Archive for September, 2006

UK Telcos plan moves into Social Networking

September 30, 2006

 UK telcos are feeling left behind in the social networking buildup dominated by web startups like MySpace, Bebo, Tagworld. O2 in UK is trying to cover up and is in talks with Bebo to offer the social networking site on its mobile phones. Bebo is one of the most visited social networking sites in UK. According to research results of Hitwise in August, Bebo’s market share of visits in UK was 12.91%. In related news, Vodafone will also be launching its own social networking site next month having features similar to MySpace.
 
In the meantime MySpace is also gearing up for launch of MySpace on mobile. Currently only Helio users have access to MySpace on mobile but MySpace is in talks with other major carriers to launch its service on mobile.
 
Social networking on mobile will be much bigger than $15 billion estimates for MySpace. Mobile nets will also play out well for Telcos especially in Asian countries who have experienced the fastest mobile phone growth. From the feature perspective, a product like Joopz has much more potential instead of imitating MySpace on mobile. Joopz effectively bridges the gap between web and mobile world, which hasn’t been addressed till now. Still it is too early to say what MySpace, O2, and Vodafone have to offer.

Eluma is DEMOgod for DEMOfall ‘06

September 29, 2006


Eluma, developer of brandable desktop community application, has won the DEMOgod award for DEMOfall ’06. Eluma was one of eight winners, selected from the 67 demonstrators at DEMOfall. I had written about Eluma earlier this week.

I had a detailed discussion with Eluma CEO Richard Buck before he presented at DEMO and was amazed by the amount of thought he and his team have put into the development and launch of Eluma. I think Eluma has ability to change the way communities and brands interact. Eluma team has show great foresight and brought a product to market which avoids pitfalls faced by web-based communities.

Links:
StartupSquad’s review of Eluma
Eluma
DEMOgod Annoucement
Eluma Presentation

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Deals at Judy’s Book Launched

September 29, 2006

Judy's Book Deals

Judy’s Book is moving aggressively to gain ground in the local business review and search. At the start of this month Judy’s Book added ‘Deals’ feature which will provide users with deals and coupons from the places they shop both online and in their neighborhood. The ‘Deals’ feature will contain current deals and discounts submitted by users as well as various brands.

Judy’s Book (JB), located in Seattle, WA, was launched in 2004 and is lead by Andy Sack. JB is a well funded company whose investors include Mobius Venture Capital, Ignition Partners, Ackerley Partners, and few angel investors.

JB team is putting in lot of effort to distinguish itself from other deal and review sites. JB deals can be created by the users who also have option to add photos and tags to the deal. JB deals can be voted and commented on by the users which will make sure only the best deals reach the top. JB team is also putting in lot of effort to keep the content fresh and clean. They have a team of deal editors who check for genuine and accurate deals. To find deals for a particular product, users can either search for deals or browse JB or use tags. Users can also subscribe to alerts to get updated on new deals. JB provides browser toolbars which show users the top deals available for any site they visit. Users can also post deals back to JB using the toolbar.

To attract and engage users, JB has setup profit sharing where it will provide commissions to the users who enhance a commissionable deal (a deal that Judy’s Book gets paid on). JB is also launching ‘Expert Shopper’ feature next Tuesday, which is supposed to make shopping easier for the customer. ‘Expert Shopper’ will be a platform where customers can seek help from fellow expert shoppers for finding the right item and for the right price. Besides this, JB has also setup partnership with Valpak recently to distribute their local coupons on judysbook.com.

Couple of issues I noticed includes no option to associate a zip code or state with a deal, which makes it hard to locate local coupons easily. Also as JB tries to offer user rated deals, it should have proper measures in place to prevent hijacking of site by few users or its editorial staff overreacting to certain user activities.

JB surely would have done its calculations but I am bit skeptical about maintaining deal editors team. They better outsource that task or use Amazon Mechanical Turk to lower their risk. I am pretty sure Google won’t do this way.

JB has done great work in identifying the right mix of features from digg, fatwallet (or other deal sites) and its expertise of local business search and reviews. By combining local business search with local/national deals JB can add real value to the site. This area is not without tough competition though and comes at a time when Google has announced that it will also be offering coupons when users search for businesses on Google Maps.

Links:
Deals at Judy’s Book
Judy’s Book

Judy's Book Deals
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eBay into social networking – Launches MyWorld

September 29, 2006

eBay has launched new MySpace like social networking feature called MyWorld. MyWorld will replace the user profile page at eBay.

MyWorld page for each user will contain user profile, image, biography, blog, reviews, feedback, rating, and item listing. You can add image to your profile, edit and show your biography, add posts to your blogs. Blog post can be tagged and you can subscribe to RSS feeds for blogs. MyWorld page can also be customized by rearranging the modules.

There is no support for modifying background colors or setting background images as of now. I didn’t see an option to add other users to your network either.

