Social Networks

MySpace Launches Android App; Android Goes Open Source

Social networking site MySpace announced that it had launched an Android application in advance of the G1's general availability (tomorrow). MySpace and Facebook are engaged in a race to establish themselves in mobile. Today the two sites are dominant in the very early days of mobile social networking.

Top mobile social networking sites (only 6% of users had visited a social networking site on their mobile phones):

 Social Networks

Source: Opus Research/Multiplied Media (2/08, n=1,022)

In addition, Google announced today that Android had formally released its code to the world and is now truly open source:

Today, Google and the Open Handset Alliance announced the availability of the Android platform source code to everyone, for free, under the new Android Open Source Project. This represents the first truly open and fully featured mobile platform which will enable people to create a mobile device without restrictions, build applications that run on Android powered devices, and contribute to the core platform.

As an open source project, anyone can contribute to Android and influence its direction. It means that anyone can download, build, and run the code needed to create a complete mobile device. With an open source platform, developers, OEMs, carriers and code contributors are given the opportunity to build faster, cheaper and more innovative devices and services.

The G1 from T-Mobile is being delivered tomorrow and Motorola is working on a "social smartphone" that builds in easier access to MySpace and Facebook, based on the Android platform. 

Comparing Mobile Social Networking Data

ABI Research just released the results of a Q2 survey of 500 US social network users about their mobile behavior. Here are the top-level findings:

  • 46% of respondents (social network users) have visited social networks on a mobile device. Of this group, almost 70% have gone to mobile MySpace and 67% had visited Facebook. No other social networking site reached 15% adoption mobile adoption. 
  • The biggest features consumers use when accessing a social network on their phone is checking for comments and messages from their friends, with both of these features registering above 50% for mobile social network users. Posting status updates also has proven popular, with over 45% of mobile social users letting others what they are up to via their phone.

Opus/LMS conducted a similar survey about awareness and usage of mobile social networks earlier this year with a sample of 1,022 North American users. Here's what we found:

  • Roughly three-quarters of mobile phone subscribers are members of social networks – In Canada, the figure exceeds 80%; in the U.S., it approaches 69%.
  • Only about 6% have accessed social networks through their wireless phones. Based on other research conducted by LMS, that figure represents between one-half and one-third of the mobile Internet user population.
  • Only one-third of the sample expressed interest in mobile social activities – A short list of potential uses (such as learning who’s nearby or getting recommendations about events, etc.) elicited interest from about 30% of sample with 10% showing a keen interest.
  • Accessing social network sites from mobile phones seen as a “way to pass the time” – While this doesn’t put it on a par with the Blackberry for addictive use, it does acknowledge the value of using the phone to “stay connected” with friends.
Reasons for MSN

 
If we did this survey again tomorrow, we might find that some of the numbers would have grown slighly in terms of mobile social networking adoption. In our data we also found that MySpace and Facebook, the dominant online social networks also had the highest usage and brand recognition among the "mobile social networks."

GoodRec Gets a Good Review

Just when you thought you’d seen all the local review sites you were going to see for awhile along comes GoodRec. The temptation might be to regard the site as a Yelp wannabe and quickly dismiss it. Not so fast.

There are some very interesting things going on here that make the site different:

  • A mobile-centric approach
  • Simplified recommendations (as opposed to lengthy narratives)
  • A broad, horizontal content strategy that extends to products

The rest of my discussion of the site is on Screenwerk.

GoodRec

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Related: TechCrunch profiles some of the location-enabled social networks for the iPhone.

Some of the sites discussed by TechCrunch, including Loopt and Whrrl, may find audiences and sustain themselves. (There's not enough mobile advertising right now to realize the promise of LBS.) But to truly succeed, these sites have to do more than tell you who's nearby on top of a local database; they must provide real value.

This is not to say "game over" already, but it's pretty clear that Facebook and MySpace will dominate social networking on mobile phones -- or it's their market to lose I should say. 

Yelp 2.0 for the iPhone Coming Soon

Right now Yelp is number 93 among the top 100 free iPhone apps. I received an email over the weekend from CEO Jeremy Stoppelman about some upgrades and feature additions to the Yelp app (version 2.0). These features aren't live yet but Stoppelman expects the upgraded app to become available (after Apple approval) at some point next week. Here's the list:

  • Map now links to Google Maps for quick directions, zooming, etc.
  • Complete attributes about each business now included (good for groups, reservations accepted, etc).
  • More photos Link to official business website (opens Safari)
  • Business Hours

Stoppelman said in the email, "My favorite new feature is the 'Hot on Yelp Nearby,' which tells you the most noteworthy businesses near your current location."

