Does the world need another social network? Apparently some entreprenuers out there feel that MySpace, the Facebook, LinkedIn, TagWorld, and, yes, Friendster (remember them?) are not enough. Next week will see the launch of Uspot.com, a Web 2.0-licious social networking site targetted at the college market.
And (here's another scoop for you) former E-Trade CEO Christos Cotsakos is developing a social network for older international socialites called MoLi (as in Money Life, not "more lies"). It's based out of Palm Beach, Florida, appropriately enough.
The logic behind these businesses seems to be: Got a hot demographic marketers want to reach? Build a social network for them! That's what Uspot is all about. It will let college students (only people with a .edu e-mail account will be able to join) create personal blogs, podcasts, and vidcasts, as well as share photos, music, videos, and email. The site uses lots of Flash. Co-founder and CEO Todd Cohen tells me:
Right now we are focussed on the college market because it's a targeted market that is so highly sought after. I think it is a hot market. A lot of companies are interested in this because of the video, and it is college.
Like with MySpace, rock bands will be able to create their own artist pages. But Cohen is gunning more for the college-oriented Facebook than MySpace. "Most college kids don't like MySpace," declares Cohen. He thinks that his video-, photo-, and blog-friendly site has enough bells and whistles to do to Facebook what MySpace did to Friendster. Consumer-generated media, he says, is his competitive advantage:
Media is a great way to meet people, through common interests of films or music. But through a general population site it is hard to target my school. Uspot really enables you to get more local.
He might be right. But you've got to wonder how many personal profiles people are going to want to fill out for every new social network that pops up. The fact that the Facebook already has a community of six million college students, is a huge network barrier to any new entrant, no matter how great the site is. Because at the end of the day, college students just want to hook up, and they are more likely to find who they are looking for in a bigger, more established network. Second, even if they all do flock to Uspot, what's to stop them from moving on when the next great social network arrives?
And don't even get me started on MoLi.
Call your stockbroker. Oh, too late. Google announced earnings and it's profits rose only 82%. Sounds pretty good, right? Trouble is, investors were hoping for a 148% gain, so they slammed the stock, which is down $67 in after-hours trading. Ouch. Not even a Google version of a Linux desktop or speculation of a Napster buyout can help them now. The Mo' has left the building. (Where's your $600 price target now?)
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Like all newspapers, the New York Times is facing the erosion of its highly profitable classifieds business from the likes of Craigslist and online job sites. Embracing the inevitable, today it is partnering with Indeed.com (in which it is an investor) to add job search results from Indeed in the "Job Market" part of its Website. When you do a search for a job on NYTimes.com, it gives you results from its own listings, but it now also offers a link titled "Job Market Web Results" powered by Indeed.
If people are going to search the Web for jobs, they might as well be doing it from the NYTimes.com, where they can compare the results side-by-side with the Times' own classifieds. May the best job listings win.
The WSJ reports today that Sling Media raised $47 million from Liberty Media, Echostar, Allen & Co., Goldman Sachs, and Mobius Ventures. The startup is the maker of the Slingbox, a Tivo-like device that ads place-shifting to the already common time-shifting made possible by DVRs. You hook it up to both your TV and PC, and you can access stored TV shows from anywhere on the Web, and soon cell phones too. (My man Om first wrote about it two years ago in B2.0). Imagine the Slingbox built into your satellite set-top box. That would be just another reason to ditch cable. This investment though is yet another endorsement of the notion that media wants to be free.
In other financing news (you heard it here first), I've been informed that Root Markets (the startup that wants to make a market out of consumer attention) just closed an initial $10 million round with private investors including former Time Warner co-CEO Nick Nicholas and former Goldman Sachs partner Mark Green. Did that grab your attention?
Bill Gates thinks that instead of giving the world's poor children $100 laptops that run on Linux, as Nicholas Negroponte wants to do, we should give them cell phones that run on Windows. Spreading computing to poorer nations through cell phones might be the right answer in the long run, but last time I checked full-fledged smartphones cost about $500.
Sure, those costs will come down fast, but then you've got to add a keyboard and a bigger display. The all-in-one hand-cranked laptop Negroponte is pushing seems like it could get to the right price-point (with the right features) much faster.
But let's not forget another $100-PC project being pursued by a less-heralded tech startup in India named Novatium that might be the best solution of all: a network computer with no hard drive that connects to desktop-like applications on the Web and can use a TV as a monitor. That way all those poor kids can have the most up-to-date apps with the cheapest hardware.
A new search engine called Kosmix ranks Web pages by category (like other clustering search engines). Started by the founders of Junglee (a price-comparison search engine they sold to Amazon) and former Stanford classmates of Sergey Brin, Kosmix is focussed on health search right now, but has plans to expand to other categories (SiliconBeat has the details).
An interesting test would be to see if Kosmix returns more relevant health results than Healthline (which I wrote about here). The difference between the two is that Healthline limits its search to a predetermined set of less than 100,000 health-related Web sites, whereas Kosmix crawls 2.7 billion Web pages and infers which ones are health-related based on its content and the content of pages linking to it.
Guided navigation is definitely a next step in search (a company called Endeca pioneered this with its enterprise search product year ago), but ultimately you don't want to have to go to a hundred different vertical search engines to find what you are looking for. Eventually (through building or buying it), it's just going to be part of your Google, Yahoo, or MSN search results.
Ever wonder they figure out the pecking order at Davos? My former Fortune colleague Justin Fox, who is at Davos this year, explains:
The gradations of status at the World Economic Forum are many. There are the legions of worker bees: Their badges come in various shades of blue. Then there are the working press, who get to attend some WEF events but not the really interesting ones. Their badges are orange. Then there are security people, aides to really important participants (less important ones, such as Congresspeople and run-of-the-mill CEOs, don't get to bring staff), and various other categories with badges in various different shades.
It's among those who possess the white badges bespeaking full Davoliciousness, though, that the status game gets really interesting. At the lowest rung are spouses, girlfriends and partners of WEF participants, who get to join in on all the fun stuff and avoid actual work if they want, but are condemned by their badges to the soft bigotry of low expectations. While everybody else's badges say where they work, the spouses' are left blank -- even though many of them have jobs far more impressive than mine.
In a nice reflection of how our world now works, though, the biggest stars of all here this year are Angelina Jolie, in her function as a UN goodwill ambassador, and Brad Pitt, who I presume is wearing one of those spouse badges that doesn't say what he does for a living.
All hail the white badges.
If you put in a search term, it will search B2Day. But if you click on the drop-down menu you will see that you can also search the "Business Web." This is a list of business sites and blogs (including CNNMoney.com, Bloomberg.com, Businessweek.com, Yahoo Finance, Memeorandum, GigaOm, John Battelle's Searchblog, TechDirt, TechCrunch, and others) that I've rolled into my own search engine mashup. Check out the full list here. (You can also add this custom search engine to your own Website/blog or to the drop-down searchbox in a FireFox browser).
What other sites or blogs should be included to create a comprehensive business search engine? What other custom search engines would you like me to add to the drop down menu?
The whole thing is powered by Yahoo. I'm going to try it out for a while and see how people like it. So please let me know your thoughts (in comments).
Author: Erick Schonfeld