A New Hope for Digital Communication

The short version: 

We’re gearing up to release a next-generation authoring tool. It blows the socks off of the linear word processors we’ve all been stuck using. It’s inspired by years of work observing how we communicate, learn, and record ideas (and of course our experience with iAnnotate). We’ll be launching the first version this summer. 

Want to know more? Read on.

Since founding Branchfire, we’ve been guided by the belief that the word processor is holding us all back. The things we want to say and share rarely fit into words alone; real communication requires more.

iAnnotate was a step in that direction. All of you who use the product have helped us show that annotation–even the simple act of circling an important passage–can be a powerful way to communicate ideas. While we certainly have more in store for the app, our experience developing it has emboldened us (a tiny, bootstrapped company in Chicago) to imagine the future and take on even bigger challenges.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen the release of several “revolutionary” new authoring tools. But those tools have all been typing the same old tune, just with minor tweaks: word processing in the cloud or on the web, minimalist word processing, word processing with chat messaging, word processing with live collaboration.

I think all of that misses the point. Communication isn’t just about processing words; it’s also about capturing perspectives and creating relationships. Think about it: When we consume information on the Internet, we find it intuitive that everything is interconnected. If I’m browsing Wikipedia, I’m able to quickly access related content just by clicking links. The same is true for any good news website. These links to related information help us gain further understanding and context.

Obvious stuff, right?

What’s remarkable to me, however, is that even though our consumption experience has come this far in the digital world, we still create and express our own ideas in a broken, disjointed fashion. We can share documents by attaching them to an email or by providing a link, but this does nothing to capture our perspective or how each of those documents and ideas are related. We waste a lot of time trying to explain relationships in words when what we need is a good way to show them. 

That’s the problem we’re solving with a next-generation communication tool that enables people to create a guided tour of their documents and ideas. We call it Folia.

image

So, it’s just a word processor with web-like links?

No—it’s a lot more than that. Connections in Folia are more powerful than the links we use on the web. Links on the web are just hollow connections between two pages, they provide limited information about why the link exists or which specific parts of a linked document are relevant. Frankly, I think it’s this limitation of HTML-style links that has prevented linking from becoming a more ubiquitous part of creating, writing, etc.

Since the early days of the web and Mosaic, many folks have made attempts at developing products that use links in composed documents. But the attempts have all failed for a few reasons:

  1. Linking only worked with particular file formats. Moreover, links were too easily broken if the linked-to (target) content changed or moved.
  2. Authors couldn’t add their own comments and perspectives to links.
  3. User interfaces were far too complicated, requiring too many steps to do something that should have been intuitive and simple. 

We’ve explicitly designed Folia to move beyond these limitations with traditional links to richer connections. These connections not only allow you to link between documents, they also allow you to add markups and comments to the connected documents themselves. Each connection allows you to capture a unique perspective. These connections may seem simple, and in a way they are, but you’ll be amazed at what you can convey with such simple pieces.

image

Folia lets you work with most popular file types including content clipped from the web. Over the past year, we’ve spent countless hours streamlining the user interface to be as clean and simple as possible across multiple platforms.

Folia will be available this summer and we are very excited to take this journey with you. Stay tuned for updates at folia.com.

-Ravi