Friendster Phone Stupid Execution

October 15, 2004

in Social Networks

Friendster links with Glophone in a too late (a least a year!) too little (no imagination) introduction to VoIP. This effort is similar but different to the Morpheus launch that went nowhere some months back. The key difference is there is no ATA box required, instead just the GloPhone software client and a PC of course.

So why’s a phone on Friendster a bad idea? Friendster demonstrates short-sighted thinking.

First this is just a soft phone. There is no presence associated with it. It’s just a business deal where GloPhone can extend their reach and potentially acquire a new customer. They even offer to add some dial-up options in the future. I can at least see which of my buddies are online on Flickr and even Ecademy. This won’t bring Friendster closer to real-time interactions and personally I think that’s a shame. One of the latent opportunities for adding voice is the opportunity to explore introductions to friends of friends. (Would I be a good match with X etc.)

Second firing up or logging on to your GloPhone via Friendster defeats the purpose of integrating social networks and communications. Either the GloPhone remains running on your desktop or it’s turned off until you think about calling someone again. In the Friendster case we require “profile” calls and access depending on your how much access you want to grant. I’m sure there is a great group of people out there that would like to experiment with talking to others. There are also some mighty rude callers. So the second component that is required is some form of simple reputation or warning.

Then the call system must provide some calling context context. (eg seeking activity partner, travel companion etc.) An inbound number or even a name is not enough. Particularly as this Friendster phone is open to the world. All these are easy things to do when one connects the phone with a text messaging application. Thus for those Friendsters that are not logged in, but able to take a phone call as the soft phone client rings… the caller ID data should include the Friendster profile and the call context. Some opportunity for personalization makes sense too.

Aphone is an always on application. While many of the social networking sites can be adapted to provide an excellent caller ID service and potential for marketing personal messages with auto-call backs, they won’t replace my “buddylist” and my ability to simply and quickly control my presence. This has to work on my desktop and soon must be integrated with my mobile.

Finally, it makes little sense to create this connectivity without access to a billing or charging system. While calls may be free, the opportunity to say send gifts (eg a 99 cent music file via iTunes) needs the same type of functionality that exists on cell phones when one downloads a new ring tone. Similarly I’m sure new options for the mighty e-card will also appear. At a few cents these will be fun to send. And in that last aspect that is the rub. Where one wants premium caller ID services users will pay a little more (pennies) to their social network while voice connections will speed things up and make them more personal.

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