Currently eBay users can edit their MyWorld page. From next month each user profile will take you to his/her MyWorld page.

This is a nice move from eBay, but at a time when the market is inundated with social networking sites. I feel eBay will have tough time growing in such a tight market.

 [via]

Links:
eBay MyWorld

eBay MyWorld

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Google upgrades RSS reader

September 28, 2006


For quite some time now Google Reader had been lying really low on Google Office priority list. But finally they have released a new version of reader with lot of updates.
 
Google reader has now added option to create folders and add subscriptions to folders. Reader also displays count of unread items, and you can “mark all items as read” for a folder or a feed. They have also introduced a sharing component, where users can click and share feed items. These shared items are available on your public page, which can be viewed by anyone who knows the URL. There is also an option to subscribe to the shared feed items. Now feeds can also be viewed in 2 different formats – List View and Expanded View.
 
One interesting feature I found was that same feed can belong to more than 1 folder. If you read any of the feed items from one folder, the item count gets updated in all folders where the feed is present. Other nice features that I discovered include option to import/export opml file, add reader to your personalized Google homepage, and access reader on your mobile phone.
 
I still saw quite a few issues from the javascript side, with pages’ not getting refreshed cleanly, which is unlike other Google Office products. Also there is no option to search among feed items, which is surprising given the fact that it is a reader from Google. But Google Reader is definitely better than the useless Microsoft Max released earlier this month.

Links:
Google Reader

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Songs on Zune to cost 99 cents

September 28, 2006

Zune

Microsoft has announced that songs available for download at the Zune Marketplace service will cost about 99 cents a song. This price is same as that offered for by Apple’s iTunes. So the whole battle boils down to the device. Comparing the specs of Zune and iPod, Zune has a head start by enabling the users to share photos and songs, on a limited basis, to one another.

Microsoft is also offering a subscription pass for $14.99 a month, which will allow users to listen to any of the songs on Zune Marketplace.

Update: Zune will be launched on Novermber 14 and will be priced at $249.99 for 30GB capacity.

[press releaase] 

[via]

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DEMOfall: Eluma introduces desktop communities

September 28, 2006

ElumaEluma wants to build great communities but with a difference. Eluma’s focus group is the brand marketers. These brand marketers will get their loyal users to build communities around their products using Eluma. What Eluma will provide is its branded Desktop Community product to aid the brand marketers. This branded community can help generate discussions among users around something they have in common – The Brand! Eluma can reinforce brands, and allow users to benefit from the wisdom of crowds. Eluma, headed by Richard Buck, is located in Boston. Eluma had received an undisclosed amount of funding from Sebastian Holdings.

In my talk with Richard, he briefed me about how he and his friend Paul Christen (CTO, Eluma) came up with the idea about Eluma. First they recognized the fact that lot of consumers who have affinity for a particular brand are not able to keep track of the brand activities. On the other hand there are brand managers, who want to connect their loyal customers, but are not able to do that using the regular means like newsletter that end up in the spam folder. Also it is a time consuming and costly for them to develop and maintain their own community solutions.

So they came up with an advanced desktop communication tool that allows brand manager to push their message directly to the desktop, providing them with a targeted, one-to-many broadcast channel. This is also great for customers who get the latest information right on their desktop and also receive/give recommendations in their community. Interesting point about Eluma is that it does not have any web-version. All the content can be subscribed and read only from the desktop client. Eluma’s aim is to complement brand sites and not compete with them. It can instead increase web-site hits for the involved brands.

Brand marketers can get in touch with Eluma to build a branded community. Eluma takes just half a day to prepare the branded community which consists of Eluma Control Center for brand manager and a desktop client for the brand consumers. Eluma Control Center enables the brand marketers to easily upload and manage desktop alerts, feeds, and content for the users. Whenever the brand marketers wants to inform its consumers about a new product or a new release, he can push that content through the Control Center which will be delivered onto the desktop client through RSS. This desktop client is like an advanced form of RSS reader. Users are be able to view, comment and rate content items. Users can also rate and comment from toolbar or desktop client itself. Eluma has also developed client sync feature, like Feeddemon, so that consumers can install the client on multiple machines but don’t end up reading the same content again. Once they have the client installed on their desktop, they can search and subscribe to other branded communities as well using the same client. Eluma will also be providing a mobile based client by the year end. Currently Eluma is focused on US based brands, but will be soon offering multi-lingual desktop clients to enable a global push.

Eluma is going at great lengths to provide complete privacy to the users and also prevent community hijacking by top 20 users (read digg). Like, you can’t drill-down a user profile and get all the comments he has ever written or items he has ever rated in all the Eluma branded communities. Whatever happens in a community, stays in the community. Aside from the privacy, Eluma is not just for brand managers. If users want they can also setup their communities using Eluma.

