Archive for the ‘Social Networking’ Category
It gives me great pleasure to showcase the efforts of the Tekriti intern team in the form of LetsCricket.com LetsCricket is perhaps first social networking community targeted towards Cricket fans. Its built on top of the PeopleAggregator platform, which of course Tekriti develops with Broadband Mechanics. I had this project in mind since a very long time and I had registered the domain name more than an year back.
With the interns coming in and the world cup being just a few weeks away, we felt it was right opportunity to build LetsCricket.
LetCricket is targeted towards the typical crazy overzealous cricket fan (like myself). Indians love to talk about cricket (no matter they might have never played ever in their lives). So clearly disusing cricket is a very social activity. On LetsCricket, users can create groups, participate in discussions, vote for their favorite players, maintain cricket blogs and find other people with common interests.
LetsCricket is very much a work in progress. It has been put together in less than 3 weeks by Pankaj and Santosh (with generous help from Gurpreet and rest of the PeepAgg team). We are adding new features in to the site everyday. We decided to make the URL public in the spirit of open development approach. Do give it a look!
Really good news from Marc finally forced me out of my blogging slumber. IBM is going to offer a corporate social networking solution. IBM’s solution, called Lotus Connect, offers out of the box common social networking components for deployment within corporate environments.
The IBM package includes five applications: profiles, where employees post information about their expertise and interests; communities, which are formed and managed by people with common interests; activities, which are used to manage group projects; bookmarks, where people share documents and Web sites with others; and blogs, where people post ongoing commentaries.
This is great news because in effect IBM has validated the stance that social networking is indeed relevant in the corporate environment. The feature set mentioned above is a sub-set of what People Aggregator offers. And People Aggregator has been out in the market for several months now. But selling to corporates is hard, especially for startups. IBM’s announcement will have the effect of making big corporates take notice of social networking. The IBM marketing machinery will make sure that the corporate world gets adequately educated about the benefits of employing the “Web 2.0″ and social networking constructs to the workplace.
It is also heartening to know that we were ahead of the curve by some distance! It was almost two years back when the idea of developing People Aggregator as a reusable software download was conceived!
So hopefully next time Marc goes pitching to a big company, at least he wont have to answer the “Why would we want that?” question!
Kanwaldeep of BrainGain Media emailed me to inform me about MeraVideo. Mera Video is a self confessed YouTube clone as of now. The site has very similar features with the main difference being that the content is targeted towards an Indian audience. I had two obvious questions for Kanwaldeep:
1. What are your plans in terms of scalability? YouTube was burning more than a million dollars a month on bandwidth costs. How do you plan to monetize the website to keep it sustainable? Are you raising money for the same?
MeraVideo can be termed ‘as of now’ the Desi version of YouTube but has been designed to eventually generate monies thru various unexplored revenue streams. Some of the revenue streams include: Syndication of Content, A Television show called ‘India’s Amazing/Funny Videos’ and selling of premium accounts for users with high bandwidth usage requirements. The eventual goal is to be a ‘Media Content Aggregator’ for India. The main source of revenue ‘at this point of time’ is ‘Confidential’ and we plan to unleash it with the rollout of our Beta Version slated to be sometime end of this year. I am not in a position to share the ‘main revenue’ or monetization source at this point of time due to its confidentiality.
I agree, the main barrier to entry when it comes to scalability is ‘the high bandwidth requirements’ for running a video sharing site. To address the same, MeraVideo is raising its first round of funding. A lot of angels as well as early stage VC funds have expressed interest in this venture. We expect to close the first round in the next 20 days. The first round of funding is intended to address the following: Infrastructure, Scalability and Manpower, PR.
2. What is your stance on copyright material? I see lot of copyright material on your site. How do you plan to deal with that issue?
In general I am skeptical about clones of any sort. I think MeraVideo or any India targeted video portal will have to innovate locally in some aspects. My guess is that mobile integration could be the killer feature for the desi audience. The fact that MeraVideo has tie ups with big media houses is definitely a big plus in their favor. At the same time, the popularity of YouTube was to a large extent due to the availability of copyright TV content there. It would be interesting to see how VCs react to Video sharing sites post-YouTube acquisition. This is one space where you can not survive long without VC money! All the best to MeraVideo!
Youtube got bought over by Google for a whopping $1.6 Billion (no links here – its all over the place!). Going by how popular the site has become, it was only a matter of time before one of the big guys bought it out. Congrats to them! Our company, Tekriti, started off building one of the earliest video sharing sites back in Feb-March 2005 for our first client. Ourmedia.org was launched in March 2005. YouTube came along almost 9 months later. Ourmedia had a host of video and media experts on its panel of advisors and it had (and has) a team of volunteer editors to wean out copyright content. YouTube on the other hand has the policy of letting copyright content remain online until the copyright owner objects. Ourmedia allows users to download the original high quality video while YouTube only allows online viewing of very low res. flash versions. So for a site that started with a 9 month lead, it feels like Ourmedia was a missed oppurtunity. Of course, to be clear, Ourmedia is a non-profit and making billions of dollars wasnt even the aim and it still gets significant traffic and has over 100,000 videos hosted. But the kind of popularity that Ourmedia should have seen never came along. At a personal level, it helped us get our company started and gave us the initial credibility any startup needs. So Ourmedia remains very special to me.
Looking back, I think there are some very useful lessons to be learnt:
1. Keep it simple and stupid. A lot of time was spent on defining what metadata should be captured while uploading a video. The result was this huge page (login required) with hundreds of form fields to be filled in. Even though most of those fields were optional, it was daunting for the average user to figure out this form. A simple minimalistic user interface helps!
