Ronen Shilo, CEO of Conduit. “We get a new user or publisher ever second.”Israel is the land of miracles, as everyone knows. Here, however, is a “miracle” you may not have heard of: The one where an Israeli entrepreneur takes a product detested by Web users and turns it into a must-have item for over 30 million people around the world, completely reshaping the image and reputation of said product from annoying Web nuisance to helpful Web aide.
The mastermind of said miracle is Ronen Shilo, CEO of Rehovot-based Conduit (the company also has sales offices in California), who invented and is the largest supplier of a platform for building Web toolbars in the world.
A toolbar, of course, is a Web search tool that may have other features, such as chat or scrolling news headlines, for example, that sits at the top of your Web browser. Today, toolbars are ubiquitous; few are the computers that don’t have the Google toolbar installed on their browsers, for example.
Conduit, says Shilo, lets organizations, groups and businesses make use of the toolbar as well, enabling them to, as he puts it “build a community” and syndicate their content
Conduit offers an on-demand environment in which Web site publishers can build their own toolbar, allowing them to “brand” it with their own identity and enrich it with the features and functions their users most want.
Users of the sponsoring site download and install the toolbar in their Web browser, enabling them to search the sponsoring site and/or use other features the Conduit bar offers, such as an RSS reader, news ticker, radio player, and other features.
There’s no programming involved, and the toolbar building process takes about 10 minutes, requiring about a dozen clicks of the mouse. Conduit toolbars are extremely popular, Shilo says; they are currently in use on about 140,000 Web sites, and have been installed on the Web browsers of about 30 million users. “We get a new user or publisher – and even more – every second,” Shilo tells ISRAEL21c.
So what does all this have to do with “building community?” Shilo gives an example from one of Conduit’s many clients: the ASPCA.
“During the tainted pet food crisis last year, the ASPCA supplied up to the minute bulletins on breaking developments in the case using the Conduit toolbar. The ASPCA, like Greenpeace, Major League Baseball, and hundreds of other organizations, can use their Conduit toolbars to extend their reach to members’ PCs, with the toolbar guaranteeing that the connection with users is maintained when organizations use it to supply news, information, chat, etc.,” Shilo says.
Volunteer, social service, leisure and entertainment organizations, as well as private businesses seeking to enhance their identities and connection with customers – all have found the Conduit toolbar indispensable. “Over the past few weeks, a group has even built a toolbar for Sderot,” to help raise consciousness for the Qassem-stricken city in southern Israel, Shilo says.
The toolbars produced on the Conduit platform are completely safe: Ad free and spyware free, Shilo says that Conduit does not collect personal information on users.
“Given the poor reputation toolbars have had in the past, when they were considered founts of spyware, we were seriously considering not using the term ‘toolbar builder’ to describe our product when we began Conduit three years ago,” he admits. But they did go with the term, since toolbars had become popularized by Google – and now, Conduit toolbars are held up as “the” standard for safe toolbars by publishers and users around the Net.
It’s a closed system – the only applications you can add are the ones supplied in the Conduit toolbar building process, meaning that there is no chance for rogue code to get into the application. “Because of our high standards, the toolbar now has an excellent reputation as a safe surfing vehicle. Publishers make sure to stress that the toolbars they offer users for download are made using Conduit. We’ve become the ‘Verisign’ of toolbar safety,” Shilo says, referring to the Web safety certification service.
And, publishers can even make money when they offer their own toolbar built on the Conduit platform, Shilo says, “making it a win-win situation for everyone.” No banner or other advertising is involved; instead, he says, Generating money without ads, getting software product without dealing with software – now, that’s a miracle.