Here are some screenshots of Yelp 2.0 for the iPhone: 

Yelp 2.0 for the iPhone 1

Yelp 2.0 for the iPhone 2

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Related: The New York Times has a roundup of travel-related applications for the iPhone.

Limited Interest in Social Nets -- For Now

According to comScore, 132 million people visit a social networking site every month, spending 3.5 hours per month per visitor. That represents about 69% of the total US Internet population. One would thus anticipate that this behavior will translate into mobile. Yet early survey work indicates barriers to adoption.

A recent Vodafone-sponsored study has generated results that are broadly consistent with we found in our study of mobile social networking in North America with Multiplied Media. The Vodafone study was conducted in the UK by ICM Research in May and June of this year as part of a larger, omnibus survey (n=709). The survey was conducted by telephone.

Here are the top-level findings:

  • 94% of respondents who used the Internet had mobile phones
  • 43% of this group used their mobile phones (at any point) to access emails and websites
  • 24% had visited social networking sites on their mobile phones
  • 7% visited social networking sites via mobile phones on a daily basis

Demographic differences:

  • 18-24 year olds were most active in mobile social networking: 20% used mobile devices to visit social networking sites daily; 37% among this group checked email daily (on mobile phones) and 32% visited mobile websites
  • 25-34 year olds: 11% used mobile devices to visit social networking sites everyday

Cost was the greatest deterrent to those who didn't access social networks on mobile phones; but this goes beyond social networks alone to all manner of mobile Internet access and activity.

Below are some sample slides from the mobile social networking study we developed (2008, n=1,022). Only 6% of respondents currently accessed social networking sites (mostly Facebook and MySpace) on their mobile devices.

Barries

Reasons

Note: small base

Beyond cost, which is present in our study and the UK study as a barrier to mobile social networking, our study reflected a lack of interest or perceived need: "generally not interested, no need."

But how does one reconcile these findings with the previously reported data from both Vodafone and Opera.

Vodafone (May, 2008):

Top 4 searches on the Vodafone Mobile Internet (VMI) (ranked by most searched first)

  1. Facebook
  2. Bebo
  3. eBay
  4. Windows live Hotmail

Top 10 mobile internet sites on VMI (ranked by most visited first)

  1. Facebook
  2. Google
  3. BBC
  4. MSN
  5. Bebo
  6. Sony Ericsson
  7. Yahoo
  8. MySpace
  9. Windows live Hotmail
  10. YouTube

Opera (May, 2008):

Top 10 sites in the US (per Opera):

  1. www.myspace.com
  2. www.google.com
  3. www.mocospace.com
  4. www.yahoo.com
  5. www.facebook.com
  6. www.live.com
  7. www.hi5.com
  8. www.wikipedia.org
  9. www.itsmy.com
  10. www.ebay.com

Top 10 sites in the UK (per Opera):

  1. www.facebook.com
  2. www.google.co.uk
  3. www.live.com
  4. www.bebo.com
  5. www.mocospace.com
  6. news.bbc.co.uk
  7. uk.yahoo.com
  8. www.itsmy.com
  9. www.faceparty.com
  10. www.ebay.co.uk

These Vodafone and Opera data are behavioral data. But there's also reason to trust the UK and LMS surveys. The discrepancy can perhaps be explained by the "early adopter" nature of the Vodafone and Opera browser users. They are potentially a leading indicator of the potential future popularity of social networking on mobile devices.

Cultural factors will likely drive social networking on mobile devices; when the person on your left and on your right are doing it you'll be similarly inclined. Until that time, cost considerations and a lack of need or urgency will likely keep the mass of mobile users from tapping mobile social networking.

Mobile Social Networking Revenues Will be Slow to Appear

ABI Research has predicted that mobile social networking with generate $3.3 billion in revenues by 2013. While we agree that mobile applications with social elements will be popular -- although there's very limited adoption today -- there's almost no chance that this sort of revenue can be generated by advertising alone (the release doesn't in fact say advertising will drive all the revenue).It's also doubtful that subscription revenues can exist in a competitive atmosphere where most companies will offer or already do offer free services. If Facebook and MySpace Mobile are free, how can anyone think about charging except on a one-time-only download basis (if then)?

In limited cases, companies such as Pelago/Whrrl or Citysense might be able to charge retailers, some restaurants and selected others for B2B intelligence and data based on tracking of foot traffic and user movements from business to business.

For advertising to work on mobile social networks either targeting or scale or both are required. Blyk, an MVNO in the UK, presents itself in a youth marketing channel, for example. However mobile ad networks may be able to support some companies if they have "enough" scale to cover their basic costs. Yet for other than the largest social networks it's a big challenge to live off ad-support until they can get to scale, if ever.

