iCharts.net – “YouTube for Charts”

A new data visualization service launched at last week’s TechCrunch50 conference in San Francisco.

iCharts.net are billing themselves as “YouTube for Charts” (echoes of the “YouTube for Data” tag used by Swivel at their launch in December 2006).

iCharts is offering a service for constructing a Flash chart that can be embedded in any web page (as YouTube does for videos). From the demo, there will apparently be a gallery of visualization choices.

Business model is yet to be determined. Advertising was suggested, but in my opinion that seems unlikely to work (CrunchBase claims 16 employees, a steep payroll to cover with online ads). On the TechCrunch50 panel, Mark Cuban proclaimed that a corporate licensing model is the obvious approach; I agree that there’s more potential there to achieve the rate of return expected for a VC-funded company.

The key artifact that iCharts tracks is the chart. Data contributions cannot be tracked separately from visualizations, and there’s no way to build new visualizations from existing datasets. Data provenance is not captured in the system. Collaborative and social features are minimal.

At this point I see many parallels with Swivel’s launch almost two years ago. Investor-funded company; high-visibility public launch; substantial payroll expense for a zero-revenue firm; unclear business model. At first blush the iCharts product is newer and shinier than Swivel’s, but the shift from static images to Flash alone is not sufficient to drive dramatic user adoption. It will be interesting to watch over the next year to see if iCharts can break out of the pack and drive some progress in data visualization on the web.


3 Responses to “iCharts.net – “YouTube for Charts””

  1. 1 roger
    September 12, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    I agree to most of your views – iCharts looks appealing but I don’t see a great value proposition.

    I recently came across a new data exploration platform called http://www.youcalc.com which I find more promising (still in beta). youcalc allows you to build interactive chart widgets as well, but below the charting UI there is a calculation engine allowing chart developers to build calculation logic into the chart widget. Charts can sort, filter, pivot, drill-down and perform all kinds of analytics. Data is not stored in youcalc – it is pulled real-time from one or several APIs, and youcalc allows you to mash several live data feeds into a calculation/chart. youcalc supports most APIs (REST, SOAP, JSON, CSV) and they even have standard connector to swivel and many’eyes data sets, so you could build analytics/chart widgets on top of swivel data sets.

    youcalc actually has a chart widget which is very similar to olympic medals counts chart widget used in the iCharts demo. But the youcalc version allows for filtering and analytics – and it pulls data real-time from a swivel data set: http://www.youcalc.com/apps/1219403616554

    I am not sure what therr business model is either – finding one seems to be a standard issue for many start-ups !

  2. 2 Achim Dregger
    September 17, 2008 at 6:27 am

    I don’t know much about business, but technically your article is not correct. I have a test account at http://www.icharts.net, so I could see for myself.

    1) There is not only a choice of visualizations. Charts are fully customizable. That’s what I have been missing in Excel. And I love the drag’n’drop construction. Makes life easy for me.

    2) Data sets are handled separately. You can create as many charts from one data set as you like. That’s great for drill downs and multi-dimensional data. You can upload Excel or edit online.

    3) Data provenance: Source is mentioned in all serious charts on the portal I have seen so far.

    4) Yes social features are still weak, but collaboration is great. You can share charts and collaborate on them. And if a user allows you can copy published charts to your account and things like that.

    I like it. They are a startup, so I believe there is more to come.


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