Friday, February 8, 2008

Decentralize Yourself...Moli

The other day on Praized, Sebastien Provencher highlighted a Robert O’Brien quote from ReadWriteWeb:

“Web 1.0: Centralized Them. Web 2.0: Distributed Us. Web 3.0: Decentralized Me”

Aside from agreeing with one person’s comment about growing weary of labeling the Internet, I was also in agreement with the general concept of the decentralization that is starting to occur in this next phase of the web.

The fact that early adopters to the major networks are starting to activate privacy settings and slow in their activities, is an early indicator that users are selective about who they allow to see what. is one network that is capitalizing on this idea. The network’s tag line is “One Account Manages Multiple Profiles”.

I saw Judy Balint, President and COO of present at the Social Networking Conference in Miami last week. The meat of the presentation was focused on how the aging population will inevitably be in search of more sophisticated environments than those currently available. The younger individuals using MySpace for instance, will start to join the workforce. This will lead to a whole new set of requirements in their online socializing experience.

Judy’s presentation was rich with data on what users will want and not want from their social networking experience over the next few years. The point was that by 2011, over half of the US population will be engaging in social networking. Overlay the aging population and this leaves a huge opportunity for communities that are free of vampires, poking and music fan pages.

The network is designed to let users segment themselves across all of their lives – business, personal, family etc. Judy said that individuals over 25 years of age need this type of fragmentation and the current networks simply don’t provide the right level of privacy. A robust back-end allows users to set varying levels of profile access creating buckets of contacts labeled however the user wishes.

Moli is also targeting the small business sector by providing fully transactional web stores. For $3.99 a month, users can create retail stores that are linked to their personal profiles. The stores provide retailers with extra merchandising tools like video and users are able to buy as many profiles as they want.

What is interesting about this small business tool is that the social network allows the business owners to tap into various segments to promote their products or use the platform as a CRM channel.

Judy also spoke of the mobility angle and how Moli was building skinny applications to better capture the mobile opportunity.

The company just raised $29.6 million in private funding. The cash will be used primarily to aggressively target markets outside of the US. The network is currently in alpha in Germany but Judy mentioned the rest of Europe, Asia and the Middle East as potential markets.

The site has just come out of beta with over 100,000 members (600,000 uniques).

The revenue models include advertising throughout the content channels and the monthly retail site fees of $3.99 (plus premium merchandising tools). Members can pay $2.49 per month to remove advertising from their online experience.

The question is, will a network like Moli be able to deliver the decentralization that people will truly be after? It is after all, one network. Regardless of the ability to splinter identity, will individuals be willing to stay in one network to do this? I have a hunch that people will be more literal in their fragmentation and keep thicker walls between their personas than those offered through a single login.

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