In all likelihood there will need to be a patchwork of advertising options employed by these sites: search, display and text. Even then it will be tough at the present stage of market development.

Barries to Mobile Social Networking

Source: Opus-LMS/Multiplied Media (2008), n=826

Quova Acquires Verifia; Poised to add More Metadata

Geotargeting specialist Quova has just purchased authentication and identification expert Verifia for an undisclosed sum. Both companies were founded in 2000. Over the years Quova has refined its core value proposition by creating a service that of pinpoints the location of Web users by gleaning the maximum amount of information about their location of their IP addresses and associating it with demographic data and other metadata. It provides its services to major e-retailers, ad networks, banks and government agencies who employ the data to geo-target  advertising and content, detect and prevent identify theft and credit card fraud, or comply with laws and regulations. 

Verifia's has two core products: NetGeo and TIP (Theft of Identity Protector). NetGeo, is a geolocation service that would augment Quova's core competency of pinpointing a user's location. TIP adds the dimension of fraud protection. The acquisition makes an explicit link between building incentives built around targeting of messages around geolocation, while at the same time erecting barriers against fraudulent activity by Web-based imposters and identity thiefs. This sort of secure geotargeting is designed to encourage more locally oriented activity among the company's clients. Verifia's clients (who will now be served by Quova) include American Express, Boots, and the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. They will join Quova's formidable roster of "thousands" of Web-based companies.

Toward a More Useful Twitter

SEO expert Andrew Shotland pointed out a new yellow pages service, Twellow, whose content is built on Twitter. The execution, from my cursory examination, isn't great but the concept is right.

Twellow

I wrote about something very similar after the Twitter acquisition of Summize. The concept is mining the Twitter data for local recommendations. The problem is properly sufacing (and archiving) the right information and getting rid of the noise. That's no small task.

We wrote about the model a long time ago in the context of Mosio.

CallGenie in Ads Deal with Broadcaster Media

Broadcaster Media began life not long ago as a mobile website authoring tool/platform. Now it offers a range of mobile services directed toward "brands." Among them is Wireant, which is a tool -- kind of a container -- that enables marketers (or users) to create mobile content/applications. It will launch later this summer.

CallGenie will be supporting Wireant with services and advertising in a partnership announced this morning:

As part of the relationship, Call Genie will serve as an SMS delivery house and ad network partner and provide Broadcaster Media with an integrated ad platform that will access and deliver relevant, targeted text, banner and audio advertisements for presentment in their WireAnt desktop application as well as within SMS messages and on mobile web pages. . .

Broadcaster Media's WireAnt, is a desktop application that allows consumers to quickly create and distribute mobile content to their friends. This content can be sent using SMS, with embedded mobile web links. Call Genie will provide the SMS text messaging capability through its OpenMobile product as well as provide relevant banner ads to the desktop application and text ads when SMS messages are sent from the desktop to a WireAnt user's friend.

CallGenie is thus positioning itself as a one-stop shop for mobile advertising and services, as showcased by the range of offerings being utilized by Broadcaster Media.

Qik Now in Public Beta, on iPhone

I had read about Qik a number of times, but first saw the service in action a couple of weeks ago when I moderated a panel on new mobile startups at the offices of France Telecom/Orange in South San Francisco. It was an impressive service and dead simple. Today, the service goes from "private beta" into "public beta."

Qik permits live video streaming in real-time (or near real-time). Clips are achieved and can be shared or embedded in third-party sites. There's also a social networking dimension to Qik. Now the service is on the iPhone too. (At the Orange event, Qik was one of two services that did not use the iPhone for demo purposes.)

The use cases for Qik are many and varied and there are lots of B2B scenarios. Think also: news, travel, events and so on. The simplicity of the service all but guarantees its success. But quality will need to improve for more "professional" uses.

Zumobi Launches for Blackberry

Zumobi has launched its widget-based application for Blackberry. Conceptually similar to Where or the iPhone, the app provides distribution for a range of content partners (via "Tiles") on an customizable interface. Those partners include NPR, AP, Twitter, Facebook and a range of others. In addition, the widget format offers a range of interesting brand and merchant promotional opportunities.

Zumobi interface

Where just launched a successful application for the iPhone that incorporates its content partners, who in many cases (i.e., Yelp, Eventful) have their own independent iPhone apps. A Where executive told me yesterday that the people seem to be responding to the convenience of having lots of content (local metasearch) in a single iPhone application.

Zumobi should thus follow in Where's footsteps, if it isn't already.