As for monetizing their product, Eluma will be sharing advertising revenue generated through the branded desktop clients. Besides this brands also have to pay a monthly license fee to Eluma. Traffic.om will soon be the first company to launch a branded community using Eluma. Right now Eluma is aggressively focusing on signing up more brands.

I think Eluma is great idea. But the whole idea depends on the fact that users have to download and install the Eluma Desktop Community client. Brand managers and Eluma will have to work together to convince users that Eluma is in fact is a good option. Brand managers need to keep in mind that if they try to push out too much or false content, they might end up loosing their most loyal customers.

Links:
Eluma

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Funding: Videoegg gets $12 million

September 27, 2006


Videoegg, site specializing in video publishing, editing, distributing and remixing, has raised $12 million lead by Maveron. It was only last week that Videoegg had announced new partnerships with top social networking sites, which I had discussed here.
 
Videoegg daily reach on Alexa has shown some increased activity after the earlier announcement about partnerships. It has to seen whether those data points are outliers or combine to form an upward consistent curve.

Also, Comscore has today released results for Video Metrix, which tracks actual online streaming video behavior among U.S. Internet users. Myspace topped the ranking to have the highest individual video streams initiated by U.S. users with nearly 1.5 billion streams. Videoegg has yet to reach the top 10.



Links:
Videoegg

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Retrevo launches gadget research engine

September 27, 2006

Retrevo

Retrevo has launched its vertical search engine at DEMOfall that makes decision making about product purchase quicker and easier. Retrevo is currently focused on enabling an easier way to perform consumer electronics product research by providing current and aggregated information. For any product you search at Retrevo, it brings back the related Product documents, Manufacturer Information, Review & Articles, Forums, and Blogs.

Retrevo is located in Sunnyvale, CA and is headed by Vipin Jain. Vipin Jain had previously co-founded Telseon, a pioneer in Metro Ethernet network technology, which was acquired by OnFiber in 2002. OnFiber was acquired by Qwest Communications earlier this month.

Vipin himself a gadget geek found that any product research process is very time consuming and inefficient. He came up the idea of providing a platform which will provide comprehensive information about products and their entire ecosystem. Work on Retrevo was started last year and was initially bootstrapped by Vipin. Earlier this year Retrevo had raised $1 million from Alloy Ventures. Retrevo team includes 9 people, all of them located in US.

Retrevo has developed its own algorithm for content aggregation, semantic analysis, classification and ranking, which provides up-to-date and relevant results. This combined with the nice adjustable 2 pane UI provides a very good user experience. I tried searching for my favorite device Nokia 770, and Retrevo came back with its ‘Top Results’, which include Nokia 770 User guide and 3 results each for Manufacturer Info, Reviews & Articles, and Forums & Blogs. If you want to dig deep into a particular result type, just click on the required tab on the left. You can either preview the results on the right pane of search results or you can jump right on the site. Currently the only collaboration feature offered is sharing of results through email. Still, it’s a great user experience.

Currently Retrevo is free of any form of advertising, although they might be looking at sponsored results in future. In my conversation with Vipin, he mentioned that Retrevo will be continuously evolving in the next couple of years, with major features being introduced every quarter.

Looking at the current feature set and consumer needs, I feel that decision about a purchase depends heavily on the price and rating, areas not covered by Retrevo. I don’t know if providing pricing and rating content is in their future plans, but will definitely like to have it there. Wize, which I had discussed earlier, does a great job at rating products, but lacks Retrevo like comprehensive product data. Also there should be option to save research data, ability to subscribe RSS feeds for review and blog posts, and related social features.

Links:
Retrevo

Retrevo

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DEMOfall: Joopz launches Group SMS

September 27, 2006


Joopz from Mobile-Sphere is an interesting product being launched at DEMOfall. Twitter has been working in this space (although product is not exactly the same), but Joopz seems to have developed a better approach to enable group SMS.
 
Joopz lets you send and receive SMS from the Web to any mobile phone for free. You can send your message to multiple phone numbers in a group at the same time. If any member of the group replies to your message, all the members will receive that SMS. Best part is that the communication is stored and updated on Joopz site in real-time using a cool AJAX interface.
 
Joopz also has few other nifty features to it including setting up reminders or sending text messages to recipients at a specific time – after a day, a week, a year.
 
However, I noticed couple of issues with the Joopz setup. Message history is available only to the user who starts the discussion from web. Even if the recipient is a registered at Joopz, the messages don’t show up in his message history. Another issue is that if you send out a SMS reply in a discussion, you yourself also receive back that SMS, which logically you shouldn’t be receiving. Also there should be some way to start a group SMS discussion from mobile itself, instead of someone having to push start it from web.
 
Personally I feel Joopz has the potential to catch up very quickly in the SMS world especially if targeted towards Asian countries where mobile is the primary device for most people.

Links:
Joopz
Mobile-Sphere

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