AIM Pages Launched

Updated: changed some stuff around after playing with Pages a bit longer.

AIM Pages, the mythical "MySpace Killer" developed by AOL, launched this morning at http://www.aimpages.com. Michael Arrington at TechCrunch weighs in:

If AIM Pages launched today as a stand alone company with no affiliation to AOL, I’d be ripping it apart. Personal publishing is very easy, and users have too many choices. Anything new really has to stand out, and AIM Pages doesn’t. AIM Pages is a slick looking Ajax product, but is not really raising the bar v. Myspace, Tagworld and others. I’m also dissapointed that it’s not working properly in Firefox. Now, the fact that your AIM Page will be prepopulated with your AIM buddies is a big competitive advantage, and I imagine AIM will have some level of success due to that asset.

I'm a few minutes into testing the product, so here's some quick thoughts.

I have to disagree with Michael here, and agree with Jason Calacanis: AIM Pages is absolutely the best social networking software that's out there right now.  It shares a lot of the same features as TagWorld, but is much faster and easier to actually get stuff done than TagWorld is.  I love TagWorld to death, and have always viewed it as the underdog fighting the big bully in MySpace, but AOL just jumped directly into the fray with a thundering shot that will be heard 'round the world.

Customizing your profile is far easier than MySpace, and just a bit easier than TagWorld. Everything is done via AJAX, and it's pretty intuitive as far as profile editors go. I completely overhauled my profile in three minutes, doing things that would have taken me at least an hour searching through various third-party MySpace Custom Profile sites to complete.

Adding buddies/friends is super easy. You click Edit on that section, and it'll tell you which of your buddies from your AIM screen name are eligible for inclusion on your list. If they have an AIM Page, they're eligible and can be added immediately. If they don't (which is the case for 99% of my buddies right now), they're listed under ineligible, but it gives you the option of sending out an IM to let them know they can create a profile. I expect that within a week, most people using AIM will have already set up a Page and the network will grow to massive proportions quite quickly.

Setting up a photo album is also easy. You can browse your computer for photos, post pictures from the AOL network, or even include photos sent to you via AOL Albums. Everything is done via a nice drag-n-drop interface.  Oh, and there's a Flickr module if you're not satisfied with the AOL options.  I dropped the Flickr module in, added my username and how many photos I wanted to show, and instantly had my Flickr gallery showing on my profile.
Styling your page and even each individual module is cookie-cutter simple. They've got tons of overall themes to style the main look of your site with, and each section can by recolored, have individual fonts, and more. You can design your own themes, of course, but the preset ones are pretty decent as well.

AOL has included modules for just about everything you can think of, from sports and weather all the way down to the ability to include RSS feeds.  They're also proving that they "get it" with the inclusion of stuff like Del.icio.us links and Flickr photos.  I don't know how much effect Jason Calacanis is really having over there, but good lord, they've changed so much since he joined the company that there HAS to be something going on that we're not aware of.

TagWorld does a lot of stuff that MySpace doesn't do. AIM Pages does a ton of things that MySpace does not do. The difference is that AOL Pages does it quickly, easily and far more effectively.  Oh, and AIM Pages also has a potential instant userbase of 100 million plus users, because everyone who has an AIM screen name has an AIM page reserved just for them. In a matter of weeks, AOL Pages could soar right past MySpace in terms of users, but I don't think it'll stick that quickly. MySpace has become an online home for millions of teens, twenty-somethings and older, and it has a "sticky" factor that will pretty much put the boots to anyone else that tries to overtake it. TagWorld is the best full-featured social networking site out there, and I love the service and the folks that run it, but it won't ever overtake MySpace in the pop culture arena.

MySpace wasn't the first and it surely isn't the best, but it has a userbase that is very, very large and extremely dedicated. AIM Pages is certainly the best social networking software out there today, surpassing TagWorld quite quickly and making MySpace look like a 1995 website in comparison.   Great job, AOL, for continuing to prove that you are open and honest, embracing standards that even the "cool" companies like Google are starting to lose sight of.

My profile 

TagWorld and the upcoming war

Texas weather is no fun at all. After a brief period of rainy days and cool nights, we’re staring in the face of 90 degrees today, and I gotta tell you, the outlook is really, really bright. Too bright for my tastes, in fact. I despise hot weather, which makes my desire to get over to Iraq as soon as possible seem a little strange, I guess.

I’ve been talking with the folks over at TagWorld about implementing The Favorites into their featured bands lineup. The TW people have been nothing if not incredibly receptive and supportive; how many other CEO’s of companies with 2 million users will take the time to not only respond to your messages personally, but contact YOU on their own volition to see how you’re enjoying the service? Not too many. It’s just one reason that Tagworld blows Myspace out of the water in every single aspect outside of user count, but that’ll come.

The war over social networking is getting ready to heat up, and I think it’s going to be ugly. AOL now has revealed that it’s building a social networking site based around AIM where each AIM user will have a page a aim.com/username. Yeah, it’ll be huge, but it won’t be as big as everyone seems to think. A platform built around AIM means that Yahoo exclusive users won’t get to to be involved unless they sign up for AIM, and this’ll mean cutting out a large percentage of people who use Tagworld or MySpace.

