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Are any of these the Web's next big thing?

By Barry Neild, CNN
  • Internet start-up ventures ply their wares at LeWeb conference in Paris
  • Entrepreneurs hope their innovations can match success of Twitter or Facebook
  • Inventions range from Wi-Fi bathroom scales to 3D instant messengers

Paris, France (CNN) -- With more than 2,000 Internet movers and shakers, the LeWeb conference in Paris is an ideal spot for start-up ventures to hoping to attract the investment and attention that will propel them to Twitter or Facebook-style success.

A series of stalls across the venue -- a giant arts complex converted from a disused morgue -- saw fresh-faced entrepreneurs demonstrating gadgets and applications they insisted will change the way we interface with the Internet.

These might just be the inventions that everyone will be talking about next year or they could simply slip below the radar. Either way, all will face the same question still being leveled at today's household names -- can they make money?

While most insisted they could generate genuine revenue for their start-ups, others were more even-handed about their prospects.

"Will it be successful? No one knows," Sarel Omer, one of the brains behind "social productivity tool", told CNN. "The important thing is we believe in it."

There were too many on display at LeWeb to detail them all here, but here's a handful:

This one has to be seen to be believed. It's a groovy-looking desktop 3D web messenger program that allows users to create and furnish their own rooms and then host friends to chat and share videos and photos. Managing director Stefan Lemper says the site, which was launched in early 2009, makes money by selling virtual items like avatar clothing and furniture to its users. Lemper wouldn't reveal how many people are currently using it, but said feedback was positive: "Users love it," he told CNN.

Product Manager Sharel Omer describes his creation as a "social productivity tool" offering more than 10,000 how-to checklists for doing anything from organizing a barbecue to running for president. There's also a online community to ask for help. He says the Web site hopes to generate income through a premium subscription service.

A wireless bathroom scale that transmits your weight to your handheld device or computer, this isn't exactly a technological revolution. But the company's product manager Nicolas Lubeth reckons the $159 gadget will appeal to enough of its target market ("Mostly men, basically high-tech geeks") to make it a profitable venture.

Most people have been guilty of "ego-surfing" -- entering their own name into Google -- but Yatedo takes this one step further compiling an online dossier about anyone from all available information on the Internet. Its creators hope corporate customers will pay for this "image monitoring service" to ensure no one is posting unpleasant things about them.

BlueKiwi allows companies to create their own secure social network, linking up employees and clients to share ideas and hopefully improve efficiency. It's hard to gauge how useful it is from a brief demonstration, but its creators insist it will justify its premium paid-for version.


Netvibes' Philippe Lassale says the service will make money from companies who want premium slots for their widgets in Netvibes' directories and also from companies who use its "brandwatch" service to monitor themselves on the Web, in much the same way as Yatedo does for individuals.

Another invention that really has to be seen. PearlTrees offers a new way of interfacing with the Internet and organizing your online life and friends. It's either mind-bogglingly complicated or blisteringly simple, but either way it's an extremely exciting-looking program.