feeds or other content elements that could be of value to the niche markets that they redistribute it to.

So I see your digital lifestyle environment here to be quite promising, but again it will be the market and the ease and speed at which we can have people take it up that will determine whether you are going to be a success or not, which I really wish you are going to be.

Alex Bard: Thanks, Robin, I really appreciate it. You know, I've enjoyed our conversation and obviously you're very intuitive and understand the market pretty well because you've brought up some of the things we're already considering, so I really do appreciate your time.

RG: It was my pleasure! From Robin Good, live in Roma, Italy, this is all for today with Alex Bard of Goowy.

I leave it to you for the final remarks, URLs, promotions, anything you have up for our readers and listeners and thanks again Alex. Kudos from Roma; you got a really shiny and useful thing out there, and you left me swooning???.

Alex Bard: Thanks, Robin, I really appreciate it, come check out our application at We'd love to get your feedback on how we can make this better for everyone out there.


Why I think Goowy is so much better than Glide:

  • It is much easier to use. It is more intuitive to use because it does not establish new UI standards but effectively leverages existing ones.
  • Goowy_email_right_clickinggif

  • In my eyes, it has a cool, well-organized, unsplashy interface. Much of the opposite of what I see in Glide: in-the-face, spectacular, look-at-me-now!, non-standard gizmos and command workarounds (e.g.: delete confirmation).
  • The interface, the help, the style and communication are very consistent. Throughout. That is a tough call, and I have enough experience reviewing new tools to see lots of difference on this front. And don't tell me that Glide it's just out the door and that therefore it needs yet to refine some corners. If it wanted to do that why then go screaming at the four corners of the world that you have this and that, when in fact you really have them only on the drawing board? So that's what you get for screaming a lot. Goowy GUI looks solid rock. Consistent, simple, intuitive, reliable.
  • Desktop customization. With Goowy I can personalize and make my desktop very much in tune with what I do, need and use. Glide has one desktop that fits everyone. Cool, glitzy, unique but the same for everyone. You choose what you prefer.
  • Aggregation of existing services. Goowy brings in the power of delicious, Flickr and other services, without trying to re-invent each and everyone of them. That's what I want. Not having to go to Gmail, Amazon and delicious but having them at my fingertips every instant I need them.
  • Upfront, humble, curious. That is how perceived Goowy and the man behind it. I like companies that like to truly learn from their customers and have enough humbleness to listen with true curiosity. Something that Glide boasted to have but failed to show each time I talked or read about them from their own writings.
  • Service-focused, unrelenting. That is how I perceived Goowy. High focus on providing a truly useful service and great self-confidence in moving forward a little step at a time. No need to scream "hey, stop everyone, we are here!!!" like Glide did. When you have a truly good tool, people do the marketing for you, not the press, and that is what I see happening to Goowy.

Robin Good -
Readers' Comments    
2007-01-04 16:52:36

Robin Good

Jose, I can't disagree with you, really... but I am surprised to see your email is of a Goowy emplyee.. or am I missing something?

2007-01-04 13:18:55


just give them a couple more years... this is like windows 95 to what vista is now.

I think Goowy is great and I see this web-os technology coming in fast.

There are great opportunities later and I see google or even microsoft turning into applications like this in the future.

2005-12-18 00:32:36

Glide is ahead of its time. I think this is how people will be sharing their files in the future. I have been mostly using the Glide Link program to upload my files and Glide Mail to email large video and audio files. I really think this program is innovative. The program is beautiful, but I am impressed with what it actually does. Hands down Glide!

2005-12-17 04:31:42

Ken Miller

It is difficult to compare Goowy to Glide as Glide is a much deeper application. I find Glide to be intuitive and fun to use. Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges.

2005-12-17 04:29:42

Ken Miller

It is difficult to compare Goowy to Glide as Glide is a much deeper application. I find Glide to be intuitive and fun to use. Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges.

2005-12-16 15:41:33

Bob Irving

I would really like to like Goowy. However, I'm having a hard time seeing how it's better than my personalized Yahoo start page. I've got all the news, sports, calendar, search capability, TV and movie schedules that I need. As for my RSS feeds, I have my Bloglines link in my toolbar in Firefox, as well as my link. So with one click I'm at either of those. I do like what Goowy is doing, and I like their approach to the customer. But I don't see any compelling reason to switch. Am I missing something?

2005-12-16 15:39:04

Bob Irving

I would really like to like Goowy. However, I'm having a hard time seeing how it's better than my personalized Yahoo start page. I've got all the news, sports, calendar, search capability, TV and movie schedules that I need. As for my RSS feeds, I have my Bloglines link in my toolbar in Firefox, as well as my link. So with one click I'm at either of those. I do like what Goowy is doing, and I like their approach to the customer. But I don't see any compelling reason to switch. Am I missing something?

posted by Matthew Guschwan on Wednesday, December 14 2005, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

Search this site for more with 








    Curated by

    New media explorer
    Communication designer


    POP Newsletter

    Robin Good's Newsletter for Professional Online Publishers  



    Real Time Web Analytics