Stixy: Free-Form Collaboration and File Sharing Spaces

The internet ought to have made it dead simple to share files long ago. But for some reason, I still scratch my head every time I want to send a batch of photos or a collection of documents to a non-technical friend without resorting to email (which is not a dead simple solution in my book).

That’s why I get excited when I see companies like Stixy attempting to make file sharing not only as easy as it should be, but more pleasurable and intuitive along the way.

Stixy’s underlying concept is simple, and one that we have seen elsewhere in different forms: provide a desktop-like space in the browser where you can upload and share files. We recently gave out a batch of invitations to another new service, Wixi, that does this very thing.

Stixy provides a “free-form” area to drop your files, but it’s also very much like PikiWiki in the sense that it doesn’t settle for simple desktop icons. The files and other items placed in a Stixy workspace are more expressive. For example, photo files are displayed as small versions of themselves and sticky notes can be stuck anywhere. Therefore, Stixy is less like a traditional operating system desktop and more like a bulletin board.

The ability to access and interact with elements in a Stixy workplace (whether they be files or other widgets) is not yet very extensive. Currently, you can add only four element types to a workplace: sticky notes, photos, documents, and to-do notes. Both types of notes are pretty simple widgets and documents are displayed as simple icons. But there is a lot of potential for Stixy to expand the collection of widgets (and perhaps eventually create an open platform for widget development) as well as to improve the current widgets so they are more interactive. It would be great to be able to preview Word documents and PDFs in the bulletin board environment instead of downloading a local copy or opening them in another window. The same thing goes for video and audio files.

Despite the usefulness of the free-form workspace for files, it would also be great to see a more traditional file system view built into Stixy as an option for when I want to sort quickly through a bunch of files stored in the system. Currently, you wouldn’t want to add more than a couple dozen elements to Stixy because it would get too crowded. If Stixy were to develop more standard file views (as an alternative, mind you), it would be moving in the direction of a Web OS while remaining cognizant of the fact that preview functionality is paramount in an online storage environment (people don’t want to download a file each time they want to check it out).

It is important to keep in mind that Stixy is ultimately a collaboration tool (as any Web OS-like service probably should be). The company has decided to keep ownership of Stixy workspaces very simple, in fact so simple that usually there is no real ownership. If you share a “stixyboard” (it’s name for a workspace) with one or more other users, you give those users equal power over board management. Any participating user can edit any aspect of the board, and any user can delete the whole thing completely. Therefore, this is a tool for people who trust each other and not one suited for a broad social networking environment. Stixyboards can be kept entirely private, shared with other users, or opened up to the public at large (for either editing or just viewing).

Currently, Stixy has placed a 10mb cap on each file upload but no cap on total disk space usage (which will inevitably change as traffic increases). The company plans on making money from advertisements (not yet on the site) and premium memberships (also not yet available). The company is currently working on chat and messaging functionality to enhance collaboration. The ability to drag-n-drop files straight from the desktop (a la PikiWiki) is also in the works. And in the longer term, Stixy will probably feature a file versioning system along with an activity history log.

Stixy, which is based in Karlshamn, Sweden but also operates in Mill Valley, CA, launched just a couple weeks ago around the same time it exhibited in TechCrunch40’s DemoPit. I’ll be looking forward to seeing whether Stixy remains as a standalone product and/or becomes incorporated as a feature of other websites that facilitate file sharing.