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February 25 2014


February 05 2014

My Not-On-Facebook Life
coffee-shop3I wake up with Northern Europe's low winter light filtering through the blinds in my bedroom. The silence is near perfect. It's too early to hear the week-day procession of parents ferrying their kids to the neighbourhood school. The slamming concert of car doors and tearful wails of protest at another day wrenched from comforts of home and bed will filter through the single-glazed window panes into my office in a few hours.
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December 30 2013

73% Of U.S. Adults Use Social Networks, Pinterest Passes Twitter In Popularity, Facebook Stays On Top
Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 15.54.02The U.S. is edging ever closer to social media saturation, with the percentage of adults using multiple social networks to communicate with each other now at 73%, and -- partly thanks to the rise of mobile apps -- the number of people on multiple networks now at 42%, according to figures out today from the researchers at the Pew Research Center.

October 30 2013

Scringo's Community-Builder SDK Now Lets Developers Add Stickers & Paid Sticker Packs To Any App
Israel-based startup Scringo, which offers a cross-platform SDK to help developers add social elements such as messaging to their apps to increase user retention and boost in-app engagement, has added a new feature that taps into the consumer craze for stickers.

October 03 2013

Tablets Becoming Must-Have Device For Kids Of All Ages, Ofcom Research Finds
Research by U.K. telecoms regulator Ofcom has found that growing numbers of younger kids, especially, are turning to tablets to watch videos, play games and access the Internet. But tablet usage among all children's age-groups is on the rise -- even as basic feature phone use declines.

September 08 2013

TARGiT Is A “Marauder's Map” For Business Networking At Events
Have you ever wished you had something like the Marauder's Map from Harry Potter for business networking at events? That's the promise of the app called TARGiT, emerging out of the TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2013 hackathon today. The app, initially designed for iOS, uses the NewAer platform to locate event goers in real-time using smartphone radio signals instead of power-hungry GPS, then plots attendees on the map as moving avatars. The app's users, meanwhile, can search for those with the skill sets they're interested in, and reach out to connect with them via LinkedIn...or, you know, just stalk them right there at the event itself.

June 12 2013

MySpace Punishes Its Few Remaining Friends By Vanishing Their Blogs
Obviously MySpace has very few friends left to alienate -- Tom has long since moved on -- but that hasn't stopped it annoying the hell out of its few remaining fans by forcing through an update to its shiny new music discovery platform that's swallowed their old blog content, with no guarantee it's ever going to be retrievable.

June 03 2013

Ericsson: Global Smartphone Subs To Hit 4.5BN By 2018 (25% CAGR), Video To Account For Half Of All Mobile Data Traffic
If you thought smartphones were ubiquitous now -- and in certain places they pretty much are -- prepare for a whole lot more people to be coming online on their phones in the next 5 years. Ericsson has published its latest mobility report, based on traffic measurements of live networks, which projects global smartphone subs will rise from 1.2BN in 2012 to 4.5BN by the end of 2018 -- a CAGR of 25%.

May 24 2013

16:12 Is A Gossip Girl-Style Social Service For Anonymously Trolling Your Friends
Russian startup has created a new social network inspired by the Gossip Girl TV series which lets users create an alter ego to -- let's face it -- troll their friends, or even post even worst types of gossip entirely anonymously. The site connects with Facebook and Russian social network VKontakte so it can pull in users' genuine friend networks, then let them dish salacious gossip.

