Social media company hits and misses


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With Facebook set to go public and MySpace on life support, Custom Communication and SMI chart the history of social media hits and misses

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Social media company hits and misses

  1. Social Media Hits and MissesWith Facebook set to go public and MySpace on life support, Custom Communication charts a history of social media Next Big Things and asks: Where are they now?
  3. The promise: Founded in April 1999, LiveJournal was thefirst service to “productize” the trend of keeping a weblogor online diary. Its first mover status was quickly eclipsedby Blogger and then Six Apart, which bought LiveJournal toadd to its successful Movable Type and Typepad platforms. Where are they now?: Six Apart sold LiveJournal to Russian publishers in 2007.First to Market But don’t write it off - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has one of its blogs.
  4. The promise: Co-founded by Evan Williams inAugust 1999, Blogger was bought by Googlein 2003 just as blogging caught the attentionof the mainstream. Where are they now? Still part of Google’s product portfolio but never fulfilled its potential. Blogger was a victim both of Google’s lack of social media nous and of the cultural shiftMedia Darling away from long-form blogging to social networking and microblogging.
  5. The promise: From humble beginnings in2003 Wordpress founder Matt Mullenweg andhis open source diaspora have quietly createda powerful and adaptable publishing platformto rival anything Google or Microsoft coulddevelop. Where are they now? Arguably the most popular content management system in the world, Wordpress The Innovator continues to provide the bedrock for some of the world’s leading websites.
  6. The promise: Blogging takes too much timewhile Twitter leaves no space to expressyourself. Could blog/microblog hybrids likeTumblr and Posterous be the happy mediumcreative social media sharers crave? Where are they now? Flaky technology seems to Future Shock be hindering Tumblr’s grab at greatness. Posterous’ mobile publishing play may yet prove a winner in a world where smart phones rule.
  8. The promise: Founded in 2002, Friendsterquickly established itself as the first socialnetwork prompting much media frenzy eventhough some would argue the UK’s FriendsReunited was the true forerunner of socialnetworking. Where are they now? After turning down a $30 million acquisition offer from Google inFirst to Market 2003, Friendster found itself losing friends as it fell foul of the fickle nature of social network community retention.
  9. The promise: Rupert Murdoch’s great socialhope, MySpace was bought in 2005 by NewsCorp. for a then whopping $580 million tohelp realize the old media giant’s social mediapotential. Where are they now? On a death watch. Was it News Corp.’s tin-eared approach to turning MySpace into a global entertainment hub, theMedia Darling chaotic design or simply the social smarts of a certain other network that consigned MySpace to the social media scrap heap?
  10. The promise: More than a few people claim tohave recognised Facebook’s early potential(some even have pending lawsuits to enforcethat claim) even if Goldman Sachs wasn’t oneof them. Where are they now?: Now that Goldman The Innovator Sachs has decided FB is worth $50 billion, its imminent IPO looks set to be the most hyped tech event since the AOL-Time Warner merger. What could go wrong?
  11. The promise: China’s top two social networks(of which Ren Ren has the most breakoutpotential) have a combined membership of morethan 500 million users in a country whereFacebook is blocked by the government. Where are they now?: The lessons of Friendster, MySpace, Bebo, not to mention Yahoo, all demonstrate Future Shock the dangers in forecasting online hegemony. Ren Ren, a direct clone of Facebook, has real growth potential but who’s to say a new upstart won’t upstage the lot?
  13. The promise: Launched in 1999, Mercata gotthe markets buzzing with its plan torevolutionize e-commerce by aggregatingconsumers and use that buying clout to attractsellers willing to sell bulk deals at a discount.Paul Allen and Bernard Arnault were part of ateam of investors that poured $90 million intothe venture. Where are they now? Mercata collapsed following the Nasdaq plunge of 2000, cancelled its planned $100 million IPO in January, 2001 and closedFirst to Market down a few days later. Its assets and patents were bought by Seattle entrepreneur Martin Tobias who launched Tippr, a Mercata group-buying clone.
  14. The promise: Mobshop (originally, Accompany)launched about the same time as Mercata with a near-identical business model. The similarities didn’t endthere. It too raised a mountain of cash with MarcAndreessen, General Electric and Visa International allon board. Another big believer: the U.S. government,which awarded Mobshop in 2000 a contract to run itse-procurement. Where are they now? Mobshop ran out of money in 2001 and closed up shop not long after Mercata went bust. Mobshop founders held onto their patent for demand-aggregation Media Darling e-commerce - keeping hopeful investors wondering about a comeback.
