Walt Mossberg

Glide Online Service Has Good Potential, But Rough Edges

The high-tech hype machine is in full throttle right now, pushing the idea that one day soon people will store all their files online, and that sophisticated new “Web applications,” running on remote computers, will be used to manage and view all those files. But as with most hype, the actual evidence has been scarce.

Now, a small company in New York City, far from the Silicon Valley publicity industry, is quietly delivering on that vision. The company, TransMedia Corp., has launched a rich, slick consumer Web service that can store, display, and share photos, music, videos, Web links, blogs and other documents. It’s called Glide Effortless, available at www.glidedigital.com.

Glide Effortless, which runs equally well on Windows and Macintosh computers, is the most interesting online service I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s a large, integrated environment that has its own graphical user interface and often responds as quickly and smoothly as a desktop software program, even though it runs on remote servers.

Glide has elements of photo-sharing sites, social networking sites and Web publishing services, but is different from any other site or service I’ve seen. It requires a broadband Internet connection, and works inside the latest versions of the most popular browsers: Internet Explorer for Windows; Safari for the Mac; and Firefox for either Windows or Mac.

In my tests, I found that Glide has some rough edges. Not everything works as it should all the time, and there are some annoying aspects. It needs some work. But overall, I was impressed with the design, the care for detail and the ambition of the service.

Glide is a subscription service whose prices vary based on the amount of file storage you need and the features you get. It starts with a couple of free, but limited, plans offering 300 megabytes of storage. The options range up to a full-featured plan offering 4 gigabytes of storage for $9.95 a month, or $99.95 a year, if you pay upfront. There are also family plans, and the opportunity to buy extra storage a la carte.

glide

Parental controls are available in the family plans. And the company requires that its members have verifiable identities. There’s no advertising in Glide. The company augments the membership fees it collects by offering shopping opportunities, though today they are limited mainly to buying prints of photos stored online and, oddly, to buying expensive chocolates. Music sales are in the works.

You can upload all of your files to your Glide account manually, from within the service. Glide also offers a small program that resides on your hard disk and automates mass uploads to the service. In my tests, this little program installed and worked fine on the Mac, but not on Windows.

The main Glide screens are divided into two parts. At the top, a large window contains icons representing your files. Video file icons actually play the video in tiny form.

The bottom part of the screen displays “containers,” Glide’s term for a folder, playlist, or collection of files. These are represented by icons that look like boxes. You can add files to a container by just dragging their icons onto the container’s icon.

Glide is a good example of the new type of Web application that mimics desktop software. Dragging and dropping works perfectly. Menus snap open instantly, and page layouts can be quickly changed without having to reload pages.

Every file and container icon in Glide contains a pop-up menu of actions you can take. For instance, with a photo file, you can display the picture in various sizes, edit it, delete it, download it, email it and more.

Action menus don’t look like normal menus. In Glide, they are universally presented as pie charts, with the various commands occupying the slices in a circle. There are multiple pie menus for each item; you cycle through them by clicking on a mysterious symbol in the middle of the chart. It works, but it’s a bit goofy.

You can share your files, either via email or an online conference. The email contains a link that takes the recipient to a special Glide page.

There are too many features in Glide to enumerate here, and that’s also its Achilles’ heel. TransMedia has tried to pack so much into Glide that it hasn’t fixed a lot of glitches.

During my tests, I frequently ran into situations where music wouldn’t play, or took several minutes to do so, and so did a person to whom I emailed some links to my music. I was able to create and publish a Web page, but only in one of the two styles Glide offers; the other refused to work. And I could see no way to edit or expand the Web site after it was published.

A friend with whom I had shared some Glide content emailed me using Glide’s internal system (Yes, it has email, too.) but the message never arrived. I uploaded two videos to Glide. Neither appeared in the video screen of Glide for over 24 hours. Finally, one appeared, and worked, but the other merely appeared as an unplayable file.

If TransMedia can fix these problems, it just might have a hit on its hands with Glide.


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