May 22 2013

Urturn Raises $13.4M Series A, Led By Balderton, For Its Social Expressions Platform That Lets Teens Create Memes & Movements
Urturn, the social expressions platform that soft-launched as stealthily as possible last year by intentionally hiding under a really boring name, is getting ready to turn the volume up to 11 to start seriously recruiting teens and trend-setters to its meme-stuffed, fashion-friendly, music-loving platform. Today it has announced a $13.4 million Series A funding round, led by Balderton Capital with a $10.7 million investment. The private equity arm of Debiopharm Group invested the remaining $2.7 million. As part of the investment, Balderton founding partner Barry Maloney will join the Urturn board. The London-based startup, which also has an office in the Valley, is also launching an iOS app today, funded by its Series A, to extend its web-based platform to mobile. An Android app is also in the works, due later this year. Prior to the Series A, Urturn had raised around $500,000 in friends/family funding. So what exactly is a social expression platform? Urturn — pronounced ‘your turn’ — is best described as a viral meme-generator. It offers both a social toolbox for creating and sharing ‘expressions’ with other users, with support for sharing these out to other social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and also a space to hang your creations and browse others (and/or follow celebrity users or your friends). It also has its own bookmarklet browser button to make grabbing source material for meme-making purposes even easier, as Pinterest does. Expressions is Urturn’s term for the visual composites that are its social currency. These often start with a photo but can also include multimedia elements like video and audio, which are then augmented with text or doodles or other graphical elements, by a user selecting the relevant template. So, instead of having to go to Google to copy and paste the meme du jour to post to Facebook or Twitter, Urturn gives its users the tools to make their own version of that meme. Or something else entirely. The image at the top of this post is a basic example of an expression created with Urturn — by first uploading a photo and then adding a series of pointers to the image. Other templates currently available on the site include doodles, collages, quotes, speech bubbles, hashtag tags, cartoon elements (such as the Bunnify expression, below right) and more.  There are also templates that support interactions, such as love it/leave or this/that which ask other users to vote on whether they like
Rando's 5M Anti-Social Photo Shares Could Be The Canary In The Social Networking Coalmine
Rando only launched in March but the anti-social photo-sharing app that deliberately eschews the standard social network clutter of likes and comments and connections -- simply letting users share random photos with random strangers and get random snaps in return -- has blasted past 5M photo shares after a little over two months in the wild. It is now averaging around 200,000 shares per day.

May 21 2013

Personal Profile Page Startup Is Ready To Take Your Money With New Premium Service, Plans For Wefollow Integration, the online identity platform that spun out from Aol* at the beginning of the year before acquiring the one-time Digg spinout Wefollow, is now lifting the curtains on its plans to generate revenue, with today’s debut of Premium. Via this new, paid tier to the service, the company is adding some of the more advanced features users have requested, including domain mapping, Google Analytics integration, the ability to remove the branding, and more, for a $4 per month fee. And that’s just to start. This is the first time has charged users for any aspect of its service, co-founder Ryan Freitas tells us. With today’s release, the site will begin to offer features aimed at professional users, like the ability to display their page on their own custom domain name – the most in-demand user request to date, he says. The site will walk users through the process of adjusting their DNS settings to map the new domain to their page. To accompany this change, Premium users can also remove the branding on their page, which includes the “” logo and the top navigation bar entirely. However, branding won’t entirely disappear. A small button at the bottom will still say “me,” pointing those who are interested to more details about the service. Users will also be able to check site statistics using Google Analytics, and jump to the front of support queues with priority email support. The company isn’t yet committing to a guaranteed turn-around time, however, because they’re currently unsure what user support volume will be. But Freitas says the company has always taken support seriously, and is now staffing up on the customer service side of the business. The company also announced its future plans with Premium, which speaks to how it will integrate the technology acquired by the purchase of Wefollow, which today still serves as a discovery tool that helps Twitter users find others to follow by interest. “There will be a secondary tier that allows for people who want to be discovered,” explains Freitas. “We’re going to be able to create a paid tier using the algorithms from Wefollow to promote [users] into a variety of different mechanisms that we’ll be unveiling over the next few months,” he says. This will include a search directory, similar to the one Wefollow offers today, as well as tools that will allow premium users to pay for
MavenSay Enjoying Sudden Popularity In Social Media-Hungry Indonesia
MavenSay, a social recommendation app, just got a surge of unplanned downloads coming from Indonesia, and its founders are moving quickly to include Southeast Asia in its expansion plans, as a result. The company’s Toronto-based co-founder, Jesse Dallal, said the two-month old app got 100,000 downloads over the past fortnight. It has a total of 130,000 downloads so far, and the sudden surge was tracked back to a power user based in Indonesia. They’re not sure which one it is, but the source of traffic points to the country, he said. The way the app works is similar to Pinterest, in that users follow other users’ recommendations. These could cover places they’ve eaten at or music they’re listening to, for example. For its launch, MavenSay roped in what it called “influencers”—featured brands to follow such as Momofuku and Refinery29. The Indonesian user that triggered the downloads isn’t a celebrity that MavenSay had canvassed, but was clearly influential enough over his or her social network to move the downloads, said Dallal. “It’s been an unanticipated consequence of our [social] strategy,” he said, referring to the way things get viral on these recommendation platforms where people reblog items from influencers. “We’ve reached out to influencers in North America, but we’re also going to reach out to influencers in Asia now. We’re thinking of coming out there and talking to users to understand what the differences in culture and usage might be,” he said. MavenSay has seven people, including its three co-founders Dallal, Mike Wagman and Bryan Friedman. The small company can’t be expected to have concrete plans for Asia yet, but seeding interest in one of the world’s fastest-growing, mobile-hungry countries may pay off eventually. According to mobiThinking, Indonesia has 260 million mobile subscribers, although those with data connections make up just 47.6 million, or 18 percent of that. And Indonesians have been quick to embrace social networking sites, with fierce loyalties once something sticks. Aged social network, Friendster started to pivot towards Asia around 2008, when it realised that 90 percent of its user base was coming from the region. While it was, by that time, lagging behind Facebook globally, some markets like Indonesia stayed loyal to Friendster. MavenSay has raised funding of $890,000 so far.

