Korean firm Cursormate.com has become the second entrant into the U.S. rich media cursor market with the establishment of a New York office and the hiring of an American CEO.
Cursormate.com's competition is 3-year-old Comet Systems, developer of the Comet Cursor, a free plug-in that causes visitors' cursors at certain sites to change from the standard arrow to 32-pixel-by-32-pixel cartoon characters, logos or whatever else a site owner might want.
By Comet's count, 163,000 sites have licensed the company's software, including Warner Brothers for Pokemonthemovie.com and Welch's for its Welchs.com jams and jellies site, and 33 million people have downloaded cursor.
Unlike the Comet Cursor, however, Cursormate.com claims its technology does not require Internet users to download a plug-in, and it does not change the cursor itself. It creates a small message that sits next to the cursor.
“We don't see ourselves as a competitor to the Comet Cursor,” said Albert Crane, Cursormate.com's newly hired CEO. “We're going to focus on business-to-business applications. … If the president of a bank wants to communicate with all 10,000 of his employees, what better place to go to than the cursor that they all look at every day?”
Cursormate plans to charge Web sites an undisclosed licensing fee and advertisers on an enhanced cost-per-thousand impressions basis.
The firm so far has struck no deals with U.S. firms, Crane said adding that some “big names,” which he declined to name, have tested the service in Korea.
“We're trying to move it into the business front where it's not just for the delight of young children, but in fact, it has a practical business application,” said Crane, referring to Comet Systems. “There are applications that go beyond the giving [the cursor] away to build up a large customer base.”
But Crane wouldn't rule out going after some of Comet's big name clients like Warner Brothers. “We have technology that allows for many choices,” he said. “We have different variations which we'll be getting to in future press releases.”
But on the consumer side, no need for a download could also be the Cursormate.com's downfall. Not everyone is pleased with an Internet experience that gets flashier and noisier by the day.
“At least with Comet Cursor, the consumer is still making a choice,” said Jim Nail, senior analyst for Forrester Research, Cambridge, MA. “Here, you're taking all the control out of consumers' hands, which violates rule No. 1 of the Internet: The consumer is always in control.”
Executives at Comet Systems agree.
“One thing we have in our favor is we are an opt-in technology,” said Ben Austin, director of marketing for Comet Systems, New York.
Austin added he is surprised there wasn't a competitor in the rich-media cursor arena sooner.
“Think about how rare it is on the Internet that a company releases 30 million of anything before there is a second company,” Austin said.