Utopic, a service created by Estonian Jüri Kaljundi and his team, started off as a way to understand what your friends are sharing online. This was back in March and there's a blog to remind us. I remember talking to Kaljundi back then and it was also a time when similar products were on the market, mainly from the US. It's refreshing to see the new direction of Utopic though - one that focuses on visual bookmarking and content discovery.
It's important to note the difference, even though one could argue that "you could already do this with the previous iteration of the service". It's not what you're able to do with the service, but what it aims to become. It's true, but the new UI and approach the service takes, makes the experience a lot more enjoyable.
In the blog post announcing the new update, Kaljundi outlines three things Utopic will focus on:
- One-click bookmarking.
- Discovering hot topics.
- Aggreagating links and favorites to your profile
And I have to say - it does this very well. The one click bookmarking is fantastic. You click the bookmarklet (that you're able to add to your browser from the website) and you're shown a beautiful hover box with all the details regarding the bookmark. Also, if you don't want to change anything the box will disappear by itself in 10 seconds. Again, taking consideration the usability of the service; not interfering with the user too long if there's nothing to add to the default data.
I talked to Jüri Kaljundi about the new direction and how they came about it. Over the summer the team talked a lot to their users and took a close look at the competitive landscape. Kaljundi states that the result of this was that they believe pure news discovery was overcrowded and not sticky enough for users.
However, "at the same time people were asking for better bookmarking and link saving solutions - even with all the Deliciouses, Instapapers and ReadItLaters out there. So we decided to mix the 2 areas: content discovery and visual bookmarking" he continues.
Kaljundi also states that the world is heading towards more visual and multimedia based content consumption. "This is the reason why Youtube founders bought Delicious and launched their new version - Utopic is going head on with them", Kaljundi explains.
Even though the service is already nicely designed and works like a charm, Kaljundi states there's a lot to develop. The bookmarking and content discovery business is very closely knit to the content curation services which allow users to pick certain items and share them with their followers on Twitter, for example. A good example of this is another Estonian company Kurat.com.
While there's clearly a lot to be done, it's safe to say that the team has already achieved something. More than half a million unique items pass through the service daily and more than 18 000 people are doing the sharing. That's very good traction for a service that's less than one year old, still iterating for a clear direction.
Kaljundi also shared with us that the company will soon begin looking at raising a seed round.