August 08 2012

EMarketer: 26% Of U.S. Consumers Access Social Networks On Mobile Today, Facebook 85% Of That
Image2 for post Details On The Upcoming New Facebook iPhone App. Now With Events!
Figures out today from eMarketer estimate that in the U.S., just under 82 million consumers, or 26% of the population, will access social networks from their phones this year, rising to nearly 117 million by 2014. But if you are a social networking startup that sees that low-penetration figure as an opportunity, be aware that at the moment Facebook has all but cornered the market, and that the market is slowing down. Facebook today accounts for 85% of all mobile social networking activity, and that proportion is only growing: eMarketer projects that Facebook will account 87.4% by 2014 -- or four out of every 10 mobile users and nearly two-thirds of smartphone users. Meanwhile, growth in social network on mobile is slowing right down, from 50% in 2011 to 18% by 2014.

May 04 2012

Hachi Combines LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter & Google Into One, Lets You Search All Your Connections At Once
OK, this is cool. A new networking utility called Hachi is taking some of the best functionality offered by LinkedIn (searching by name, company, title, etc. and seeing how you're connected to other users), and is merging that with your social graphs from other services like Facebook, and soon Google contacts, Twitter and even your Outlook address book. That way, you can see who you know where - meaning, the actual path of connections between you and another person - even if you're not connected on LinkedIn. Um, totally bookmarking this.

January 17 2012

Partner, Investor: Japan’s Top Social Network Mixi Backs Video Startup ShortForm
Screen shot 2012-01-16 at 7.07.43 PM
Back in March of last year, we wrote about how video curation seemed to be growing up, or at least taking some strides forward. Its progress being evidenced in part by a young startup called ShortForm, a social network for video jockeys. Or, better said, ShortForm is attempting to let all those video enthusiasts out there create and curate their own personalized channels of web video, pulling that content from YouTube and Vimeo, among others. It's been a tricky road, but some big media companies have taken note, as today ShortForm announced that it has entered into a partnership with Japan's leading social networking service, mixi, which will introduce ShortForm (and video curation) into Japan. In fact, mixi was intrigued enough by ShortForm's service that it has also made an equity investment in the startup

December 14 2011

Facebook’s Leftovers? Social Network Tagged Acquires hi5
Social networking service Tagged, Inc. announced it has acquired the social game network hi5 today, doubling Tagged's monthly active users to 20 million. The combination will also increase the total number of registered users to 330 million, up from 100 million. According to The WSJ's report, the deal's terms were not disclosed, but include the hi5 website and user base.