  15. The promise: That comeback is today calledGroupon, which shrewdly bought the Mobshoppatent years later and opened its own group-buying business in November, 2008. Today itboasts 50 million users and operates in 35countries, exorcising the group-buyingdemons of the late 90s. Where are they now? Even before raising $950 million, Forbes crowned Groupon “the fastest growing company ever.” The mainstream press is so dazzled by this innovative wonder it rarely evokes the M-word. The Innovator And they never ask Paul Allen what he thinks of the idea.
  16. The promise: There is one kink in the group-buying model, it is so easily replicated.Groupon shrugs off the hundreds of copycatsout there, but it cannot ignore the one playerthat’s already getting great returns on thecrowd-sourcing retail model: Walmart. Where are they now? Launched on Facebook in October, Walmart’s CrowdSaver is going Future Shock great guns, easily amassing thousands of buyers per week, per offer.
  18. The promise: Today the strongest socialmedia currency is undoubtedly visual imagerybut back in 2001 - the year Picasa launched -uploading images to the web was still a niche(and somewhat arduous process). Where are they now? Picasa was part of the great photo service landgrab which saw it being acquired by Google, Photobucket, ahem, snapped up by Fox and Flickr by Yahoo. Picasa First to Market is still going strong helped by a popular Android mobile app.
  19. The promise: In an era of daft web 2.0company names Flickr kinda made sense.Certainly its smart “badge” integration withblog platforms at just the time blogging hitthe big time helped. Flickr galleries were arevelation for many blog and mainstreamonline publishers. Where are they now? Flickr was always more than just a photo sharing service. It promised a community network in its own right and still remains a favorite of photo folk. How long it can Media Darling prosper in the decaying Yahoo empire remains to be seen.
  20. The promise: Facebookers love sharingphotos even if they often fail to check theirprivacy settings before uploading. Membersuploaded 750 million photos on New YearsEve 2011. Where are they now? On a relentless march to social photo domination along with much of The Innovator the rest of the social footprint we choose to share with Facebook and the major brands that salivate over its advertising potential.
  21. The promise: Did we mention the marketingmaking/busting power of smart phones? BothPicplz and Instagram aim to capitalise on ourdesire to snap on the move and share. Where are they now? Perhaps poised for greatness? Perhaps to shoot and burn. We’ve been writing about the coming mobile revolution for over a decade but 2011 might Future Shock just be the year it fulfils the dream. When it does the demand for a killer photo sharing service will explode.
  23. The promise: Delicious launched back in 2003when folksonomy was a hip buzzword. Thebrainchild of former Wall Streeter, JoshuaSchacter, Delicious became the bookmarkingbible for social media early adopters, a statusthat didn’t diminish when Yahoo bought it in2005. Where are they now? Hanging by a knife edge as Yahoo goes through yet another crisis of personality. Late last year techland was abuzz with news that Yahoo was going to kill First to Market Delicious. Now it seems the portal just wants to sell the soon as possible.
  24. The promise: There was a time, halfwaythrough 2006, when social bookmarking wasbeing hyped as the new search and Digg wasbeing afforded the status of YouTube andMySpace. Founder Kevin Rose found himselfon the cover of Business Week with thiscaption: “How this kid made $60 million in 18months.” Where are they now? Digg still gets some 8.5 million visits a month but its attempts at media curating and community building never rivaled the pure play social networks. In 2008 Digg was reported to be losing money and narrowly missed out on being snapped up by Media Darling Google. By late 2010 Rose had resigned as CEO following a decidedly rocky revamp of the site.
  25. The promise: Twitter might not seem anobvious social bookmarking service but it canlay a strong a claim to that role as it doessocial network or microblogging platform.Indeed you could argue that Twitter’s superiorsense of community and follower connectivityis what makes its social site referrals morevaluable to its users even without thefolksonomy tools. Where are they now? Gulp, okay, we’re going to say it. Despite its power as a referral engine/network/microblogging platform Twitter still hasn’t worked out its raison d’etre. That might give it flexibility to evolve The Innovator but if it only succeeds as a social bookmark tool then there will be a lot of VC red faces.
  26. The promise: Facebook’s potential lies both inthe intimacy it affords friendship communitiesand also the mammoth scale of its network.That’s a boon for information distribution andreferrals of services and links based onpersonal trust. Where are they now? New research shows that Facebook is now the number 2 online Future Shock information referral and retrieval source going neck and neck with Google. It’s secret weapon - that ubiquitous “like” button.
