Hypernumbers Revisits an Old Classic: the Spreadsheet

The spreadsheet application within Google Docs must be the most well known and most commonly used online spreadsheet. A bit like Google Search, the Google Docs spreadsheet dominates the online spreadsheet market. But also, a bit like Google Search, we occasionally we see companies coming along and trying out in an already dominated space. With the resource that Google has at its disposal this is a very tough market, but Hypernumbers, an Edinburgh based startup, is trying to do just that with its online "team" spreadsheet.

Hypernumbers is building a collaborative spreadsheet from the ground up as a native web application. It offers a host of features including role-based collaboration, easy consolidation of changes, four different views of the data (spreadsheet, input wiki, table and web page) and simple one-click publication of spreadsheets. This doesn't deviate too much from the features available in other online spreadsheets, but they do differ in one very interesting way as Gordon Guthrie of Hypernumbers explains:

"It differs from the online spreadsheets like Google Docs because in Hypernumbers HTML is a native datatype so you can use functions like =twitter.button("hypernumbers") in cells to create web components. As a result you can embed Google maps in spreadsheets and then publish them as web pages."

The team at Hypernumbers is looking at how to make APIs available to non-technical users and to enable them to mash up their own data with APIs and publish the results. Gordon explains this further:

"We [Hypernumbers] are looking to partner with API providers to help make their APIs available to end users - in particular for use cases where the end-user might want to consolidate data from many different sources. Of particular interest is full-pass through integration where several apis might be used to provide locational information via server-side integration with the results displayed on maps via client-side integration"

Although Gordon is looking to integrate with other APIs and in doing so expose Hypernumbers' own API, he is looking beyond just the API to how this will affect the spreadsheet user.

"Our API play is at an early stage and we are looking to build relationships with other startups with a view to adding long-term value to the market by moving mashups firmly into end-user territory so get in touch for a chat or a demo."

The combination of client-side mashups built upon server-side API integration, all available to a non-technical user with basic spreadsheet skills seems a promising field for building new and interesting web applications. Companies sometimes expose an API without fully considering how the information it exposes or consumes will impact the end user of an application. This is clearly absolutely key to Hypernumbers, as any API integration will ultimately need to be exposed to the spreadsheet user through a simple syntax, the spreadsheet formula:

=programmableweb.publish("hypernumbers")

Be sure to read the next Tools article: The Semi-Unofficial Facebook Graph API Explorer