November 01 2011

Unthink’s “Anti-Facebook” Social Network Reaches 100,000 Users
Unthink, the social networking platform whose marketing campaign involves a lot of Facebook bashing, has reached 100,000 registered users, the company is now reporting. As you may recall, the site quickly crashed after TechCrunch sent its usual heavy stream of traffic to the network, and it took Unthink over a day to recover. Now the number of visitors to the site is doubling daily, including both active users and casual visitors.

December 04 2010


Social Networking: The Present

Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part guest post by venture capitalist Mark Suster of GRP Partners on “Social Networking: The Past, Present, And Future.” Read Part I first. Follow him on Twitter @msuster. This series is an adaptation of a recent talk he gave at the Caltech / MIT Enterprise Forum on “the future of social networking.” You can watch the video here , or you can scroll quickly through the Powerpoint slides embedded at the bottom of the post or here on DocStoc.

Social Networking in Web 2.0: Plaxo & LinkedIn

In my last post, I discussed the origins of social networking online, beginning with CompuServe, Prodigy, the Well, then the rise of AOL, Geocities and Yahoo Groups. Next began the era of “spam-based” networks of which Plaxo (founded in 2002) was the king.  Co-founded by Sean Parker (yes, the same one who worked with Mark Zuckerberg in the early days of Facebook), it encouraged groups of people to email everybody in their email address books and “connect” on Plaxo so that when any of their contact information was changed online it could by synchronized with everybody’s local computer version and thus we could all stay in touch.

There was a backlash against the Plaxo spamming yet it paved the way for everybody who came after them to get users to drive viral adoption and we’d throw up our arms and say, “oh boy, here goes another social network that my friends are going to spam me about” mentality that made it acceptable for everybody who came afterward.

And come after they did.  While Plaxo never figured out what to do with us once we were all connected online, LinkedIn did.  They formed us into networks of networkers.  It was suddenly now not only about whom I was connected to, but who they knew and how I could get access to them.  We suddenly all wanted intros.  It added a new dimension to online social networks … business networking.  And they encouraged us to part with a lot more data about ourselves making LinkedIn our virtual resume.

And importantly Web 2.0 ushered in the era of “participation” – we all know that.  But less considered is the fact that the success of the Web 2.0 companies versus the Web 1.0 ones were enhanced because they coincided with hardware that allowed us to capture more content instantly – namely images and video – otherwide Web 2.0 might have been a lot less differentiated.  Suddenly we were all creating blogs on, Typepad & WordPress.  We started uploading images of ourselves to our blogs.

But the masses didn’t want to blog.  They wanted to publish pictures of themselves & their friends, share them, communicate with others, stay connected, have common experiences, find people to date, etc.  As I’ve said, it’s the same shit as the 1980′s – I swear.

Modern Social Networking: Friendster, MySpace & Facebook

We all know Friendster was the trailblazer in this category allowing people to create personal pages and connect to other people in a LinkedIn style but without the “business” and with a little more interactivity (let’s face it, for the longest time most users “friended” people on LinkedIn but then never really did much else).  But Friendster’s computer systems couldn’t keep up with the explosive growth (reportedly due to the complexity of the security model set up to control connections, privacy and authenticity of users) so MySpace was hot on the heels and swept up the market in a very rapid ascent.  Friendster was DOA.

And there it was – MySpace was growing at the exact time we all had cheap digital cameras, smartphones with cameras and new, cheap video cameras like the Flip that allowed us to create video.