2. Reliability is the key. Ourmedia uses the Internet Archive for storing media. This is great because it provides for free storage. But there were major problems with getting this integration to work. Essentially the video was first uploaded to Ourmedia and then copied over to the Archive using FTP. This was slow and often the servers would simply not respond. I think this is the killer feature of YouTube. It just works!
3. Focus! In my opinion, Ourmedia tried to be too many things at the same time. The site supported audio, image and text uploads along with videos. It supported forums, groups, user profiles and social networking as well. All in the alpha version. In hindsight (which, of course is 20/20), it would have been much more prudent to have done just one core feature (video upload and view) and make it work 100% of the times. Feature bloat is also a side effect of using a prebuilt platform (Drupal in the case of Ourmedia) since you seem to get so many features for “free” so you might as well add them to your site. In reality, adding a feature to an application should be driven by user demand and not by how easy it is to implement.
4. Virality. YouTube allowed embedding videos published there on other websites and blogs. This contributed in a big way to the exponential growth of YouTube. Same can be said for Flickr as well. Ourmedia did not have that viral effect because the user had to come to the website to view a video.
The latest version is live now! We got lot of feedback on the old UI and have made an effort to clean up navigation and user interface. A lot more is in the pipeline but 1.1 is a big step forward from 1.0. Do check it out!
People Aggregator V1.1 is coming this week! This release is all about improving the user interface and site navigation. Lots of bug fixes and some new features too! Stay tuned!
We are constantly getting asked what is PeopleAggregator and what problems does it solve. So I will summarize my thoughts here.
What is PeopleAggregator?
PeopleAggregator is a term that is used to describe many things:
1. It is a social networking application that runs at http://www.peopleaggregator.net. Yes, it appears like yet another social networking application like Orkut or MySpace. Yes, the UI has issues. Yes, we will be constantly updating it. Yes, you must immediately visit it and create an account there.
2. PeopleAggregator is also a do-it-yourself social networking system. Which means, if you want to build your own community, you could create it there at the click of a button. For example, one could create a network for Soccer enthusiasts at http://soccer.peopleaggregator.net. No coding required! Cool, huh? (Everything beyond this point on is geek speak. So you can directly skip down to the “Why I should care as a user” section at the bottom of this post)
3. PeopleAggregator is a development platform. This is a key differntiation that is not apparent when you visit the website. What this means is that the entire source code is available for download (Free for charities, non-profits and developers). So anybody can download the code, and host it else where. They can also modify it, extend the functionality, create a new user interface etc.
4. PeopleAggregator exposes open APIs and supports open standards. So all web applications that support these APIs can seamlessly share data between themselves. We also support open standards like microformats, structured blogging and identity systems like OpenID.
Why I should care?
1. As a developer: PeopleAggregator is a sophisticated yet easy to program to application development platform. It is built using open source technology so it is easy and cheap to deploy. It supports easy UI customizations. Upgrades are easy and automatic! So as a developer of social software, you would find PeopleAggregator saves you a lot of the grunt work involved in developing such applications. That leaves you plenty of time to focus on the specifics of your business logic.
2. As a site owner of another social software: PeopleAggregator exposes data thru open APIs. Which means, you can use our API to build compelling mashups that gel with your exisiting application. For example, a photo sharing site can allow its users to also pull in their photos stored in People Aggregator. And if your software also exposes APIs, then it allows us to integrate with it. That provides better experience to users and also drives traffic and visibility both ways.
3. As a USER! If you are a user of social software, nothing I have written so far would make sense to you. Then why should you care? PeopleAggregator puts forward several radical ideas. For example, the idea of allowing you to use your flickr ID to sign up means you have one password less to remember. By allowing you to export your profile data and content and move it to another application, we do not lock down users. So if tomorrow you move on to using another social networking application, you dont lose your data. By exposing “APIs” we allow you to use your data outside of PeopleAggregator as well. BUT all this starts to make sense only when others are willing to play along with us. Sure, we support a single login system, but what good is it if we are the only ones? Yes, we allow you to take your data with you. But that requires other applications to allow consumption of that data. We want to allows users to aggregate all their data in one place, doesnt matter if it is your photos on Yahoo, mail on Hotmail, or list of favorites on delicious. But we can’t do that if Yahoo or Hotmail dont let you take your data with you. This notion of the application owning user data is often termed as a “Walled Garden”. Today most web applications are walled gardens. They own your data and lock you in. PeopleAggregator is an attempt to change that. It is all about empowering the user and providing them the choice to do what with their content. This, obvious though it may sound, is radical by today’s standards. That needs to change. Business models need to emerge that show that you don’t have to be a Walled Garden to succeed. Users have to demand better online experience. And that is why you, as a user, should care! Become part of the effort!
Footnote: Tekriti’s role in development of PeopleAggregator. This is another question we get asked a lot. Tekriti is the development partner of Broadband Mechanics (actually BBM was our very first client!) and bulk of the core engine and the application was built by our team in Gurgaon. Phil, Martin, Paolo, MarcS and a host of people across the world work with us on this project. Frankly, the vision is Marc Canter’s and it took me months to just “grok” it. But once I got it I realized how important and far reaching it is.
I just realized that there are like 5 dozen people already blogging live from here. And wifi is really really slow. So no live blogging for me. I might as well turn off my laptop actually listen to what is being said out there.
We are at Gnomedex today. The conference has the who’s who of web 2.0 space in attendance. Michael Arrington is on stage right now. He has a great sense of humor. BTW I think they should ban laptops in conferences. Because right now more than half the audience seems to be just checking email or reading blogs mostly ignoring what is happening on stage. Or maybe they are really listening. Who knows.
I will be posting more later. I also got my first look at Windows Vista yesterday and I am so happy to see it shape up as well as it has! More on that in another post.