Blackberry benefits from having the largest U.S. smartphone market share, but it doesn't have the developer or applications ecosystem (yet) to rival the iPhone. Here's a side-by-side comparison between the iPhone 3G and Blackberry Bold.

Google Introduces Mobile Reviews

Google some time ago introduced the ability for Maps users to write their own ratings directly on Google (as opposed to simply seeing aggregated ratings from third parties). The company is now enabling users to write reviews of restaurants from a mobile browser.

Once the desired restaurant is located users navigate to the "sign in and write a review link" (which appears further down from the listing on the details page):

Mobile reviews on Google

Mobile reviews on Google

Star ratings are provided via a pull-down menu and then people have the option to include a narrative. Presumably these ratings would also be incorporated into Google Maps on the desktop.

One might think mobile reviews would be inhibited by the "form factor" and resistance to typing on a mobile keyboard. However, Google's emphasis on stars (with optional narrative) makes it quite easy to complete a review in a few seconds. Notwithstanding the fact that it's a little buried, this capability should generate lots of additional reviews content for Google. People will likely do this while they're in the restaurant or just after they've left.

I would also guess that these star ratings will eventually make it into Goog411 as well ("sort by rating").

Twitter + Summize = Social DA

When the "Twitter buying Summize" rumors first appeared I wrote this post:

Twitter is a service that I do not use, but others love it. However, Twitter (or Twitter plus Summize) could become a very useful mobile search engine (for recommendations) or real-time “mobile social DA.” What I mean by social DA, as in directory assistance, is a distributed base of users who substitute for the function of directory assistance.

Rather than the self-indulgent string of “tweets” (I’m in the car, I’m now getting out of the car, I’m now opening the front door . . .) one could ask the community for local recommendations. Alternatively, if an engine like Summize could filter out the “noise” among the tweets it might create a very valuable database of content that could be accessed on the go.

Now that the acquisition has been confirmed (for an estimated $15 million), this is the path that I believe the company must pursue to really become useful. In addition, a searchable archive of recommendations would enable the service to broaden its appeal.

There are several advertising scenarios, but that all probably revolve around contextual and geographically targeted ads.

YouTube Demo of Where iPhone App

Here's a demo of the Where iPhone app on YouTube.

Where on the iPhone

Where is just one of a growing number of applications with "friend finder" or awareness capability (Brightkite, Loopt, Whrrl, etc.). This capability will taking getting used to and raises privacy issues for consumers who will have to learn how to negotiate this new "cultural" arena.

The iPhone Apps Store Launches

The apps store has launched on the most recent version of iTunes. There are tons of apps (500 approx), most of which appear to be free. Here are some screen captures:

Itunes store 1

iPhone applications

iphone social apps

Eventful

Where

Yellowpages.com

Yelp

I haven't counted all the location-aware apps but there are a range of them.

As we've argued in the past its the applications and software that will ultimate distance the iPhone from capable imitators and would be "iPhone Killers." We'll see if Blackberry and Android can build up a similar developer ecosystem and set of applications.

Publishers are generally struggling with Apple's fetish for control. At the opposite end Android will exercise almost no control over apps developed for the platform, when it finally goes live.

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Here's a price distribution chart for the applications. Meanwhile, the Blackberry "iPhone Killer" falters?

Loopt Begins Marketing Push

Seeking to distance itself from the burgeoning field of mobile social networking sites and applications (i.e., Where, Whrrl, Brightkite and so on), Loopt is starting a more traditional marketing push -- of a sort.

This is coming in the form of product placement and demos on "The Middle Show," a Web-only man-on-the-street comedy program, with "webisodes" running approximately three minutes. As MediaPost reports:

The short videos are developed with independent production studio Black20 and feature David Price, host of the Internet-only, late night-style "Middle Show," using Loopt's mobile friend-finding technology as he rocks around New York City. Each show will start with a brief Loopt message and end with a plug from Price.

Assuming some viewership for the Middle Show it's a smart strategy for visibility and user education. As LMS research indicates, most mobile users are largely ignorant of mobile social networks and their capabilities. Many also don't see a reason to use them:

Barries to Mobile Social Networking

Source: LMS/Multiplied Media (3/08, n=730)

Google Talk Now on iPhone

Some time ago I posed the question of whether mobile IM would, over time, negatively impact text messaging. Yesterday I spoke with social messaging service Bluepulse, which appears to have more global messaging volume than anyone else in this category (and dwarfs Twitter). Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL's IM platforms are also now available for mobile.