Except that MySpace didn’t handle images or video well.  Luckily Photobucket & ImageShack did.  So users put all their photos on Photobucket & their videos on YouTube and shared them with their friends through MySpace.

Fox bought MySpace for $580 million and then did a deal with Google worth more than the purchase price to serve up ads.  For a nanosecond Rupert Murdoch seemed like the smartest guy on the Internet.  Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion, which at the time seemed laughably high and now seems prescient.  Google turned YouTube into one of the most valuable future Internet properties.  MySpace would have liked to own YouTube but didn’t have the public stock valuation to purchase them at the price that Google did.

MySpace later bought Photobucket for $250 million + $50 million earn out.  It did not have the same success as Google’s acquisition and MySpace sold Photobucket 2 years later to a relatively unknown Seattle-based startup called Ontela for a reportedly $60 million.

Murdoch seethed at these “startups” getting rich off the back of MySpace.  The conventional wisdom at Fox’s headquarters is that MySpace had “made” both YouTube & Photobucket by allowing them distribution.  MySpace vowed not to create anymore million dollar successes off of their backs that Google could then acquire.

So Fox ludicrously set up a quasi internal innovation center called Slingshot Labs.  The goal was to create innovations outside of MySpace and then MySpace would acquire them at pre-agreed prices based on how well they performed.  This was Politburo-style innovation and was laughable. I literally snortled when I heard that they were going to do this.  It was obviously a scheme set up by young entrepreneurs to line their pockets and some big-company executives who didn’t understand innovation.

Enter Facebook.  It had grown stratospherically from 2004-2007 to 100 million users, which actually was slightly smaller in December 2007 then MySpace was.  Facebook was everything that MySpace wasn’t.  It was: up-market, exclusive, urban, elite, aesthetically pleasing, ad-free and users were verified.  MySpace was: scantily dressed, teenaged, middle-America, design chaos and on ad steroids.

But the critical distinction in the direction of both companies was that while MySpace was putting up moats to keep outside companies from innovating and making money off their backs, Facebook took the opposite approach.  It launched open API’s and created a platform whereby third-party developers could come build any app they wanted and Facebook didn’t even want (yet) to take any money from them to do so.  So along come companies like Slide, RockYou & Zynga who wanted to build apps across all the social networks but were green-lighted the hardest by Mark Zuckerberg.

It was at that moment that a 22-year-old Mark Zuckerberg completely schooled the 75-year-old Rupert Murdoch.  Within the next 12 months Facebook users doubled to 200 million while MySpace stayed flat at 100 million.  The lesson was learned over 30 years in Silicon Valley: you create ecosystems where third-parties can innovate and thrive and you become the legitimate center of it all and can tax the system later.  Ask Microsoft, Autodesk or – the evidence was there from Seattle to Sand Hill Road.

Facebook went on become larger than even Google and Yahoo! in terms of time spent on the sites.  Slingshot Labs was unsurprisingly closed within a short period of time and its properties sold-off or dismantled.  Duh.

Social Networking goes Real Time: Twitter

While Facebook was built on the idea that all our information was private and shared only between friend (before they changed this after the fact), Twitter was born under the idea that most of the information shared there was open and viewable by anybody.  This was revolutionary in thinking and worked because as a user you understood this bargain when you started.  Twitter is not the place to share pictures of your kids with your family.

Another Twitter innovation was “asymmetry” because you didn’t have to have a two-way following relationship to be connected.  You could follow people who didn’t necessarily follow you back.  This allowed followers to be able to “curate” their newsfeed with people that they found interesting.  Twitter restricts each post to 140 characters so users often share links with other people – one of the most important features of Twitter.  So this combination of following people you found interesting who share links drove a sort of “news exchange” that mimicked many of the features of RSS readers except that it was curated by other people!

Twitter is much more.  I’ve written extensively on the topic, but in a nutshell it is: an RSS reader, a chat room, instant messaging, a marketing channel, a customer service department and increasingly a data mine.

But what is magic about Twitter is that it is real time.  In most instances news is now breaking on Twitter and then being picked up by news organizations.