But yeah, it’s going to be ugly. I’m pulling for TagWorld on this one, because they just rock.

TagWorld: Infinitely Better Than MySpace

I haven’t used TagWorld in a few months. Granted, I haven’t really used ANY of the social networking sites I used to follow in a few months; MySpace only gets used to promote the band and interact with our listeners, and even then Jon is doing most of the work.

On a whim today, and basically because I saw a few posts by Derek talking a contest he’d entered for designing new TagWorld themes, I decided to give TagWorld another go. I talked about TagWorld a few months back, basically saying that it had all the tools to become a MySpace killer, but that I thought it would have a hard time attracting people away from the behemoth that is MySpace, even with the tools it was offering. I’ve been correct in that prediction, because MySpace is now the #2 most visited site on the internet and signs up 300,000 new accounts every day of the week. It’s a juggernaut and nobody can really compete with it, but I think TagWorld now has a shot at becoming a solid second choice for social networking.

And man, TagWorld just KILLS MySpace in terms of the features they offer. You have complete control over your profile page, you can create new sub-pages for whatever you want, you can include video and audio (in a much easier manner than you can on MySpace), and they’re finally starting to gain some traction in terms of picking up new users.

TagWorld is hot. I don’t think I’ll ever be a conventional MySpacer again. Here’s my TagWorld profile; if you sign up for an account, be sure to drop by and add me to your friends.

Google will own social networking within 6 months

Google’s free hosting service is just one more step in the direction of taking over pretty much every facet of the internet from businesses that have been around a lot longer and do things a lot better than Google ever will.  The Google Page Creator is simply wonderful, and it’ll be great for people who have no idea how to create webpages but want an online presence so they can brag to their friends that theyve got a website.  The thing is, though, Google is going to build social networking into this thing at some point, and at that point it stops becoming a nice free webpage creator and becomes something that could effectively kill MySpace.  With the type of information Google stores and the ease of use for getting it via their search, MySpace would have absolutely no chance whatsoever to compete with them.  Yes, they’ve got jillions of users, but I can pretty much guarantee that Google would convert 80% of those within a year.  MySpace might be the cool site of the moment, but Google is the cool site ALWAYS, and they would have no problem taking over and ruling the social networking scene.  You can forget about TagWorld and any of the other competitors, because Google already has Google Video, Google Book Search, Froogle, Google Talk, Gmail and a thousand other applications they could build in to this page creator to turn it into the ultimate social networking tool.

Who Will Buy TagWorld?

Since purchasing a hot web commodity seems to be all the rage these days, I thought we’d take a quick look at one social networking site that’s surely going to be a hot property one of these days.

MySpace was purchased by Rupert Murdoch for somewhere around $500 million dollars. Much like every other hot Web 2.0 property that’s being purchased, this one was done purely for the userbase. There is nothing extraordinary about MySpace or the software it presents to its users; in fact, it’s antiquated by a lot of standards and downright atrocious when you compare it to TagWorld.

So who’s going to purchase TagWorld? They don’t have the benefit of 50 million users, but they are quickly approaching one million or so, and given enough time they will surely have a gigantic installed userbase as well. Someone is going to come knocking at the TagWorld door with an offer, and that offer will be extremely hard to refuse.

I think you can discount the major players for the most part. Yahoo already has social networking infrastructure in place, so there’s no need for them to pick it up. Google has Orkut, a failed experiment if I’ve ever seen one, and the only way they’ll buy TagWorld is if the userbase grows to massive proportions like MySpace. I don’t see Google as a major player in the social networking scene simply because the social networking scene doesn’t furthur their goal of making all information in the world readily accessible to the public. If Google continues to march towards being first and foremost an advertising company (which is the route some believe they are taking), then yeah, I could see them picking it up. But as it stands right now, it wouldn’t be a good fit in the Googleverse. Microsoft would make the most likely candidate out of the major companies, but they’re not going to buy it, plain and simple.

So who does that leave? My bet is that an entertainment company such as MTV or the like will pick it up. Once the userbase gets huge, the suits will come calling, and TagWorld’s software would make a world of difference with MTV aiming at music fans and the younger crowd.

The cool thing about TagWorld is that they actually have the software to back it up. Instead of focusing on releasing horrible compilation CD’s which serve as nothing more than a marketing ploy, the fellas at TagWorld are taking the initiative to build a much better social networking experience. It’s a strategy that is brilliant in both the short AND long term, because instead of just trying to get millions of users, they’re building an interactive environment for when the day finally comes that they can boast a huge userbase.

The MySpace Data Chain

A few quick points from the MySpace: The New Punk Revolution post from yesterday. MySpace is not what it is because of software. Friendster, Orkut, Tagged, and several other startups all have better software and backend applications than MySpace does. MySpace is buggy, it’s shady, it stops working quite often; not exactly the hallmark of a killer app. It is a killer app, however, because of the sheer amount of people who traffic through the site every single day. Let’s take a look at the Alexa ratings for MySpace, shall we?

