Start-up Bre.ad catches attention of Lady Gaga, 50 Cent

TORONTO — Facebook and Twitter users might start noticing brief pop-up interruptions when they click on links in posts, and if they do, it’ll make Toronto native Alan Chan very happy.

TORONTO — Facebook and Twitter users might start noticing brief pop-up interruptions when they click on links in posts, and if they do, it’ll make Toronto native Alan Chan very happy.

He’s the mastermind behind a new web start-up called Bre.ad, which has already signed up an enviable list of celebs including Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and 50 Cent.

And, despite a big potential turnoff associated with Bre.ad’s concept, it seems to be catching on with many Twitter users.

Bre.ad is one part link shortener, turning long, unwieldy web links into a shorter tweet-friendly string of characters. But the real selling feature lies behind those shortened links and is revealed when they’re clicked on.

Anyone who uses Bre.ad to shorten a link can upload an image of their choosing. The image will then be shown for five seconds when someone clicks on the link before they get the page they’re looking for.

Those pop ups may seem like a potential nuisance but Chan insists there’s value in them.

While most companies will surely use Bre.ad to promote products, Chan said individuals can use the service to highlight and share their own personal interests, perhaps by providing a link to their favourite new album, restaurant or a charitable cause.

“I think what we offer is a way to make your links much more meaningful and to really give you a new platform to express yourself. So we want to be another venue for you to really share and receive your favourite things,” he said.

“It’s essentially your friend being like, ’Hey, check this out, this is really cool’ and it’s just an extension of your Twitter feed.”

Chan doesn’t believe web surfers will rebel over seeing Bre.ad pop ups through Twitter and Facebook links.

“It’s pretty fast, it’s like five seconds, and it goes by really quickly,” he said.

“In fact, a lot of people have told me, ’Wow, I just had enough time to read it before I was on the other site.’ And you’ll always be able to skip a page. So if you’re in a rush, definitely just click on over it.”

For now, Bre.ad is a completely free service and Chan is hoping it catches on in a big way before trying to monetize it.

“We’re not going to make money, we’e just purely focused on making the experience as seamless as possible for our users. For the future, we’re throwing around some ideas right now for monetization.”

Chan said he got the idea for Bre.ad while trying to do his own marketing on Twitter and finding it was just too difficult to get a message across in 140 characters. He also wanted a way to get his brand’s image in front of web users without repeatedly tweeting out the same text ad.

“I wanted something much more visual and impactful,” he said.

“It’s an interesting way to promote your products and your own brand without having to really pollute your stream on Facebook and Twitter.”