The one major thing that Twitter doesn’t have figured out quite yet is that platform thing or at least how to encourage a bunch of 3rd-party developers to build meaningful add-on products.  Twitter seems to have become a bit allergic to third-party developers (or maybe vice-versa).  18 months ago 25% of all pitches to me were ideas for how to build products around Twitter’s API.  Now I don’t get any.  Not one.  Yet the number of businesses looking to build on the Facebook platform seems to have increased.

Given I’m a passionate user of Twitter, I sure hope somebody there will re-read the MySpace vs. Facebook section above.  Lesson learned (to me at least) – let people get stinking rich off your platform and tax ‘em later.  That way other companies innovate on their own shekels (or at least a VCs) and let the best man win.  Close shop to try and control monetization and you can only rely on your own internal innovation machine & capital.  Seems kinda obvious or am I missing somethign?  Rupert?

Social Networking is Becoming Mobile: Foursquare and Skout

The trend that is unfolding before our eyes is that Social Networking is now becoming mobile and that adds new dimensions to how we use social networks.  The most obvious change is that now social networks become “location aware.”  The highest profile brand in this space is Foursquare.  Pundits are mixed on whether Foursquare represents a major technology trend or a fad but undoubtedly it has captured the zeitgeist of the technology elite at this moment in time.  At a minimum it has been a trailblazer of innovation that a generation of companies are trying to copy.

As our social actions become both public and location specific it opens up all types of future potential use cases.  One obvious one is dating where players like Skout are trying to cash in on.  When you think about it, young & single people go out to bars & clubs in hopes of meeting people to “hook up” with.  In a perfect world you’d like that person to be compatible with you in additional to being attracted to them, yet as a society we go into bars and have no idea what it behind any of the people we see other than the immediacy of their looks and whether we can get enough liquid courage into ourselves to talk with them and learn more.

It’s obvious to me that the future of dating will involve mobile, social networks that tell us more about the compatibility of the people around us.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how big people like and eHarmony became on the trend of helping us find our dating partners and why this would be improved my mobile, social networks.  How long this trend takes is unclear – but in 10 years I feel confident we’ll look back and say, “duh.”

FourSquare obviously brings up a lot of interesting commercial opportunities.  For years I saw companies pitching themselves as “mobile coupon companies” and I never believed this would be a big idea.  I’m not a big believer that people walk around with their mobile devices and say, “let me now pull out my device and see wether there are any coupons around me.”  I always said that if an application could engage the user in some other way – like a game – it would earn the right to serve up coupons as a by-product.  I think that is what Foursquare has done well.

In the future I don’t believe that Foursquare’s “check-in” game with badges will be enough to hold users interests but for now it’s working well.  I’ve always said that if Foursquare has a “second act” coming it could be a really big company.  In the long-run I believe that check-ins will be more seamless – something handled by infrastructure in the background.  So I expect more and new games from Foursquare in the future.  One awesome features of today’s Foursquare that often isn’t talked about is the ability to graph your friends on a real-time map and see where everybody is.  This is a killer feature for the 20 and 30 something crowds for sure.  Me? When I go out I mostly prefer to eat in peace with my wife and friends without people knowing where we are – I guess we all get old ;-)

In the next post I will make some predictions about where social networking is going next.  And only one hint —it isn’t all dominated by Facebook.  Stay tuned.  If you can’t wait you can get a sneak peak in the PowerPoint presentation below.

Social Networks: Past, Present & Future

December 03 2010


Social Networking: The Past

Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part guest post by venture capitalist Mark Suster of GRP Partners on “Social Networking: The Past, Present, And Future.” This post is an adaptaion of a recent talk he gave at the Caltech / MIT Enterprise Forum on “the future of social networking.” You can watch the video here , or you can scroll quickly through the Powerpoint slides embedded at the bottom of the post or here on DocStoc.