Continue reading

MySpace: The New Punk Revolution

This place is becoming TagWorld central; 90% of my traffic from Technorati and various search engines is coming from people looking for more information on TagWorld. I’ll keep publishing content about them as long as they keep giving me good things to write about; right now I haven’t seen much of the vaunted video and file sharing features they pinged me about yesterday, but I’m guessing they’re working on it. I haven’t completely comitted MySpace Suicide yet, as I still have too many colleagues and friends who use the service and will be hard-pressed to switch to TagWorld.

More after the jump >> Continue reading

TagWorld’s Revenue Model

Bill over on TechCrunch asks the following question about TagWorld’s inclusion of video on the site.

What is the revenue model? And, moreover, what about google video?
Adding video to the social network is interesting, and fun, but how it’s going to be central to revenue generation is beyond me.

I’ll answer this as best as I can.

Video (and audio) works on social networking systems because users want to keep checking out what their friends are posting. Take MySpace, for example. I have friends who religiously change their profile audio and even add video via one of the many Flash-oriented “video codes” sites. It’s very much like blogging, in a sense, because these users are sharing what they’re currently enjoying with a network of friends and the rest of the world by default. Instead of putting current faves and tastes to paper like bloggers do, they put it via audio and video. It’s very viral in nature, because oftentimes those video codes and audio snippets will find their way onto the profiles of people in their network, and it continues to spread.

Personally, I don’t visit pages to see music videos. I usually have Greasemonkey strip that stuff out, anyway, so I won’t see it when the page loads. Ocasionally, however, I’ll see one that tickles my fancy, and I’ll end up doing a bit more research into it. I hate Toby Keith with a passion and I think he’s a bigot redneck (which might be the worst kind of bigot to actually be), but I did see the video for “As Good As I Once Was” on someone’s page, and I laughed a bit. Just a little.

So how does this translate into revenue for MySpace, or TagWorld, or anyone else who includes audio and video in social networking? Because they can put advertisements on the top of every page. It’s just like the rest of the web, where you’ve got advertisements on blogs and sites and whatnot, except you have a LOT more activity going on in a social networking site than you would on a normal blog.

Let’s say there’s three friends, okay? Two of them have videos on their page. They change out these videos all the time, sometimes three or four times a day. The friend who does NOT have a video on their page will still be checking out his social circle, and he’ll probably be interested in what the other guys will post next. This translates to a lot more pageviews on that profile, and therefore a lot more impressions on the ads that are placed at the top. 1GB of storage space is meaningless, even when dealt with on a scale of a million users, and the ad revenue that comes from those “repeat checkers” is going to blow any costs they might be dealing with out of the water. They can also add streams of revenue from folks who see videos on profile pages and then decide to buy a record from that band by sending them to the MySpace/TagWorld profile and having them purchase the record from there.

Make no mistake about it, there’s a lot of revenue to be had from allowing users to post videos. I would go one step further, even, by inserting a quick ad at the beginning or end of the video that users upload. There’s a monstrous ability to make money here, and they’re doing the right thing by allowing users to have a place where they can share video clips and audio, because it’s just another form of advertising.

TagWorld: Now With Video, Storage

Mike has some interesting tidbits about TagWorld over at Techcrunch.

My original post about TagWorld has been, by far, the most popular post on my tech blog here at WordPress.com. I’m not sure if this is because some type of buzz is building about the service or if TagWorld employees are reading to see what else I’ll say about it. I’m finding that the majority of Technorati searches leading to my blog are regarding the Tagworld category, which I’ve barely posted anything into.

My initial feelings about TagWorld are this: it’s a great service, and they’re making it better every day. It’s a bit confusing for your normal everyday user, which is why I don’t see it ever being real competition for eyeballs with MySpace. What they lack in ease of use, however, they’re making up for in features: today, the Tagworld team rolled out user video storage. Every single Tagworld user gets 1 gig of storage space, and you can upload just about any type of file you can imagine. If you upload video, you can share it with friends, or just use the vault as your own private storage locker. You can also “bookmark” videos on other video sharing services such as YouTube, and either share THOSE or keep them private as well. You can also stream videos directly from your locker into your Tagworld profile page, which means no more copying and pasting video codes from horrible sites for use in your MySpace account.

Can Tagworld take over MySpace? Nah. They’ve got over 500,000 users, but MySpacers are not going to abandon the service just because Tagworld offers more powerful control over your own material. 90% of MySpacers are people who just want to fire off quick messages and leave comments on other people’s pages, and MySpace is perfectly fine for a user like that. If you’re like me, however, you want more control, and Tagworld is offering that. However, I have no problems admitting that I’m in the minority and probably will continue to be so. Early adopters won’t make TagWorld a success; the only thing that can make Tagworld a success is if they’re able to pull some of those eyeballs away from MySpace, and I don’t see that happening on a large scale of any sort.