Mark Zuckerberg and his team launched the new Facebook Groups today. He mentioned that not more than 5% users used the existing friend list features to share information between different groups of their friends. These lists are private to each user and other users can’t see these lists. I am part of that 5% and have almost all my friends put into one or more than one bucket. Although, I rarely use the lists to target my status messages or other content that I share.
The idea behind Groups is to make the friend lists more of public and add the virality to it so that a lot more people be part of these groups even if not more than 5% people create them. They gave a great example about FB photos. Only a few % of users actually upload the pictures, but a lot more are tagged. This is a great analogy, but I don’t think comparing photo tagging with groups is an apples to apples comparison.
First problem I see with the groups as launched is, that even though with virality a lot of people will be part of the groups but they won’t actually use them. I don’t really see my friends using the groups to communicate with the group members. Maybe I am making this claim based on my observations so far and things might change with UI changes and eventual groups adoption. But at this time, I don’t think the groups will be adopted to communicate or shared certain things by most of my friends.
Within 30 minutes of using the product, I have noticed another flaw behind the groups philosophy. Due to the social nature of the groups, I see friends getting offended on why they are not part of certain groups or why some other people are not part of certain groups. If I create a group called “Close Friends” and add a few friends in that, what will others think about it? Yes, I can make the group “secret” so that no one else other than the members can see it. However, the friends in that “Close Friends” group may judge me for not adding those other people who they think are close friends too. This was not a problem with the Friends List, I could label them whatever I liked without thinking about how others will perceive it.
FB Groups - Family
Another problem that I noticed within a few minutes of using the product is that a lot of people are going to have the same names for the groups. This is more of a UI problem and can be resolved with UI enhancements. Yes, I am aware I can change the icon for the group and even upload a profile image for the group, but that is an added step. With all the extended family I have on Facebook I might eventually be part of 4-5 “Family” groups.
I would like to see a product that algorithmically connected me with friends based on a ton of data that Facebook has about me and my actions. It is not an easy task, but I believe it is possible and I look forward to a startup taking a jab at it eventually.
With the rise of Social Networks (mainly in USA) everybody is trying their to harness the community power on the web in one way or another. How about a Social Network dedicated to Indians? India has a huge population and one of the highest growing internet users in the world. Shouldn’t this help Indian Social Networks to gain an easy momentum? I don’t think so. While talking about the BPO and the outsourcing generally the English speaking/writing skills of Indians are appreciated and are considered as a plus point, but in case of social networks it can be a hinderance.
It is easier to start a social network for Chinese, French and a few other countries in their own languages as those languages are widely spoken/written in their respective countries. Most urban Indian (or perhaps the web users) prefer to write Hindi in English (including me). If an Indian can find all his firends on Orkut and communicate in English, why does he need to visit any Indian clone of Orkut?
As far as I know there are a couple of Indian Social Networks – minglebox.com (which is in alpha and taking signups) and yaari.com ( which is in beta and giving away some ipods ). It is good to see them coming up, but they do have challenges like Orkut which has integrated Gtalk and are adding some cool features.
I think Indian Social Networks face challenges like making themselves more Indianized – mobile integration is perhaps one of the key features. Yaari claims to have SMS inegration, while minglebox is working on it.
Revenue generation – Indian web market hasn’t reached to a point where they can easily sell their brand name/web space for money. The trends are good and advertisers are understanding the value of web presence, but it will take sometime for the advertisers to believe in the web. The early social Networks will have to create the non-exisiting market of web advertising.
I read about meravideo on mashable and newdelhitimes. It is really strange that they got $1.5M funding for an off the shelf script. I understand that the founder(s) have partnerships with Sahara or other brand names, but I don’t think India is at a stage where people can (or want to) watch Kyunki Saas Bh Kabhi Bahu Thi on meravideo or a similar web site. It is highly unlikely that someone in India would want to watch Dhoom 2’s 50 sec. promo on meravideo, while almost every other channel on TV is bleeding with its promos every hour. It is intersting to note that meravideo is hosted in Houston, TX. This would delay video loads for viewers in India. If this service is aimed at NRIs why do they have a contest Make a video and win Rs 10,000*? Once again, I think if meravideo integrates mobile, they can be Indianized. They can offer services like uploading videos using MMS (no pun intended) or WAP, subscribing to videos on Mobile, SMS alerts, etc.
It will be interesting to watch these ventures and see if they change the market or the market changes them. Good Luck!