Social Networking 25 Years Ago: CompuServ, Prodigy & The Well

Listening to young people talk about social networking as a new phenomenon is a bit like hearing people talk about a remake of a famous song from my youth as though it was the original version.  If you think “Don’t Stop Believing” was first recorded on the show Glee I’m talking to you.  And so it goes with social networking.

Yes, I was doing it when I was a teenager and yes, it was online, too.  We were on services called CompuServe and Prodigy.  Other people were in the online community called “The Well” (founded in 1985).  We connected for the same reasons you do today.  We were looking for what I call the “6 C’s of Social Networking” – Communications, connectedness, common experiences, content, commerce & cool experiences (fun!).  There were chat rooms, discussion groups, dating, classified ads—you name it.

In in the early 90′s I was in my early 20′s and I programmed on mainframe computers using COBOL, CICS and DB2.  We had email, instant messaging, group calendars, discussion boards, etc. It isn’t new stuff.  It just works better now and there are more people doin’ it.

The Bridge Between Online Services & The Internet: AOL

And then came AOL.  It preceded the WWW.  It was an online community like CompuServe and eventually started offering people dial-up access to the Internet for a monthly fee.  It became the onramp for newbies.  The funny thing about AOL is that while you dialed up to the Internet, the goal of AOL was to keep you locked into their proprietary content and thus earned the classification of “walled garden” because they kept you inside AOL.  They had a proprietary browser, their own search engine, their own content, chat rooms, email system, etc.

As I like to say, my Mom would call me proudly and say, “Honey, I’m on the Internet!”  And I’d say sardonically, “no, Mom, you’re not on the Internet.  You’re on AOL!”  I don’t think she really understood the difference.  AOL was controlled by one company and the Internet was distributed.  AOL controlled the services, taxed companies to access users and decided what was good or bad.  AOL was closed, the Internet was open.

But AOL brought online services, email, chat and discussion boards to the masses and thus educated a generation that paved the way for others.  They blanketed the country in CDs stuffed inside of food packages and service as coasters on airplanes.  At it’s peak AOL had about 20 million US subscribers.  That might not sound like a lot in a Facebook world but remember that these people were paying an average of about $20 / month to AOL for access alone (i.e. $5 billion in annual subscription revenues leaving out advertising or eCommerce).

Brands didn’t advertise their web pages they advertised “AOL Keywords.”  You couldn’t pick up a magazine in the 96-99 timeframe without seeing AOL Keywords advertised everywhere.  If you were a newly minted, venture-backed consumer Internet company you had to have a deal with AOL to reach your customers.  They controlled distribution to the masses.

When Time Warner & AOL merged it was widely feared that this would be a monopoly that would control the Internet.  Ha.

As I write these words I’m aware that I could practically change the words AOL and Facebook for much of this section and with a few factual tweaks it might not be noticeable to the reader who I was talking about.  More on that later.

Social Networking in Web 1.0: GeoCities, Tripod & Yahoo! Groups

By the mid-nineties we had the World Wide Web, which gave us a standard way to publish web pages using HTML.  Smart people understood that people still wanted to accomplish on the world wide web all of things that we did in the pre-Internet world.  Companies like GeoCities & Tripod built tools that let you publish web pages that could be discoverable by others.

Yahoo! rose to prominence by offering a free, ad-supported alternative to all of the crap your mom got on AOL for $20 / month.  After a few acquisitions they offered many of the services you think about as foundations to social networks today.  They had mail, IM, groups, answers, etc.  Groups in particular became the standard for clubs across the company to communicate to their churches, mothers’ clubs & schools.  Yahoo! then bought GeoCities for $3.6 billion.  They looked unstoppable.  Ha.

Yes, social networks of 2010 have much better usability, have better developed 3rd-party platforms and many more people are connected.  But let’s be honest – they’re mostly the same old shit, reinvented, with more people online and trained.

In my next post tomorrow, I will explore where social networking is today and how we got here.


Social Networks: Past, Present & Future

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