Last night Google released a version of Google Talk for the iPhone:
There are some differences from using Google Talk on your computer. For instance, in order to receive instant messages with Google Talk on your iPhone, the application needs to be open in your Safari browser. When you navigate away to another browser window or application, your status will be changed to "unavailable" and your Google Talk session will be restarted when you return.
IM on mobile is more immediate than text. Interoperability, however, remains something of barrier to IM in mobile truly becoming a viable substitute for text messaging -- for now.

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Google Talk is also a VoIP platform as well.

Loopt Now on All Major U.S. Carriers, ShoZu Expands

According to the Loopt press release:

Loopt is available today on select Verizon Wireless phones for $3.99 monthly access in the Tools on the Go, Featured Applications and Community shopping aisles in the Get It Now(R) virtual store. Customers need a Get It Now-enabled handset and Verizon Wireless digital service to access the Get It Now virtual store.

Loopt is now on all the major U.S. carriers, which makes it truly "interoperable" and an eventual acquisition target. Mobile social networking (Loopt calls itself a "social mapping" service), is a little like online video. There were lots of startups in the space and then winners started to emerge. The same is true for this market.

We have lots of startup competitors and, eventually, a few winners will start to become clear. Some companies will be acquired to add their capabilities to a larger portfolio (as with Nokia and Zyb and Plazes).

Mobile social media service ShoZu has broadened its network to include Snapfish, Ovi and SnapMyLife. In addition:

ShoZu users can now upload images to and exchange content with a total of 46 Web 2.0 properties from a single screen on their mobile device for fast and easy mobile social networking - including the ability to mass-publish any photo or video to multiple sites and/or email addresses simultaneously from the handset.

Other destination options added in ShoZus latest round of integrations include AOLs new BlueString media sharing and Xdrive file storage sites, photo/video sharing communities DivShare and Smugmug, Web creation and hosting site Free Webs, and citizen journalism site Reuters You Witness News.

The additions mark ShoZus third major expansion in seven weeks. In May, ShoZu added support for Twitter, Photobucket, Dailymotion, Friendster and five other community sites. Earlier this month, the company upgraded its Facebook services to enable Facebook status updates from ShoZu as well as delivery of new Facebook photos, event listings and other friends posts directly to the phone.

ShoZu also supports communities ranging from YouTube, Flickr, Google Picasa, Kodak Easy Share Gallery and Webshots to personal blogging sites and news desks such as Google Blogger, LiveJournal, Textamerica, TypePad, Vox, WordPress, MetaWeblog, CNN, the BBC and Scoopt.

ShoZu isn't trying to be a social network per se but rather an umbrella media sharing service that helps users manage mobile media across services.

Nokia Acquires Social Network Plazes

Nokia has purchased Plazes, a social networking provider based in Berlin. From the release:

Plazes provides a context-aware social-activity service that people can use to plan, record, and share their social activities: why they are at a given location at a given time, whether in the past, present or future.

By acquiring Plazes, Nokia will be able to extend its context-based service offering with social presence and time-based activity planning features. Plazes adds the elements of "place" and "time" to social networking through features that allow people to alert friends of their activity and location; review their own and others' past activities; share their experiences and make plans with friends, who are then able to respond with comments and suggestions as well as their own location information.

With Plazes, location can be managed on the desktop or via a mobile device. But this is not just about mobile but about the Ovi portal and the desktop. The acquistion is part of Nokia's move to transcend its OEM status and become an "Internet company." Indeed, Nokia has a growing portfolio of acquisitions, most notably including Navteq and Enpocket.

To be competitive longer term, social networks will need to have both a desktop and a mobile presence.

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Here's more on the acquisition from the Plazes blog.

Loopt Now on Blackberry, Coming to iPhone

Loopt, one of the first mobile-only social networks, announced that it was available now on Blackberry:

Loopt, a revolutionary social-mapping and communication service, announced today that the location- based service is now available for free to BlackBerry users on the Sprint, Alltel, T-Mobile and AT&T networks. BlackBerry users can now share their location information with friends across multiple devices and carrier networks.

The company also has an iPhone version coming out. Right now there's limited usage among mobile subscribers of mobile social networking. But we see this (or social features on mobile apps) as a category with significant potential.

Interest in mobile social capabilities

Source: LMS/Multiplied Media, 2008 (n=862)

The questions revolve around whether the companies can rise above the noise in the sector and/or can hold out until the users show up. There's also the question of whether these firms can monetize their usage effectively. For the near term they'll have to tap into ad networks or other sources of locally targeted ad inventory.

However, the agencies and advertisers haven't yet caught up to the technology and its targeting capabilities. So the "inventory" doesn't yet exist for the super-targeting that mobile phones with GPS allow.