  27. VIDEO
  28. The promise: With broadband penetrationfinally reaching meaningful numbers, Tel Aviv-based Metacafe launched its video-sharingcommunity in 2002 operating under theindisputable premise: TV programming execsare lame; its your buddies’ hard drive thatcontains all the must-view videos. Where are they now? An attempt to lure big- name film and TV producers to produce original content for the Web bombed, but the First to Market community still ticks along. The fact it’s never been prudish about NSFW fare helps.
  29. The promise: In 2004, tech pundits crowned“vlogging” as the next big thing and pointed toRocketboom with its video news dispatchesriffing on digital life delivered daily by darlingof the geek boys, Amanda Congdon.Newsweek hailed her refreshing “youthful,Web-savvy insouciance”. Where are they now? Amanda left in 2006 and the term “vlogging,” thankfully, didn’t survive much longer. Rocketboom still lives, Media Darling with another comely blonde presenter reading the script to an audience no bigger than your typical TV news broadcast.  
  30. The promise: The future of video on the webis not about watching a young babe read around-up of cool stuff. It’s about letting all ofus post video at will, creating the world’slargest search-able archive of films. YouTubemay not have conceived this idea, but itteamed with the only company on the planet,Google, that could make it a reality. Where are they now? In November, nearly 146 million Americans watched video on YouTube, a figure that continues to grown steadily month-on-month. YouTube’s recent embrace of advertising hasn’t hurt one bit either. Google was telling analysts last year The Innovator the video-sharing site was close to posting its first profit.
  31. The promise: The good old tube has taken itsknocks, but it’s soaring again thanks to HDTV,PVRs and digital media players. Why elsewould Google and Apple be investing so muchin a technology from the 1920s? Where are they now? The latest Zenith Media forecast says the global TV advertising market will top $202 billion by 2012, accounting for 41% of the entire global ad market. And with Google TV and Apple TV set-top boxes soon to Future Shock be proliferating, even the younger generations will find something cool to watch on the tube again.
  33. The promise: Long before 3G arrived in lowerManhattan, super-popular NYU student DennisCrowley developed in 2000 a computerprogram enabling him to text multiple friendsat once where he was hanging out aroundtown. That innovation became Dodgeball, thefirst mobile social network. Sort of. Where are the now? Despite the fact early Dodgeball users had to manually provide their location to get information on nearby cool stuff, the idea had its fans. One was Google,First to Market which bought Dodgeball in 2005 and shut it down four years later. It lives today as Google Latitude.
  34. The promise: While at Stanford University,Sam Altman dreamed of an application thatwould tell him what all his friends were up toonce he stepped out of class. This was theidea that launched Loopt in 2005 in the pre-iPhone age. Three years later, Steve Jobshimself demoed Loopt on stage when heintroduced to the world the cool possibilitiesof the 3G iPhone. Where are the now? Loopt today boasts 4 million users and is available on every major US mobile network, and, crucially, the Web. Despite Jobs’ sterling endorsement, it’s Media Darling survived by opening up, allowing users to post their updates to more populous social networks, including Facebook and Twitter.
  35. The promise: It’s only fitting that DennisCrowley, founder of Dodgeball should ushergeolocation into the social networking era.Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai launchedFoursquare in 2009, a geo-based socialnetwork that awards “badges” to those who“check-in” to literally any imaginable place,office and living room included. Where are they now? In under two years, Foursquare has leap-frogged older rivals in signing up 5 million users. Even extremely rich people in Switzerland are fans. The World The Innovator Economic Forum will crown Foursquare one of its Technology Pioneers for 2011.
  36. The promise: Asia rules the mobile airwaves.Always has, always will. The mobile-madJapanese are old pros at using the mostadvanced cel networks in the world to check-in, meet up, upload and crowdsource. Mixiwas born in 2004, giving Japanese mobileusers a place to build communities based ontheir particular interests. Where are they now? At 10 million users, Mixi is Japan’s favorite mobile social network, generating millions of pageviews per day. It may not be able to crack the U.S. market, but Future Shock it’s got a lock on the most advanced and utilized market of them all.
  37. Custom Communication is an editorial andsocial media consultancy that draws on manyyears experience in the world of journalism.We’ve spent the last decade charting the riseof dot coms and now social media companies. We provide editorial consultancy services to large and small companies and we run editorial and social media training. Contact or visit to learn more about our work.
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